“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
—- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
These words were uttered by Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. As the minister of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), King earnestly shared his view of civil rights movement through the form of non-violence, which reflects his idea of the undifferentiated religious love of friends and enemies. According to Martin Luther King, the political pursuit of the American black people should be integrated into their Christian belief which requires them to be able to love rather than to hate though they had been unfairly treated by the their white counterparts (Berger, 2011). Surely racial discrimination was an evil policy which had produced miserable experiences of the American blacks in the history of the United States, the black people in the US should not solve the racial problem of the nation with hate. Thus, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the US which was led by the black church was featured by a Christian love which is advocated by the Bible (Fairclough, 2001). This can be seen as the main theme of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the US history.
This racial liberation theology can be seen to have grown out of the tradition of the American black church, which was in turn the result of two influential factors. The first factor is the inheritance of the universal Christian values in the Western world. According to this value, love is the main philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement and the racial liberation of the American black people (Pinn, 2002). It is required by the bible and has been embraced by all the black Christians in the United States. The second factor, on the other hand, is the particular experiences of the US blacks. This is the historical mission of the US blacks to liberate themselves from the long-term oppression by the dominating culture of the white people. However, the philosophy of this liberation is based on the religious toleration, which is expressed in terms of love rather in hate. And this is exactly the basis of the non-violent movement advocated by Martin Luther King and the American black church.
Black ministers such as Martin Luther King successfully uttered the voice of the US black community to gain their equal rights in the national life. With the endeavors of the religious leaders, the black people in the US gradually realized their just rights to be treated equally by the mainstream culture which was dominated by the white people in the country. This racial awakening became the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement of the American blacks (Woods, 2004). And since from the very beginning, the Civil Rights Movement was integrated into the religious activities of the black church, Christian interpretation of the movement prevailed. And since the black ministers represented the voice of the church, they played a crucial role in leading the trends of the movement throughout the whole 1960s. These ministers shared the idea of non-violence which required the black people to obey the legal regulations and tried their best to behave peacefully during the course of the movement. This non-violence gained the sympathy and support of most of the US people, including the whites and other racial minorities. In the meanwhile, it was well the notion of non-violence that made it possible to call for congregations by the church ministers (Tushnet, 2008).
On the whole, the theology of the Civil Rights Movement reflected the religious confidence of the American black people who, having been educated by the traditional Christian belief for more than two centuries, have accepted Christian love and have been able consciously use this religious feeling in resolving conflict in their social life. They believe that the God sides with the oppressed people. For the black people, to obey the rules set by the God and resist peacefully is the requirement of the so-called Christian love (Raboteau, 2004). This is as well the belief of Martin Luther King. Thus the black ministers of the US black church sought the answer of racial liberation throughout love rather than hate. According to them, hate is not the key to solve the problem of racial discriminations. On the contrary, the purpose of racial reconciliation can only be attained by peace and love. This is what has been generally accepted by most of the US black people during the whole course of the Civil Rights Movement. For Martin Luther King, his quotation “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” best represented this religious belief in guiding the struggle of the black people in gaining their just rights during the whole process of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Berger, M. A. (2011) Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography.Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
Fairclough, A. (2001) To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference & Martin Luther King. The University of Georgia Press.
Pinn, A. H. (2002) Introduction to Black Church History, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress.
Raboteau, A. J. (2004). Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South.OxfordUniversity Press.
Tushnet, M. (2008). I dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases. Boston: Beacon Press.
Woods, J. (2004). Black Struggle, Red Scare: Segregation and Anti-communism in the South. LSU Press.