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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 47 INFLUENCES: Edgar Sheffield Brightman King espoused the doctrine of Personalism, a significant movement in mid-twentieth-century Protestantism. Edgar Sheffield Brightman, a leading proponent of Personalism, taught for years at Boston University, where King received his Ph.D. IN THE BROADEST SENSE,Personalism is the belief that conscious personality is both the supreme value and the supreme reality in the universe. In this sense, practi- cally all theists are Personalists... . Personalism is based on faith in the union of nature and spirit. Such a faith opens the way to cooperation with God on the highest mystical, ethical, intellectual, and social levels. It offers a God who can be trusted to understand and meet the needs of the humblest and the wisest, of the soli- tary soul and the world society. Historical religion has often left metaphysics and sci- ence unexplored, and modern Personalism deals with many problems which were untouched in the past. Nevertheless, the God of personalism is far closer to the righteous God of the prophetic movement and to the Heavenly Father of Jesus than any naturalistic God could be... . A God who loves, who delivers man from spiritual sin and poverty, who cooperates with man in history, and who responds to his search for communion, is a God worthy of man’s highest religious devotion... . If there is a personal God, both matter and mind are understood. Matter is an order of the divine experience (or creation), expressing divine thoughts (laws) and divine will (force, energy); mind is an order of beings other than God which are constituted as microcosms or monads, reflecting dimly, yet to some extent correctly, the nature of cosmic mind. Naturalism is an hypothesis which makes the most characteristically human facts seem most implausible; person- alism, by interpreting both the human and extrahuman factors, is more rational. © From Nature and Values (1945) and A Philosophy of Religion (1940) King, at the center of the last dimen- sion, height, is our relationship to the divine: “We were made for God, and we will be restless until we find rest in him.” So, yes, he was by temperament and training prepared at age twenty-five to have thrust upon him the leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955. In this first stage of his public life, the exquisite- ly learned young scholar who never experienced the traditional, numinous moment of religious conversion (his awakening would come later in his kitchen during the height of threats against his family) became the American symbol for the struggle against segrega- tion, and the ideals of integration and brotherhood wore his face. But why him? Why not other respect- ed activists like, say, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell or the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins? The answer to that question can be found on the night of January 30, 1956, when King, who was at a meeting, learned his home had been bombed. He rushed there, found Coretta and their baby, Yolanda, unharmed, and outside At the start of the fight for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, King kneels in prayer with his closest colla- borator, Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center). ©BETTMANN/CORBIS/MAGMA