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Gandhi

Strength to Love

Strength to Love is a collection of sermons written when pastoring at churches in Montgomery and Atlanta. There are also three sermons written while King was in jail. The sermons that were written in jail will be highlighted with a star (*).

A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart

To be a good Christian one must marry idealism and realism. Realism characterized by a “tough-mind” is defined as incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgement. Idealism characterized by a “soft-heart” is the ability to empathize and love in the form of agape. Tough-mindedness alone leads a person to be cold and detached. Soft-heartedness alone drives someone to be gullible and timid.

There is a lengthy discussion on the false conflict between religion and science. King asserts they are not in conflict, but complementary. They use different methods that lead to different types of truth. So it is acceptable for Christians to offer historical and philosophical critique of the Bible. Both types of truth are necessary to navigate the current world.

He also talks about how science has been perverted to lead people to believe black people are genetically inferior. King asserts disparity in wealth and education are the result of policy current and historical injustice.

Nonviolent resistance is the synthesis of idealism and realism. In that, it realizes blacks will not be able to defeat the most powerful military the world has ever known but still needs to fight for its dignity.

Transformed Nonconformist

Christians are charged with mimicking the life of Jesus which was a life of non-conformity. Christians should be moved by their convictions and a fear of social reprisal. The current state of the world will not allow a true Christian to live a “well-adjusted” life.

Many in the field of psychology say mental and emotional health is reflected by conformity to society. With conformity comes a large social circle, wealth, and comfortable life. Jumboism, is how Dr. King defines the zeitgeist of the age, the need to grow in numbers and be part of something large. Modern day churches have a large quantity of low-quality worshipers.

On Being a Good Neighbor

It takes more than following a creed to be Christian. One must actively manifest their faith in the world. One must show the same universal altruism the Samaritan showed. On the road to Damascus. The Samaritan did not worry in the injured Israelite saw him negatively. He just helped even though doing so would mean he could be ambushed and robbed himself.

Interestingly King says even in the Bible G-d didn’t always show this love. In the Old Testament G-d commands Israel not to kill other Israelites, but slaughter Philistines. Ethnic level morality was not only in Israel. It was in the way Greeks took care of aristocracy and not slaves. The current manifestation of ethnic level morality was American racism.

The following quote shows how Dr. King viewed the relationship between laws and morality:

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless…But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. ”

*Love in Action*

This sermon was based around the Bible verse “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He explains how those that perpetuate racism and discrimination are not fully aware of the hurt they cause. Then entreats Christians to offer limitless forgiveness.

King offers the example of Socrates’ execution as an example of respectable men not understanding what they did. The men that executed Socrates did not understand his concept of G-d. Socrates’s G-d had philosophical depth and went beyond traditional concepts and superstitions. King also gives the example of the same ills befalling those that persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire.

There is another discussion on what we today call racial realism, the idea that science supports the notion of black inferiority. He specifically mentions the work of Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits in debunking the claim.

War has outlived its usefulness in Dr. King’s estimation. In the past, it was needed as a negative good to ensure dictators did not take over the world. Now with the invention of nuclear weapons, war could kill all life on earth. The world needs new methods to solve conflict.

*Loving Your Enemies*

Those outside the Christian religion see ‘loving your enemies” as impractical and/or weak. These people do not understand the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness means an adverse action no longer affects the future relationship. It is no longer block in future interaction. The goal in Christian conflict is not humiliating to the enemy, but to it fosters love and understanding.

Love is often misunderstood. There are three types of love. Eros which is a yearning for union with G-d. Phillia which is reciprocal love between men, friendship. Lastly, there is Agape which is a love for all humanity as your brother. Often outsiders consider “love your neighbor” as “like your neighbor.” Like is a sentimental affection. It is impossible to like someone that actively works to harm you.

Lastly loving your enemies is not only beneficial for the other person. It is advantageous to the person doing the forgiving. Loving your enemies helps to build a relationship with G-d. Hate is cancerous and erodes vital unity and the agape love naturally inside the individual.

