Strength to Love includes several of the sermons that Dr. King, known for his eloquence, gave before 1963. One of the major contentions in this work is that God intended humans to be tough-minded but soft-hearted. By this, King meant that people should use reason and sort out truth from fiction. Dictators have long used soft-mindedness among people to gain power, and King believes that soft-mindedness is responsible for racism. King also believes that people should practice love and compassion. He says that Jesus himself encapsulated these opposing forces and had the qualities of both the serpent and dove (2). King sees nonviolence as the exercise of both soft-heartedness and tough-mindedness. King writes that Jesus preached that people should forgive others, and that the church should remind people of the virtues of kindness and forgiveness. The church must also remind people of the value of intelligence to work around man's tendency to be blind to his own faults, including his tendency to wage war.
King also discusses the importance of non-conformity. He sees the early Christian church as composed of non-conformists but thinks the church has become too conformist. It takes nonconformists to pursue justice, he thinks. King also writes about evil, which he believes arises when people waste the potential of life. God gives people the power to pursue justice and fight evil, and the humanity of all people are combined. That is, by helping others, we help ourselves. Though people face the world with fear, King believes that God can give people the force to overcome fear through love. Humans can also overcome evil by using the freedom that God gave them to love others and to pursue justice through nonviolent means.
More than seventy million human beings were uprooted, enslaved, or killed in the twentieth century alone. What happened to those victims? Is death—utter annihilation—their end? How should we appraise such wasting of human life? Considering such questions as these moves one to reflect on the significance of evil. Why does it exist? Where does it lead? Can evil be overcome?
Raising his voice against a world that wasted human life through racial hatred, poverty, and violence, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his life wrestling with those questions in word and deed. King outlined part of the problem of evil in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (April 16, 1963):Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Later, on August 28, 1963, King spoke at a massive civil rights rally in Washington, D.C. He proclaimed in his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech thatin spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
His dream, King concluded, was thatwhen we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”
As an orator and a spiritual-political leader for his nation, King may never have had a finer moment than on that summer day in...
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