Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK, Jr. Day

While I was driving to Kalamazoo this afternoon I was able to hear MLK, Jr's famous "I Have A Dream" speech, in its entirety on NPR. I was moved by his stirring words and powerful delivery as I always am. This time, however, I heard something in his speech that I've never heard before. I excerpt a portion of his speech below:

No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow. I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up... live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

As I listened, these words rang out as clear as day:

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Whoa. Wait a minute. One of the most important speeches in the history of America, made by one of the most important figures in American history spoke about "creative suffering" about faith in the concept that "unearned suffering is redemptive?" That, my friends, is going in my book.

I am curious to know if his reference to "creative suffering" is the result of having read the pamphlet of the same title, written by a Russian Christian named Iulia de Beausobre. I have seen this work referenced in some of the books on suffering that I've been reading, but I haven't had time to delve into it, though I have it at home from the library. I'm going to attempt to research if MLK, Jr. ever read the book or not. If he did, I'm sure this little pamphlet helped shape his views of peaceful resistance.

This is from the back blurb of the book:

It is against the background of terror and cruelty on a huge scale that Iulia de Beausobre illuminates for Western readers the way in which the Russian people have always received suffering, and what they have learned to do with it. it is particularly 'man's inhumanity to man' that she is concerned with. Cruelty is a manifestation, or symptom, of an evil whose roots lie deeper than anything in human experience, but it is precisely at its roots that evil has been decisively defeated by Christ in the divine mystery of suffering willingly accepted for the sake of love. It is because this deeply thoughtful essay is also the testimony of one who, with many of her fellow-countrymen, learned to claim the power of Christ's victory in face of their persecutors, and so make their suffering 'creative' like his, that its appeal is as strong and its message s cogent now as in the dark days of 1940.

I have a hunch that MLK must have been aware of this woman's work. It will be an interesting piece of history to track down, if I can.

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