Knock at Midnight

In this speech, King urges the congregation to action by explaining society is at a midnight hour. He tells of conformity and comfort are the principle values of most people. It is the churches job to refocus these people. The loss of morality has lead to a mentality of “survival of the slickest.”

The church in recent years has become pro-war. The membership has swollen, but the quality of worship has not. The black church is burning with emotionalism and has turned worship into entertainment. The white church is freezing with classism in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ. The church should not be the master or slave of government, but its critic and conscious.

At the end of the speech, he announces the Supreme Court has deemed bus segregation unlawful.

The Man Who Was a Fool

King presents the Bible story of a rich man Jesus called a fool. He didn’t do this just because the man was rich. The man was called a fool because he mismanaged his wealth through lack of charity. The man saw himself as an island unconnected to those around him. His worldly possessions held more importance than the well-being of his brothers. By not taking his duty to his fellow man seriously, he acted like he was the creator not a creation. There is not a single event in a day that is not dependent on the community working together.

King makes a case against materialism and humanism. Materialism, the idea we are matter randomly organized, can easily be disproven by the complexity and beauty of the universe. Humanism, the idea humans are the greatest creation and destine for good, can be easily disproven by our modern world making us less happy. We have tons of labor-saving devices, but work harder for less reward. Also, science gave us the atomic bomb, proving science is as good as those the weld it.

This speech was updated in 1967. The 1967 version is far more popular.

The Death of Evil on the Seashore

This speech was given on the second anniversary of the Brown v. Board of education victory. He models history as chiefly a struggle between good and evil. The concept of an eternal struggle between good and evil is echoed not only in Christianity, but in Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Platonism. King retells the story of Moses parting the Red Sea and its closing when the Egyptian tried to enter. The evil Egyptians died on the Seashore.

Good is inevitably going to win the fight. The evidence is not only Supreme Court decisions like Brown v Board. It can also be found in the successful struggle for independence in Africa in Asia.

He ends with giving the congregation reassurance that they are on the right side of history and to continue to struggle with oppressors using love.

Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

Already summarized in Measure of a Man

*Shattered Dreams*

St. Paul’s life is used in this speech as an analogy for having a great dream differed. St. Paul planned to travel to Spain to spread the gospel but is abducted by Romans and executed in a Roman jail. St. Paul never realized his greatest dreams.

Not achieving goals can make people react in a few different ways. One can become bitter and cynical. The cynicism will cause the most harm to the person that holds it in the form of physical ailments. One can sink into fatalism, the belief there is no choice in life, and give up. The last option is to accept the bad while holding on to hope.

King believes there is an ultimate destiny for man, but man gets a level of freedom within that ultimate destiny. Due to G-d granting a degree of freedom to man he allows evil to exist on earth.

Gandhi was mentioned in this work as a historical figure that was not allowed to see a free unified India. Other historical figure mentioned were Woodrow Wilson, Handel, and Abraham Lincoln

What is Man?

Summarized in Measure of a Man

How Should a Christian View Communism

All Christian pastors must talk about Communism. Communism is a growing influence spreading over Asia, Africa, and Europe. As a philosophy, it rivals Christianity and is its biggest competition.

Communism is opposed to Christianity. In Communism, the state is central to reality, with the goal being the end of class. There are no moral absolutes in Communism so any method including violence and propaganda can be used to gain power. Because there are no moral absolutes Communism leads to authoritarian governments in practice. All personal liberty is suspended because the most important social entity is the state, not the individual.

Even though King is against Communism, he agrees with many of their criticisms of modern society. The church has lost the prophetic voice, that inspired Roman nobles to give up their life of luxury for persecution. Many Christians are more focused on heavenly freedom than human freedom. The otherworldliness has prevented Christian criticism of racism, poverty, and classism. Therefore Marx’s critique of religion as the “opiate of the people” sticks.

