NONVIOLENCE AND GUNS. On this MLK, Jr. Day, it seems right to ask if his teachings about nonviolence have relevance for addressing gun violence. In his book, STRIDE TOWARDS FREEDOM (1958), King posits six principles of nonviolent resistance. (Note: my comments are in [brackets]).

1. Nonviolence is not a method for cowards. It does resist. [We must go public. We must speak-up, step-up and act-up. We must go beyond having only inner feelings of revulsion, but allow those feelings to reach others in the public sphere].
2. It does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win their friendship and understanding. [Let us have conversation with members of the gun lobby and opposing political points of view, and members of our faith communities. Let our words be heartfelt and compassionate. Let us listen as well as speak. Let us be civil and kind].
3. The attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing evil. [Let us address fear, greed, anger, poverty, powerlessness and mental health. Let us not name call, voice personal attacks, and instead try to make the other a friend].
4. We must be willing to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows without striking back. [Let our strength be our faith in God, our unity, our words and our resolve. Let us be willing to pay a heavy price for the sake of others].
5. It avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. We refuse to hate. Instead, we choose to love. [We acknowledge the opponent as our brother and sister, all of whom are equally created in the Image of God. We comfort the victims and families and friends of victims. We seek to bring victims and perpetrators together for reconciliation].
6. The universe is on the side of justice. We have a deep faith in the future. [Though the opposition is well organized and well funded, and has won most of the battles, we press on, content to play the long game whenever necessary, refusing to despair, believing that good will triumph and our goal is just].

In his 1967 Christmas Sermon, Rev. Dr. King noted, “Ends and means must cohere. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means….The end is pre-existant in the means.” [Gun violence must be met with nonviolence. More guns do not mean less violence. 37,000 gun deaths a year is an unacceptable affront to God’s humanity].


Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes