Category Archives: General History

Pledge of Nonviolence

The pledge of nonviolence written by Martin Luther King Jr., and signed by his marchers, 1963

The pledge of nonviolence written by Martin Luther King Jr., and signed by his marchers, 1963

1. As you prepare to march meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus

2. Remember the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.

3. Walk and talk in the manner of love; for God is love.

4. Pray daily to be used by God that all men and women might be free.

5. Sacrifice personal wishes that all might be free.

6. Observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. Perform regular service for others and the world.

8. Refrain from violence of fist, tongue and heart.

9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. Follow the directions of the movement leaders and of the captains on demonstrations.

Here are the five principles of non-violence:

The Five Principles of Nonviolence

1. Non-violent resistance is not a method for cowards. It does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests, as is the person who uses violence. His method is passive or nonaggressive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, but his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade the opponent that he is mistaken. This method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually; it is nonaggressive physically but dynamically aggressive spiritually.

2. Nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation but he realizes that noncooperation is not the ends itself; it is merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.

3. The attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces. It is a struggle between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

4. Nonviolent resistance avoids not only external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit. At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

5. Nonviolence is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. It is the deep faith in the future that allows a nonviolent resister to accept suffering without retaliation. The nonviolent resister knows that in his struggle for justice, he has a cosmic companionship.

Special thanks to: http://www.tparents.org/Library/Unification/Talks2/King/King-630000.htm  for the source.

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Is Advocacy for Violent Resistance an Appropriate Christian Response to Governmental Tyranny?

The angst around “gun control” among many of my fellow Christian friends honestly amazes me. But let me start by stating clearly that I don’t have a problem with a Christian owning a gun or guns.

Let me also state that I understand all of the arguments from those against gun control legislation and some of them do seem to make sense from a logical standpoint.

However, what doesn’t make sense to me is the implied advocacy for violent resistance among some of my Christian friends.

I am continually surprised by the apparent obsession with the issue of gun control in some of the evangelical*** community. This phenomenon of speaking out against gun control is even more stark when it is compared to other important social issues that aren’t spoken about as nearly as often or as fervently within the evangelical community.

But that is another topic all its own.

Some of the social media posts I’ve seen by Christians I know personally have implied, or even directly stated that one of the reasons for owning guns is to protect personal freedom, as per the second amendment and the implication of certain statements by our founding fathers.

I think I would agree that there is a strong argument for thinking that many of the founding fathers saw the private ownership of guns partially as a safeguard against governmental tyranny. Private access to weapons was at least a small factor that contributed to success in the American Revolution.

But my question is, “Why do Christians see the ownership of guns as a potential safeguard against tyranny?”

When Christians imply that the ownership of weapons is a safeguard against tyranny they, by correlation, seem to be implying that violent resistance or even violent revolution is an appropriate way to combat governmental tyranny.

To be sure, our country was established partly through violent resistance to the British Monarchy and Parliament, which were perceived by some colonists as tyrannical and despotic. This reality is certainly a part of our American history and culture.

But should violent resistance to the government be part of the Christian heritage?

I want to be clear as to what my main point is. I’ll start with what my point is NOT.

My point is NOT that it is not okay for a Christian to own guns.

My point is NOT that it is not okay for  Christians to defend their family against violence.

My point is NOT even that there is absolutely no such concept as a “just war”.

These are all great topics for another discussion, but they have little to do with the intended focus of the point I’m making here.

So, the essential point is that I have noticed some of my Christian friends implying their support for the idea that the private ownership of guns-based on the second amendment-is a proper safeguard against tyranny from the government.

The implication then is that these Christians also believe that violent resistance-apparently with their guns-is an appropriate Christian response to governmental tyranny. Violent resistance is certainly a part of our American heritage.

But is the advocacy of violent resistance against governmental tyranny congruent with the teachings of Jesus Christ?

I think you would be hard-pressed to find that to be the case.

***It certainly isn’t only evangelical Christians who have presented this viewpoint, however this is the group I want to address because I’ve been so surprised by the seemingly one-sided view and I desire to offer a differing view. This is largely because I have yet to notice a differing view among my particular group of evangelical acquaintances.

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American Civil Rights: Robert Moses’ Citizen’s Arrest

Robert Parris Moses (right of photo),  soft-spoken leader of the SNCC (Thanks to americanradioworks.publicradio.org for the photo).

Here is another one of my favorite Bob Moses stories:

In a Mississippi town in 1964, demonstrators were picketing for their right to vote. Local authorities recognized Bob Moses as the outside agitator that had been stirring up local African-Americans in their pursuit of voting rights for years. Once they recognized Moses, they asked him to leave the area. He, of course refused. After all, it wasn’t illegal for him to be there. Instead of leaving completely, he left for only a few minutes, soon coming back with a sign supporting voting rights. He stood by himself on one side of the street.

The local sheriff,  a man by the name of John Quincy Adams, moved in to arrest Moses for disturbing the peace. Moses, in a quick reversal of both moral and legal authority, declared that he was making a citizens arrest of officer Adams for violating federal law that protected a citizen’s voting rights. This recently passed law made it illegal for states to interfere in any manner with a citizen’s attempt to exercise their right to vote. Moses cited this law and called on FBI agents, who were standing nearby, to aid him in his citizen’s arrest.