King’s goal is to establish The Kingdom of G-d, which is neither an individual or collective enterprise. The Kingdom is the synthesis of both universal truths.

Our God is Able

G-d is the center of the Christian universe. Many want to make man the center and science the new religion. Nothing man made can compare to the wonder of the natural universe. Science has led to the atomic bomb which puts us all at risk. Man can not save himself without divine intervention.

In Christian philosophy, evil is real, and G-d will conquer it. There is real-world evidence of history bending toward good. The ultimate defeat of fascism in WWII and the end of colonialism in the global south show that good typically prevails. Segregation will soon be added to the list.

He then goes into a personal story from his own life. The first 24 year of it was lived in ease due to his parent’s stability and wealth. When he began leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott his life changed radically. Death threats were constant. One night after a particularly frightening call he could not sleep. He went to the kitchen made coffee and paced the floor. He prayed to G-d for strength. Suddenly, King feels G-d’s presence. That event gave him enough strength to soldier on.

Later that month his house was bombed. No one was hurt, but King was able to take the news in stride. He knew he would be protected by a higher power.

Antidotes to Fear

Fear is ever growing in modern society. Some fear is good and keeps us out of trouble. Other fears force us to innovate. However, the fast pace of contemporary society can lead to constant fear.

King prescribes the antidotes to fear: introspection, courage, love, faith. Introspection will help in deciphering rational from irrational fear. Soldiering on in the face of fear is courage. Love is defined as mutual trust and goodwill. King gives the example of mutual nuclear disarmament. Faith is building an inner resilience to adversity based on spirituality.

Love was especially important to King. He explains as black people grow in political influence whites will fear retaliation. Blacks must reassure white people their fear is unfounded. Blacks want to forgive and forget and move forward in love.

To end the speech he takes time to remember an elderly woman named Mother Pollard. She was an activist in the Montgomery campaign remembered for the quote, “My feet’s is tired but my soul is rested”. After a meeting in which King was putting on a strong front to hide his inner fear and depression, Mother Pollard pulled him aside. She asked if something was wrong, he assured her he was fine. She realized he was covering and reminded him he had the full support from the team, but more importantly, he had the support of G-d. King was forever grateful.

The Answer to a Perplexing Question

The perplexing question is: “How can evil be cast out of the world?”

There are two views debunked by King. The first is the humanistic view that man can cast out evil with his ability. Modern society assumes the advances in science and technology will inevitably lead to a better future. The humanistic ideal is proven false by the current state of the world. The other model is G-d will solve our problems when he is ready, and man has no responsibility. This ideal leads Christians to become otherworldly. It also reduces G-d to a “cosmic bellhop” serving your every wish. The correct view is man acting as a tool of G-d will bring about change.

There is a brief aside in which King explains why he does not believe in infant damnation. Once one rejects the view that man has no capacity for good, one can accept that an infant is not tarnished with sin at birth. Therefore if a child dies, he will not go to hell. It is essential to understand King’s position on this issue to explain why he is pro-choice.

Paul’s Letter to American Christians

King creates a mock epistle in this essay. In it, Paul writes a letter to American Christians illustrating many points. “Paul” chides us in advancing in science but regressing in morality. Our church is divided into many denominations and by race. All divisions in the church are counterproductive. Also, America has high-income inequality with the top 0.1% owning 40% of the wealth.

Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

This essay is an explanation on how King grew past his fundamentalist upbringing. Seminary introduced him to liberal theology. This version of theology stressed reason and criticized the Bible.

There was one issue King had trouble grasping, the idea that man was inherently good. There were too many examples of men rationalizing bad behavior for King not to see reason as tarnished by sin.

Even though liberal theology had flaws, King could not go back to fundamentalism or neo-orthodoxy. It was too pessimistic on the nature of man and led followers to otherworldliness.

His disillusion with the nature of man led him to study social gospel, which is the study of how religion is used to enact change in society. In this study, Mohandas Gandhi was a giant. His idea of satyagaha, love force, was the Christian doctrine of “turn the other cheek.” Now he had a real-world example of non-violence that worked.

