I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride towards the city of freedom. When our days become dreary, with low hovering clouds, and our nights become darker than a thousand midnight’s we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American Baptist minister
and prominent leader of the American civil rights movement.
From his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964.
“What I remember is that 1963 was a very dreary and dark time in his life and in the life of the world. It saw the assassination of an American president, it saw, in his own community, the assassination of Medgar Evers. It saw the, the death of four black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church by a bomb. It saw King in the Birmingham Jail for his 13th time in jail. All of that as the backdrop [yet] being able to say, when your world is like that, you can see it as the creative birth pangs of a genuine civilization struggling to be born. That is a kind of breathtaking vision of the world. There are a many of us that are experiencing a lot of grief right now: Climate grief, grief over the ongoing spiral of gun violence in the United States and its connection to systemic racism. All of that is genuine grief. I, having studied his life as much as I have, see the suffering and the grief. He knew this. This is not a man who’s talking in the abstract. He’s not talking about principles that he’s been taught. This is hope that comes out of that intense suffering. And when people dismiss Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violence or this kind of vision and saying it’s not realistic, I agree that we are in the birth pangs of a genuine civilization struggling to be born. In other words, we’re not spiraling down to zero level, to chaos as he wrote in his book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos Or Community. What he believed in is the possibility of the end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty and head towards community. Partly this is because of the divine origin of the beloved community. It’s a durable, divine thing that is going to outlast my mistakes, and my betrayals and the disloyalties of the world. It’s going to endure and flourish.”
Bishop Rev. Dr. Marc Andrus
the eighth Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of California
and author of Brothers in the Beloved Community:
The Friendship of Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King Jr.