Truth and Meaning: The Legacy of Nonviolence

With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I remember once again the massive work remaining before us to achieve King’s vision of Beloved Community. Last week, I spoke to sophomores at Meridian High School about pacifism and the failure of the institution of war to ever resolve any problem without creating new ones. War in the 20th century was a colossal failure of human interaction with more than 100 million war-related deaths, and even greater misery and destruction. The scale of human conflict may be declining, but our capacity to kill and to cause harm only increases.

How long will it be before someone poisons our water, our air, our food to the point of near extinction of the species? How long will it be before fundamentalists push everyone to the brink because of their intolerance? How long will it be before oppressed peoples rise up out of frustration against modern day imperialists and tear down everything humanity has built?

Were he alive today, Dr. King would advocate for peace; he would advocate for acceptance and understanding; he would advocate for a sharing of the earth’s bounty equally and fairly among all people. But, most of all, Dr. King would remind us that peace begins not at tables of nations, not in legislative halls, not in town meetings, but in our own hearts. Dr. King would tell us that peace begins when we live and love with peace in our own lives every day.

The Beloved Community is a dream, but it is an achievable dream. And the price of admission is really quite small — we simply must adapt and accept new ways of thinking.

  • We must accept that any good derived from violence is far offset by the damage. We must, therefore, forsake violence forever.
  • We must accept that all roads to enlightenment and salvation are valid. We must, therefore, forsake religious intolerance forever.
  • We must accept that we are divine creatures full of the capacity for love. We must, therefore, recognize and embrace love in all of its forms.
  • We must accept that money is also violence; greed is a slave owner to which we bind ourselves. We must, therefore, bridge the chasms of economic disparity that create poverty and inequality.
  • We must accept that tyrants will take whatever we give them and that they cannot succeed if we take charge of our lives and our communities. We must, therefore, empower ourselves to change the world and to conquer the forces of ignorance and hate.

Dr. King would tell us that if you see an injustice, speak out. If you see an act of oppression, support the oppressed. If you see an act of violence, stand up against it. Live and love with peace in your heart.