Martin Luther King
4 and 5
To look at the way in which one person stood up for his belief in creating a fair and just world.
- If possible, find a group of staff or students who care passionately about something and are willing to come up and say a sentence or two about their 'issue'. This should be strictly voluntary. If nobody is prepared to talk in front of the school, prepare an OHP transparency with the quotations from the beginning of the Development section.
- Alternatively (or additionally), make a display from advertisements or posters for various groups such as Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, etc.
- Readers for the quotations marked 'Reader' in the Development section.
What do YOU care passionately about?
What do YOU think needs changing in our world?
What would YOU be prepared to give up YOUR time for in order to help make the world a better place?
Here's what some people say... [If you have volunteers who are prepared to speak up about a cause they support, ask them to do so now. If not, you could read the following examples, or show them on an OHP.]
I support Amnesty by letter writing as I think human rights need protecting.
I support Friends of the Earth by taking part in a demonstration against Genetically Modified Crops because I think we should be taking care of the earth.
The Bible has provided a great inspiration for many of those fighting for a better world. One of the most famous Biblical dreams for the future is from the book of Micah:
READER: Many nations will come and say,
'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.'
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war any more.
Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig-tree,
and no-one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
Micah 4.2-4 (NIV)
This Biblical vision of justice and peace was influential in the thinking and action of Martin Luther King. We can see echoes of it in his famous speech 'I have a dream...'
READER 1: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of the creed "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal"...
READER 2: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood...
READER 3: I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama... will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers...
READER 4: I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character...
Martin Luther King knew that the situation in Southern Alabama, where blacks were treated as second class citizens, was unjust. The segregation of blacks and whites on buses and parks, the denial to blacks of the right to vote, the discriminatory treatment of blacks in the courts and the barring of black people to higher education were all examples of gross injustice.
King had been brought up in a Christian home and had trained as a Christian pastor. So he knew that the Bible said, in Genesis 1.27, that human beings had been made in the image of God. The violent actions of the Klu Klux Klan were fundamentally wrong as they disregarded this teaching.
Martin Luther King's Christian faith taught him that as a human being he was a child of God and was therefore valuable and had dignity. He knew the teaching in St Paul's letter to the Galatians 'You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3.26-28). In other words, external differences are of no consequence in the Christian faith: all are equal. Martin Luther King knew he had to act on this belief and that his action had to be peaceful. That is how the non-violent peace marches and bus boycotts came to take place.
Ironically, Martin Luther King's ministry on Earth was ended by an assassin. But the inspiration of his Christian faith and actions are still being felt today - a triumph beyond death for the message of equality and the value of each human life.
Hymn: 'When I needed a neighbour were you there?'
Say together 'The Lord's Prayer'. At the words 'Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven', think about the challenge facing each one of us to make this a reality and not just an empty phrase.
- Martin Luther King was influenced by Gandhi's message of 'satyagraha', or non-violent direct
action, as a way to combat problems. He knew that to retaliate to the institutionalized racist
violence of the State by violent protest would reduce the supporters of the black cause to the
same moral level as the white bullies. He was a pacifist, but this does not mean he was passive.
He recognized that the only way to fight the white thugs was to organize non-violent resistance.
Find out about:
- Gandhi and his views on non-violence
- the bus boycott in America and the pressures, including economic pressures, that this action inflicted upon the whites.
Did either of these protest actions have the intended effect?
'In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.'
(Martin Luther King, 'I have a dream...' speech).
Compare these words with what Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26.47-56). Imagine some situations in which hatred is expressed... Where UN peacekeeping forces are needed? At football matches? In inner city unrest? What might be the outcomes of meeting such hatred with a)violence or b) non-violence?
[An experienced teacher in a controlled setting could use this as the basis for a drama-based lesson.]
- 'God has no hands but ours.' (Mother Teresa)
Each person has different gifts and can contribute in different ways. In small groups identify some causes for which each person could make a difference. Look at what could be done to affect their own group, the neighbourhood or the wider world. Then come together as the whole group to think about what has been discussed in the small groups. Which things are best done by individuals and which are more effective when done by groups?