Father Robert Barron often talks about nonviolent resistance as the third option when faced with violence. Nonviolence offers an effective alternative to both fighting violence with violence and giving in to violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. learned from Gandhi that nonviolence is a powerful means to affect society. Reacting in this manner causes one to become the mirror in which the violent person can see himself and be seen by others as the violent person he is. I was watching parts of a documentary on PBS on the subject of the freedom riders who rode buses in order to protest segregated buses. Seeing pictures of burnt buses and listening to accounts of violent beatings met with nonviolence give evidence to the rightness of the cause.
A few hours ago, I was listening to a very interesting interview with Dr. King on NBC’s Meet the Press in 1965. In his response to a question of whether or not the cause was worth the cost, MLK responded by acknowledging the power of redemptive suffering: “[W]e go on, with the faith that unmerited suffering is redemptive.” That line really caught my attention. I had never thought about nonviolent resistance as an experience of enduring unmerited suffering– but that’s exactly what it is, and therefore can be redemptive. The Gospel of Matthew, particularly the Sermon on the Mount lays the groundwork for this teaching on nonviolence. May the life of MLK in this area be a testament to the power of nonviolent resistance to violence.