By Karen Stokes
More than 50 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the United States remains divided.
As we approach what would have been his 94th birthday, have we lost our way from King’s teachings on love, the philosophies that were the doctrine of how he lived his life?
Are King’s philosophies still relevant today?
It is widely known that King was strongly inspired by Christian social ethics and the New Testament concepts of “love” in his writings and speeches, but also utilized spiritual ideas from various sources. One source he drew from was Gandhi’s idea of nonviolence.
“If you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. … And by the power of your love they will break down under the load.”- Dr. King “Loving Your Enemies” sermon given in 1957
King is not referring to a sentimental love but agape love, a kind of love that is “indifferent to human merit” that demands calling out those who are doing you wrong, letting them know what they are doing wrong, allowing for change.
America is more politically divided now than it has been in the past twenty years. How can we continuously allow the bonds in our communities to be broken?
The role of love is a key part of creating communities that work for everyone and not just the few.
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?” Address
We need to understand what divides us.
We need to engage in conversations through love and understanding. That will signal a willingness to restore broken communities and to approach differences with an open mind.
Justice for black people will not flow into this society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory…White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society,” King wrote in an essay published in 1969 titled “A Testament of Hope.”
Issues of racism, economic inequality, political differences and social issues are delaying the country from developing into the kind of society that Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of during his life.
King’s beliefs on how the role of love in engaging individuals and communities in conflict is crucial today. “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?” Address