Martin Luther King | Love for the Other is Dangerous and Political

Although mathematically it turns out that this should be your worst day of the year, given that it’s Martin Luther King day in the US, I hope there’s some level of goodness in it that defeats the equations.

I was reminded by Jay Bakker today that MLK once said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” It’s a brilliant testament to a life lived in defiance of a dominant culture of hate. This, remember, is a day to commemorate a man once labelled as ‘the most dangerous in America.’

Loving other people turns out to be a dangerous and risky business. In James Fowler’s Stages of Faith (which I explore in Signs of EmergenceThe Complex Christ in the UK) the ‘Stage 6’ is the ‘Universalist’ – those who reach a place of radical acceptance of others. And they are routinely killed. Gandhi, Jesus, Martin Luther King… the list goes on. They are killed because radical love for the other, for the stranger, for the dirty and dispossessed always presents a challenge to the dominant system that has excluded them.

And this is why love for other is always political. To love the homeless but do nothing about homelessness, is to fail to love in depth. For the whites who supported MLK, it wasn’t enough to simply enjoy hanging out with black people, or accept them as friends. The system that oppressed them had to be changed.

And this is the core challenge of a day like today: has the embracing of MLK into a national hero obscured the fact that oppression still exists? By fetishising King, it is easier to ignore his radical message of challenge to the unfair political and social structures that still keeps people down. People can enjoy the day off, but do nothing to change the situation of people who are being oppressed.

And I’ve heard that put no better today than with Vince Anderson’s talk at Revolution NYC yesterday, which you can listen to here.