Non-violence was not only crucial for American race relations but international conflict. There was a time when war was needed to stop dictators from spreading. However, now with the advent of atomic weapons, war was just too dangerous. Nonviolence had to be the main conflict resolution method in the future.

Gandhi’s Influence on Dr King ?

Dr. King saw Gandhi as a fellow Christian. Not because Gandhi was part of a church, Gandhi was Hindu. However, he did see Gandhi as a person that used love to conquer hate through non-violent resistance. He went as far as to say the bible verse “there are other sheep I must minister” (John 10:16) and “do even greater things than these” (John 14:12) included Gandhi. In a 1959 sermon, Dr. King said Gandhi was also a master of self-control.

Dr. King says that his first encounter with Gandhi’s teaching was a two years after the death of Gandhi in 1950. Dr. Mordecai Johnson gave the lecture while Dr. King was in seminary. At the time of the speech, Gandhi had already been assassinated. The address had such an effect on King he went out and bought six books on the subject. Some scholars say that Dr. Benjamin Mays introduced King to Gandhi’s work while an undergraduate. Dr. Mays had gone with a delegation of Christians to visit India and met Gandhi in 1935. However in the paper “My Journey to Non-violence” King credits Dr. Johnson for introducing him to Gandhi.

Prime Minister Nehru invited Dr. King to visit India in 1959. The Gandhi National Memorial Fund and the Quaker Center sponsored the trip. Dr. King arrived in India on February 10, 1959. He brought his wife Coretta and biographer L.D. Reddick for the month-long journey and exploration of non-violent resistance.

Upon leaving India, King calls on the United States and Soviet Russia to follow Gandhi’s example of non-violence and disarm. He also calls on India to disarm and become an example to the world. If India did disarm and some other country attacks, the world would rush to her defense, because she is a shining example of non-violence. His call for India to disarm shows how sincerely he believed in the concept of good will inevitably triumph over evil.

King’s view of Gandhi and his trip to India were recounted in the 1959 Palm Sunday sermon, a 1959 article for Ebony magazine, and a 1965 Independence Day sermon. According to King, Gandhi freed India without a gun drawn or a harsh word uttered. He gave a narrative of Gandhi’s life in the Palm Sunday sermon.

Gandhi began his journey when he was kicked off a train after buying a first class ticket in South Africa. The humiliation for being kicked off the train led him to organize Indians for equality. Gandhi gathered inspiration from the bible and Christian authors like Tolstoy. His campaigns in South Africa were so successful that those back home in India wanted his help.

In India, his campaign for equality began in 1922. This first campaign had to end because people in his movement became violent. King commends Gandhi for having the bravery to chastise members of his movement when they transgressed. He later restarted the campaign and protested the high taxes for salt with the Salt March.

Gandhi also wanted to end untouchability, according to King. King believes the fast of 1932 was to stop untouchability. Gandhi takes himself to the brink of starvation. Right before Gandhi was to die of starvation, a group of untouchables and high caste members decide to sign a pact to end untouchability. He never mentions Ambedkar by name. Now untouchability is punishable by three years in jail. Most Indian leaders publicly denounce the practice, and no one would publicly sign a pact supporting untouchability.

In reality, the 1932 fast was to remove Parliamentary reservations for Dalits. Ambedkar had gone to England and secured The Communal Award ensuring Scheduled Castes and Tribes would have seats reserved for them in Parliament. Supporters were glad that England would ensure some Dalit representation. Gandhi wanted to ensure Hindus always held the majority in Parliament. If Dalit had a separate electorate, they could form a coalition with Muslims and weaken Hindu caste rule. Gandhi went on a fast to ensure the Hindu set aside included Dalits. It is unlikely a Dalit could win an election where most of the voters were caste Hindus, and their numbers would increase the number of seats Hindus had relative to Muslims. Ambedkar and Gandhi were able to reach a compromise in the Poona Pact. Gandhi broke his fast and Ambedkar received some reserved seating in Parliament.

King continues to praise Gandhi saying he achieved absolute self-discipline. According to King, Gandhi had no secrets, and his life was an open book. King obviously was not aware of the numerous sexual allegations against Gandhi. These allegations will not be known in the West until much later. However, someone deeply involved in Indian politics would have at least heard rumor of transgression. Arundhati Roy has written many books detailing the violations.

Gandhi is also complemented for using the term “Harijan” instead of “untouchable.” It appears Dr. King is not aware that the term “Harijan” is also offensive and most people that suffer from untouchability and they prefer the term Dalit. The term “harijan” is Sanskrit for “children of G-d.” The term “Harijan” is more palatable to upper caste Hindus than “untouchables” or “Dalit” because it allows the upper caste to sidestep real issues and the root problems with caste. On the other hand, “Dalit” means “oppressed” in Sanskrit. The term “Dalit” forces upper caste to deal head on with the social problems of the day. Many Dalits protested the use of the term “Harijan” while Gandhi was alive. Gandhi knew this and continued to use the word “Harijan” because his priority was to talk to upper caste Hindus.

King also seems unaware that Ambedkar charged Gandhi of having different narratives in the three versions of his newspaper Harijan. The English version always advocated for the annihilation of caste, but the two versions in his native language advocate for keeping upper caste Hindus above Dalit, while removing rituals of purity when one is in contact with Dalits. King praised Gandhi for having a paper dedicated to Dalits.

While telling his story about his brief stint in Trivandrum, Kerala while in India, he tells the story about when he was called an untouchable. He was visiting a high school in the city that was comprised mostly of untouchables, and the principle introduced him as an untouchable from America. King was at first upset, but after reflection, he realized that he was, in fact, an untouchable, along with every other black man in America.

From the evidence I was able to gather, I am not convinced that Dr. King had a clear view of the Indian struggle and Gandhi’s role in it. He apparently knew little of Gandhi’s personal life. It is most likely that a carefully manufactured retelling of the Indian struggle through the eyes of Christian pre-determinism influenced King’s understanding. The idea that good will inevitably win over evil is pervasive throughout the Bible. All the people in King’s life that studied India were Christians with a background or career in theology. So, it can be easily seen that these people superimposed their beliefs on their retelling of the story. Dr. King was predisposed to believe the narrative because of his sincere belief in the Christian faith.

In reality, India had an armed struggle against the British that started in the 1850’s. By the 1940’s the Indian National Army was large and had carried out successful operations against the British in World War II. The English needed to concentrate on rebuilding after the war and did not have enough resources to suppress an armed rebellion. Gandhi came in at the right time to offer a transition of power that would allow for continued economic growth while not consuming British military resources. That does not mean blacks should form a resistance army to mimic the Indians. I present this evidence to show how fundamentally different what Gandhi accomplished was to what Dr. King accomplished.

King’s faith also led him to be humble and extend credit to Gandhi. In reality, the story of Gandhi had the same influence on King as the stories of rebellious Scottish chiefs had on the American founding fathers. Both gathered inspirations to fight tyranny from those that went before them. Both may have used previous struggles as a rough outline of what needed to be done to free their people. But to say that Gandhi was the inspiration or mastermind of the American Civil Rights movement is a step too far. King’s tactics and struggles were his own.

If Dr. King had been introduced to the philosophy of Ambedkar, he would not have given so much praise and credit to Gandhi. King also would not refer to Dalits as “Harijan” if he understood they prefer the term Dalit. He had a very limited view of the Dalit fight, but he saw the struggle against untouchability and racism as intertwined. If Dr. King understood Gandhi’s true feelings on untouchability, he would be highly critical.

As we continue this blog, we will go in-depth on the philosophy of Gandhi, Ambedkar, and King. It is very likely the philosophy of Ambedkar and King will be the most similar.

Sources

Background

  1. Labelling Dalits “Harijans”:How We remain ignorant and insensitive to Dalit Identity. 10-27-2015 S. Ramanathan
  2. L.D. Reddick’s Account of the arrival in India 02-10-1959
  3. Biography of M. Gandhi on http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/
  4. Narrative of Dr. King’s 1959 trip to India found on http://www.gandhiking.ning.com
  5. Poona Pact: Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against untouchability 09-24-2016 https://www.indiatoday.in
  6. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s BBC Interview in 1955
  7. Arundhati Roy: Race, Caste – Ambedkar v. Gandhi posted by Joe Friendly on 10-14-2014 YouTube
  8. Arundhati Roy: The Doctor and the Saint posted by We Are Many Media on 10-16-2014 YouTube
  9. An odd kind of piety: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life 01-02-2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/
  10. The Sexuality of a Celibate Life by Vinay Lal 05-01-2011 https://www.sscnet.ucla.edu
  11. Debunking the Gandhi Myth:Arundhati Roy posted by The Laura Flanders Show 10-21-2014 YouTube
  12. Dr. King’s Papers and Speeches

  13. His Influence Speaks to World Consciousness paper 01-30-1958
  14. My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence paper 09-01-1958
  15. Statement Upon Return from India 03-18-1959
  16. Palm Sunday Sermon 03-22-1959
  17. My Trip to the Land of Gandhi 07-1959 published in Ebony
  18. The American Dream sermon 07-04-1965

Why You Can’t Compare Blacks to other Races.

Often when people speak of problems in the black community or the inability for black people to create a stable community, many blacks and whites bring up how other oppressed communities have overcome discrimination. Often people bring up how Asians or Jews have built stable communities that in some ways are better than mainstream white communities. Commending these groups for their accomplishments is important. However, it is essential to ask if what these communities accomplished can be replicated in the black community. Are blacks attempted to do the same thing that Asians and Jews have done?

Recently I read Gandhi: Racist or Revolutionary. The book talks about how Gandhi did not fight for a more egalitarian society. Instead, he wanted to improve the condition of Indians in South Africa and members of the upper caste in India. To support this stance the author details how Gandhi fought to have Indians included in the war against the Zulu’s in South Africa. He also wanted to separate black Africans and Indians, with Indians being held as superior.

In India, Gandhi supported the caste system. He believed the caste system was fundamental to Hinduism and that the system was scientific. In Ambedkar’s famous 1955 BBC interview, Ambedkar explains how Gandhi would advocate for the abolition of caste in English language newspapers, but support the caste system in publications in the native languages of India. Gandhi also agreed that whites were superior, yet upper caste Indians were above most other dark-skinned races. He often would tell Ambedkar his activism was motivated out of bitterness, and untouchability was a spiritual path.

So if a person considers Gandhi the embodiment of the Indian social justice struggle, then they have to admit that the ability of Indians to build stable communities is based on the exploitation or acceptance of exploitation of other groups of people. The Indian people did not fight white supremacy head on. They collectively accepted the position they were given and then worked as well as they could.

Knowing this information, individuals must analyze how much of the success of formerly oppressed classes has been on the backs of blacks and other groups lower in the white supremacy hierarchy. How many communities have businesses in the black community selling low-quality goods at a high price? How many communities have been stabilized by check cashing businesses in low-income areas? How many towns are stable because of the majority of the population work as police or corrections officers in a brutal justice system?

This blog post is not to disparage the accomplishments of other communities or to say there is nothing black people could learn from other communities. Individual success is open to anyone under Capitalism. However, we need to be honest about all the various ways people make money on black oppression. Once a person understands how others benefit from the collective oppression of black people, they can then assess if that can be copied by the oppressed people.

So black people being on the bottom of the white supremacy totem pole have no group to exploit. Black people have to fight white supremacy to have group uplift.

Since we are the only group wholly vested in the fight, people cannot claim black communities are supposed to be more stable. People also can’t lament on why blacks are not like other communities. Our struggle is entirely different

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