King, Martin Luther - My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence – 01 As a Christian I believe that there is a creative personal power in this universe who is the ground and essence of all reality
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
“My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” 1 September 1958 New York, N.Y.
This shortened version of chapter six of Stride Toward Freedom appeared in the September issue of Fellowship. In it, King traces the philosophical and theological underpinnings of his commitment to nonviolence.
In reading such Communist writings I drew certain conclusions that have remained with me to this day.
- First I rejected their materialistic interpretation of history. Communism, avowedly secularistic and materialistic, has no place for God or Christ or for the things Christ put first in life. This I could never accept, for as a Christian I believe that there is a creative personal power in this universe who is the ground and essence of all reality-a power that cannot be explained in materialistic terms. History is ultimately guided by spirit, not matter.
- Second, I strongly disagreed with communism’s ethical relativism. Since for the Communist there is no divine government, no absolute moral order, there are no fixed, immutable principles; consequently almost anything - force, violence, murder, lying - is a justifiable means to the “millennial” end. This type of relativism was abhorrent to me. Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is pre-existent in the mean.
- Third, I opposed communism’s political totalitarianism. In communism the individual ends up in subjection to the state. True, the Marxist would argue that the state is an “interim” reality which is to be eliminated when the classless society emerges; but the state is the end while it lasts, and man only a means to that end. And if any man’s so-called rights or liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside. His liberties of expression, his freedom to vote, his freedom to listen to what news he likes or to choose his books are all restricted. Man becomes hardly more, in communism, than a depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state.
This deprecation of individual freedom was objectionable to me. I am convinced now, as I was then, that man is an end because he is a child of God. Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself.
The late Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, referred to communism as a Christian heresy. By this he meant that communism had laid hold of certain truths which are essential parts of the Christian view of things, but that it had bound up with them concepts and practices which no Christian could ever accept or profess.