What better way to acknowledge the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who the nation honors today, than in his own words?
Dr. King spoke to the 1966 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida, as the distinguished Ware Lecturer. His remarks are very long, so I reprint only a segment here. The entire address can be found on the UUA website.
For some context, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was in 1955-56, the “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on the Washington Mall in 1963, and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1964. At the time of this speech, the Civil Rights Act had been in place for not quite two years, and the Voting Rights Act for not quite one year. Dr. King was tragically killed almost exactly two years later.
Note: I have added some paragraph breaks to make this easier to read.
from the Ware Lecture to the 1966 Unitarian Universalist Association
by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Another thing about this philosophy [non-violence] which is often misunderstood and that it says that at its best the love ethic can be a reality in a social revolution. Most revolutions in the past have been based on hope and hate, with the rising expectations of the revolutionaries implemented by hate for the perpetrators of the unjust system in the old order. I think the different thing about the revolution that has taken place in our country is that it has maintained the hope element and at the same time it has added the dimension of love.
Many people would disagree with me and say that love hasn’t been there. I think we have to stop and talk about what we mean in this context because I would be the first to say that it is nonsense to urge oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense. And I’m certainly not talking about that when I talk above love standing at the center of our struggle. I think it is necessary to see the meaning of love in higher terms. The Greek language has three words for love – one is the eros, another is the word filio, and another is the word agape. I’m thinking not of eros, or of friendship as expressed in filio, but of agape, which is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When one rises to love on this level, he loves a person who does the evil deed while hating the deed. I believe that in our best moments in this struggle we have tried to adhere to this.
(Read on … )
, Martin Luther King
, social action
, Ware Lecture