Unfortunately for Moses, the federal agents were ultimately under the command of J.Edgar Hoover and they were slow to act. Moses was hauled off to jail by the local authorities.

Visibly, Robert Moses was a mild-mannered intellectual, but through his countless exploits, he gave substance to the philosophy that action always follows principle.

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American Civil Rights: Robert Parris Moses and Soul-force


Robert Parris Moses of the SNCC during a Freedom Ride training (Thanks to schema-root.org for the photo).

I was going to define the idea of civil rights in my next couple of posts, but with this being Martin Luther King Jr. day, I decided to talk a little bit about one of my favorite activists and touch on the concept of “soul-force”.

There’s a story of Bob Moses, a SNCC volunteer. He was in a southern town attempting to register African-Americans to vote. He was on his way to the registrar’s office with two other African-Americans when his way was blocked by the town’s white sheriff and a few other men.

According to the story,  the sheriff refused to let Moses pass and drove his knife handle into Moses’ head and beat him nearly senseless. Moses did not fight back and he apparently had an out-of-body experience and watched the beating from above. After the sheriff stopped with the beating, Moses stumbled to the registrar’s office with the help of another man, not wanting to give up his mission despite the setback.

Soon rumors circulated within the civil rights movement that Moses had prayed for his attackers while being beaten, saying “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. 

While the part of the story  that portrays Moses praying was probably nothing more than a rumor, it does speak to the larger reality of the success of the practical application of non-violent resistance.  Many of the African-Americans involved in the non-violent approach to civil rights managed to maintain their philosophy throughout the fire of severe testing.

Moses went on to continue his leadership in the grassroots mission of aiding African-American suffrage throughout the 1960’s and, despite being a frequent target of violence and oppression, continued to practice non-violence successfully.

The story also illustrates the impact behind the actions of those involved in the non-violent demonstrations. Martin Luther King referred to the force of the resistors as “soul-force”, a concept that came out of Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha.

The idea of soul-force is that the moral rightness of the non-violent resistor’s actions is a change agent in and of itself. If the soldiers of non-violence peacefully commit their acts of civil disobedience and  continue to demonstrate agape love toward their oppressors, the justice of their actions will overcome any inherent evil in both the oppressors themselves, and in  the immoral social norms that are being upheld and justified by the laws of the society.

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American Civil Rights: Introduction to the Clash


In this picture, Carmichael (on the right) marches with Dr. King (left) in “The March Against Fear”. Carmichael was initially a non-violent resistor and leader of the SNCC. It wasn’t long after this march with King that Carmichael began moving in a different direction. (Thanks to History.com for the photo)  

Many Americans think of the Civil Rights Movement as starting in the  mid 1950’s, but the reality is that the movement had its genesis much earlier. Even many of the iconic events of the movement such as the freedom rides, boycotts and  marches had already happened before the fifties; they simply hadn’t yet gained the powerful spotlight of the national media.

The Civil Rights Movement was certainly a clashing of cultural ideas, but it was much more than that. The Civil Rights Movement was a re-examination of human freedom and dignity, not to mention a refining of American culture and a rethinking of what it means to be an American citizen.

The Civil Rights Movement led to rifts not only between Americans content with the status quo and Americans demanding change, but also to splits within the very movement itself.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophies of non-violent resistance often clashed with the black power message of Stokley Carmichael and others.

One could say that the effective and forceful agenda of black power and black nationalism were birthed out of the Civil Rights Movement. The ideas themselves did not originate with the movement, but found impetus as a parallel and even counter agenda to the movement.

Despite the differing approaches in bringing about an end to the plight of African-Americans, it was the same encrusted cultural and societal norms that brought about the revolution in the first place.  At the time of the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans were still treated like second-class citizens based on nothing more than the color of their skin and on the negative stereotypes that white Americans associated with their race.

Having said that, it is important to remember the words of Martin Luther King who stated: “We are not going to allow this conflict…to deteriorate into a struggle between black people and white people. The tension…is between justice and injustice.”

Part of the greatness and the genius in the non-violent resistance of King’s version of the Civil Rights Movement was the steady focus on pointing out the injustices of a society and of a government that claimed freedom and equality for all while denying them for some.

King didn’t allow the agenda to be about hating people of another race, since that would rather be self-contradictory to both the aims and the methods the movement. Instead, King constantly and consistently preached a message of justice, freedom, and dignity for all humans, regardless of race or social position.

In the next blog post, we will examine the definition of civil rights.

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Coming Soon…A Focus on History.

I will be updating my blog soon with a focus on history. Specifically, I will be preserving my own family history in these blogs as well as writing on historical topics of personal interest that I have researched.

In essence, there will be two new categories in my blog. The first category will be the “Family History” category. In this category, I will attempt to chronicle my personal family history as I gather information on the subject. I hope this information will be useful and interesting to my family members and my descendants.

The second category will be the “General History” category. This category will contain my own research into historical topics of personal interest. The first of these focuses will be on the American Civil Rights Movement, a topic that I am currently researching.

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