Deliberations and Resources on Radical Christianity

MLK’s Five Principles of Nonviolence

    The Five Principles of Non-Violence as Outlined by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Non-violent resistance is not a method for cowards. It does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests, as is the person who uses violence. His method is passive or nonagressive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, but his mind and emotions are always active, contantly seeking to persuade the opponent that he is mistaken. This method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually; it is nonagressive physically but dynamically agressive spiritually.

Nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the oponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.

The attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces. It is a struggle between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Nonviolent resistance avoids not only external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit. At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

Nonviolence is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. It is the deep faith in the future that allows a nonviolent resister to accept suffering without retaliation. The nonviolent resister knows that in his struggle for justice, he has a cosmic companionship.

The five principles of nonviolence, based on a speech given at University of California, Berkeley, June 4, 1957, and an article published in Christian Century in early 1957.

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