John Lewis and John Cobb on Love
I think sometimes people are afraid to say I love you. But we’re afraid to say, especially in public life, many elected officials or worldly elected officials, are afraid to talk about love. Maybe people tend to think something is so emotional about it. Maybe it’s a sign of weakness. And we’re not supposed to cry. We’re supposed to be strong, but love is strong. Love is powerful.
The movement created what I like to call a nonviolent revolution. It was love at its best. It’s one of the highest form of love. That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but in spite of that, I’m going to still love you. I know Dr. King used to joke sometime and say things like, “Just love the hell outta everybody. Just love ’em.”
I think all of us in life, not just in the Western world, but all over the world, we need to come to that point. We need to evolve to that plane, to that level where we’re not ashamed to say to someone, “I love you, I’m sorry, Pardon me, Will you please forgive me? Excuse me.” What is it? Have we lost something? Can we be just human and say I love you? I think so — so many occasions we think of love as being romantic and all of that, but just love because it’s good in itself, just love living creatures.
But the teaching, the training, the reading, and coming in contact with great teachers. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tremendous influence on me and the reading and the study of Gandhi.
When I saw the film several years ago of Gandhi and saw the march to the sea, it reminded me of the march from Selma to Montgomery. That there come a time where you have to be prepared to literally put your physical body in the way to go against something that is evil, unjust, and you prepare to suffer the consequences.
But whatever you do, whatever your response is, is with love, kindness, and that sense of faith. In my religious tradition is this belief that it’s going to work out. It is going to work out. It’s all going to be all right. And people will ask me from time to time, “What shall we do, John, during the sit-ins or during the freedom rides?” And I would say, “We need to find a way to dramatize the issue. We need to find a way to get in the way, but it should be in a peaceful, loving, nonviolent fashion.” Hate is too heavy a burden to bear.
- John Lewis interview with Krista Tippett in On Being
One wonders whether history must always be like this, with "us" feeling that we are justified in taking any action that will support our side against "them." We process folk say "No." All of us are composed of our relations to our own past but also to the myriad of "others." We are truly members one of another. The wounds of others wound us. Their genuine fulfillment fulfills us. This is true not only of those we call "friends." It is true of those we call "foes."
Whitehead noticed in the extraordinary "Galilean origins of Christianity" an emphasis on "the tender elements in the world which slowly and in quietness operate by love." A Hindu, Gandhi, noticed that Jesus called us to love our enemies, and he incorporated not only love of the British but also Hindu love of Muslims and vice versa into his successful struggle to free India from British rule. A Christian, Martin Luther King, learned from Gandhi that we need not treat Jesus' teaching as simply impractical idealism, and he broke his people out of segregation. Another Christian, Nelson Mandela, invented a truth and reconciliation program that also expressed a realistic love of enemy. Indeed, if we search through history, alongside the thousands of instances of treachery and cruelty, of deceit and revenge, here and there people have attained freedom and justice while expressing love for their oppressors,
This has two advantages. Hatred and violence toward others may win a battle here and there, or even build an empire, but the hatred engendered in the defeated festers in them and endangers whatever may have been gained. Killing leads to more killing, but the independence of India has not resulted in a bitter Britain. Whereas even today the scars on the white Southern psyche from the Civil War corrupt American politics, the desegregation of public facilities is genuinely accepted by most white Southerners without rancor, It is hatred, deceit, and violence that are unrealistic solutions to human problems. They are leading the world toward the suicide of the human species. Love is the realistic answer.
-- John Cobb, Love is the Realistic Answer