The meaning of nonviolent resistance

I was able to pick up a copy of A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. while visiting the National Civil Rights Museum last year. It is a powerful compendium of Dr. King’s work in his words, not the interpretation of someone else.

He lays out his plan for nonviolent resistance and is clear this isn’t about cowardice. He moved this direction because he believed violence only created new social problems without correcting the old ones. His thoughts on nonviolent resistance had five basic principles:

First, it wasn’t a method for cowards. It did RESIST the evil in society. Nonviolence meant it was not physically aggressive toward the opponent.

Second, it was a method not meant to defeat a human opponent, but to win their friendship and understanding. “The end is redemption and reconciliation.”

Third, one had to remember this was a movement against the forces of evil rather than against “persons who are caught in those forces.” The tension, for Dr. King, was not between races, but between justice and injustice.

Fourth, it was a movement of outward nonviolence but also a resistance against violence of spirit. At the center of nonviolence stands love.

“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate.”

Fifth, the overall method is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. He truly had a deep faith in the future.

“This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums.”

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