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Lions Roar : January 2005
52 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 Strategy of Love Love was at the center of King’s philosophy—he believed it was the key to human happiness for both individuals and societies. Explaining his view of love, King often referred to the Greek word agape. This was the kind of love people should have for everyone, he said, including their enemies: “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative.” AGAPE IS MORE THAN ROMANTIC LOVE,itis more than friend- ship. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. When you rise to love on this level, you love all men not because you like them, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loves them. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” And I’m happy that he didn’t say, “Like your enemies,” because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like. Liking is an affectionate emotion, and I can’t like anybody who would bomb my home. I can’t like anybody who would exploit me. I can’t like anybody who would trample over me with injustices. I can’t like them. I can’t like anybody who threatens to kill me day in and day out. But Jesus reminds us that love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill toward all men.... I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because noncoopera- tion with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the mid- night hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be double victory.” If there is to be peace on earth and goodwill toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. © From A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986). Reprinted by arrangement with The Heirs to the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr. c/o Writers House Inc. as agents for the proprietor. © 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. © renewed 1996 by Coretta Scott King. trine or love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom.... Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ fur- nished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi fur- nished the method.” Fromm’s book The Art of Loving provided the intellectual framework for King’s spiritual awareness of love as a divine force uniting all life. Interviewed by Kenneth Clark and asked to talk about a love ethic, King referred to Fromm: “Many of the psychiatrists are telling us now that many of the strange things that can happen in the subconscious and many of the inner conflicts are rooted in hate and so they are now saying ‘love or perish.’ Erich Fromm can write a book like The Art of Loving and make it very clear that love is the supreme unifying principle of life. I’m trying to say in this movement that it is necessary to follow the technique of nonviolence as the most potent weapon available to us, but it is necessary also to follow the love ethic.... ” Fromm’s work aided King’s under- standing “that the right kind of self-love and the right kind of love of others are interdependent.... ” There were two amazing conversion experiences in King’s life: his transformation into a nonviolent resister and his call for a social revolution of values based on commitment to love as political praxis, a love rooted in spiritual commitment to the divine. In his biography of Francis of Assisi, Reluctant Saint, Donald Spoto offers an insightful, complex under- standing of the meaning of conversion. Speaking about spiritual transformation, he shares: “Conversion is, then, a response to God, who invites us to a state of complete freedom, away from every- thing that is hostile to His goodness and mercy. The call Jesus extended to his disciples...was a summons to acknowledge God’s unconditional love of us as individuals; and it was an invitation to proclaim that love to the world by acts of caring, forgiveness, and compassion for others, by refusing to demand one’s prerogatives at the expense of others and by reject- ing vengeance and reprisal...Seen in this light, con- version means not only a turning away from one’s past but entrusting oneself to the unexpected, uncharted way into the incalculable future in which God comes to us... .Conversion then becomes a rad- ical and uniquely personal adoption of a new life.” Any critical study of King’s private life reveals that his decision to oppose the war in Vietnam, his radical stance on nonviolence, was the gesture of surrender to divine will that signaled the depths of his spiritual surrender. It took many days and nights of prayer and