Monday, March 31, 2008

Remembering King, part 2

This is part two of a series this week, remembering Revd. Dr Martin Luther King. Part one is below. I invite your comments on the tone of King’s message, and whether it has resonance today.

At the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, when the Supreme Court issued a bus desegregation order, King stood before a large gathering in order to give final instructions before people started using the buses once again.

Aware they had won a great victory, King is keen that they win not only in the law courts, but in the individual court of each person’s heart,

Our experience and growth during this past year of united non-violent protest has been of such that we must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them. We must be able to face up honestly to our own shortcomings. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understanding. We seek an integration based on mutual respect.

This is the time we must evince calm dignity and wise restraint. Emotions must not run wild. Violence must not come from any of us, for if we become victimized with violent intents, we will have walked in vain, and our twelve months of glorious dignity will be transformed into an eve of gloomy catastrophe. As we go back to the buses let us be loving enough to turn an enemy into a friend. We must now move from protest to reconciliation. It is my form conviction that God is working in Montgomery. Let all men of goodwill, both Negro and white, continue to work with Him. With this dedication we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.


simon said...

I like the sentiment that we must move from protest to reconciliation. What has saddened me about the debate over the Iraq war is that we still looking for someone to blame - even this morning on Start the Week the panelists rounded on Jonathan Powell because he's the closest they can get to Tony Blair. We're locked in protest and it feels like an empty and scapegoating exercise. We need to move to reconciliation and reshape our engagement with the world round that.

Jonathan said...

You're right, Simon, this need to find someone to blame is a symptom of the hate that King's life was spent opposing. Grace, which ought to be most obvious amongst those who follow Jesus, is often lacking.

The other reason I chose this quote is that King makes these great universal battles boil down to a very personal act "Go make a friend of your enemy" The movement couldn't do that on a person's behalf. This seems to me to have much to say to Christ-followers as we seek to share faith. And also it continues to speak to those engaged in struggle for justice and freedom. When the battle's over, you have to live together.