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My Introduction to Violence and the Miracle of Martin Luther King

About 1954 when I was seventeen, someone set a bomb off in our entrance hall. It was the night of an election with a black woman running for the school board in Houston, Texas. Segregation and the myth of separate, but equal schools were still firmly in place, and the black schools had never had representation on the board. I believe she was the first black candidate.
My father was a newspaper editor and had written editorials supporting her.
The bomb was not like bombs today. It didn’t destroy walls or knock down the door, but it had enough impact to cause the confetti packing and sharp pieces of slate to become embedded in the door and walls. It was set off about three in the morning, my father was still at the newspaper covering the election, and I was half-way down the stairs before I decided not to go to the door. That was my first personal experience of the human capacity for senseless violence.
Though my mother was from Mississippi and my father was from Louisiana, they had taught me that prejudging people on the basis of their skin color was not only wrong, it was ignorant. And ignorance was THE mortal sin in our family.
When I married and moved to Nashville, Tennessee our friends were mostly doctors and lawyers and college professors. In the middle sixties I decided to join the NAACP after one of my friends, who was a volunteer at a local hospital, informed us all angrily that, “There was no way in hell, she was going to carry that n_____ baby out to their car. And she told them that right then and there. She didn’t care who heard her.”  Obviously, a college education isn’t always a cure for ignorance.
So in 1968 I was working at the NAACP office when the Poor People’s March came through Nashville. There were many young blacks from out of town, who belonged to more militant organizations like SNCC and CORE, going in and out of the office where I was answering the phone. Their obvious strong hatred of whites, even those of us working for the NAACP, was frightening.
It seemed to me that America was headed for a bloody race war where many innocent people on both sides would be destroyed. I began to pray fervently for a miracle that would prevent that.
I have come to see Martin Luther King as that miracle. I believe whites should be as grateful to him as blacks.
I thank God for Martin Luther King.

Ignorance Is Curable. Stupidity Isn’t.

Ignorance is curable, stupidity isn’t.

Stupidity is thinking we personally know the whole truth, nothing but the truth, thus making us equal to God.

I remember reading a book by Henri Nouwen almost  half of a century ago. It was Reaching Out. Nouwen writes about  the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life: Journey Inward, Journey Outword, and Journey Together. The first part resonated joyfully for me, the second part I felt tentative about, but open to it’s possible truth, the third part threatened some of my most cherished beliefs and I rejected it immediately. Over the years I reread the book. The second time, I could joyously affirm the truths of both part one and part two. The third part still made me uneasy and didn’t find a home in my picture of reality. But since I had grown in my understanding of the other parts, I put it into my “possible” file.   Eventually, I reread it and found that I had stretched my view of the world enough to encompass those truths.

Stupidity is when we don’t admit that the truths that make up our view of the world will always need stretching.