Archive | April, 2018

Martin Luther King: Apostle of Non-Violence

5 Apr


Today we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis. King’s impact on our society was made through actions of militant nonviolent resistance in behalf of marginalized groups.  He said his movement was an expression of Jesus’s love, specifically as it was stated in the Sermon on the Mount, while the method of this love was provided by Gandhi.

Interestingly, all three of these non-violent leaders—Jesus, Gandhi, and King—evoked sharp disagreement over their strategies of non-violence. All three were killed by their opposition, Jesus and King before they reached forty years of age.

Non-violence rests on the audacious belief in a “double conversion”—(1) the conversion of the militant nonviolent confronters to a trust in the persons they are confronting. They take the risk that the opponents, the oppressors, will in turn (2) undergo a conversion that will enable them to respond in a reciprocal trust.  The nonviolent activists are converted to a desire to elicit the best from the ones they are confronting, while their opponents are converted to respond in ways that express own best selves. 

“Double conversion” is a risky strategy; it can fail.

King said that he wanted his opponents to be able to say after the confrontation, “I did what was right and good.” 

King had a keen sense that people need to be transformed. From the very beginning, the philosophy of nonviolent resistance
undergirded the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56. There was always the problem of getting this method over because it didn’t make sense to most of the people in the beginning.  He wrote, “We had to explain nonviolence to a community of people who had never heard of the philosophy and in many instances were not sympathetic with it. We had to make it clear that nonviolent resistance is not a method of cowardice.  It does resist.  It is not a method of stagnant passivity and deadening complacency. The nonviolent resister is just as opposed to the evil that he is standing against as the violent resister but he resists without violence.  This method is nonaggressive physically but strongly aggressive spiritually.”

He clearly set forth a spiritual basis for his movement:
“To meet hate with retaliatory hate would do nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe.  Hate begets hate, violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness.  We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force.  Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.”

He enumerates six traits that the nonviolent resister must internalize.

First, the non-violent justice resister is spiritually aggressive, since “his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong.”

Second, militant nonviolence “does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding.  “The end is redemption and reconciliation.”

Third, the attack is directed against forces of evil, not persons. “We are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.”

Fourth, willingness to accept suffering without retaliation. “Things of fundamental importance to people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering.”

Fifth, internal violence of the spirit must be avoided as much as external physical violence.

Sixth, nonviolent resistance is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. In other words, a worldview is involved. Barack Obama frequently says, “The arc of history bends toward justice.”

The discussion goes on today—is non-violence the most viable strategy for overcoming oppression, injustice, and discrimination? Does the arc of history actually bend toward justice? Or will we meet hate with hate, violence with violence, and thereby intensify the evil?

(c) Phil Hefner April 4, 2018

Life as Passover

1 Apr

I’m posting  Holy Week sermon notes that I preached this week. I hope it strikes a note for you.

Maundy Thursday
March 29, 2018
Montgomery Place
Exodus 12:1-14; I Cor. 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

Passover in Christian Faith
Our first lesson sets the Passover theme of Maundy Thursday

6 moments—

1-God passes over the Israelites in Egypt.

2-Israel passes over the Red Sea and the desert wilderness.
THESE ARE OUR HERITAGE FROM THE JEWISH TRADITION

CHRISTIANS CAN ALSO SPEAK OF PASSOVER
3-Christ passes over from his life of passion/suffering to the resurrection.

4-We and all humanity share his resurrection, passing over from earthly life to eternity.

5-In the Eucharist, in this action we do now, Christ passes over from history to presence with us, and enables us to share his presence. Jesus is not simply a historical figure; he is with us, as intimately as the bread we eat and the wine we drink.

THE EUCHARIST IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE TIME OF JEWISH PASSOVER.

6-In the foot washing, we pass over from self-centeredness to service for others. “I have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Love one another as I have loved you. By this all people will know you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

Passover is an overarching theme—it interprets our service today and indeed our entire faith and life. It is a way of depicting our lives as in the hands of God. The journey is rooted in history, and it passes through to the days when we, too, will pass  into eternity.

Phil Hefner 30 March 2018