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“Bayard Rustin was among the men from the FOR [Fellowship of Reconciliation] and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who had embraced the Gandhian philosophy both as an ideal and a way of life. Since the 1940s, peace and civil rights activists, such as A. J. Muste, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, and Rustin, had practiced the method King knew in theory only. Thus, Rustin could provide practical experience in the self-discipline of nonviolence that Gandhian activism required. When Rustin saw a gun sitting on a chair in [Martin Luther] King [Jr.]’s home, he quickly told the younger man that if a leader shoots back when his home is bombed, it encourages his followers to become violent. Perhaps, King did not understand that the Gandhian method condemned even the owning of weapons. Rustin believed that Montgomery could provide the impetus for a more widespread black civil rights movement across the South. He was glad to help.

Since Rustin’s life and career were enveloped in controversy due to his homosexuality and communistic activity, he was forced to leave Montgomery, but he did not return directly to New York. Instead, he went to nearby Birmingham where he remained until his presence was discovered. When Rustin reported to the War Resister’s League that King was growing toward a more Gandhi-like philosophy, the League established the Committee for Nonviolent Integration, designed to support King’s work financially. However, when King published Stride Toward Freedom in 1958, Rustin went unmentioned. Rustin later explained that he wanted to avoid becoming identified too closely with King, giving “reactionaries” fuel to substantiate the rumor that King was a communist. Rustin had made the decision to omit his own name, but he remained a life-long adviser to King.”

1 Jervis Anderson, Bayard Rustin: Troubles I’ve Seen (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997), 185-88.
2 Ibid., 190, 192-93, 210.

From my MALS thesis “Making All Things New: The Redemptive Value of Unmerited Suffering In the Life and Works of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Wake Forest University, 2000), 36-37.

The greatest among you must be your servants. Anyone who raises himself up may be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up. Matthew 23: 11-12

“This is the way of Jesus and the way to which he calls his disciples. It is the way that at first frightens or at least embarrasses us. Who wants to be humbled? Who wants to be the last? Who wants to be like a little, powerless child? Who desires to lose his or her life, to be poor, mourning, and hungry? All this appears to be against our natural inclinations. But once we see what Jesus reveals to us, in his radically downward pull, the compassionate nature of God, we begin to understand that to follow him is to participate in the ongoing self-revelation of God. . . . It is the way of suffering, but also the way to healing. It is the way of humiliation, but also the way to resurrection . . . the way of tears . . . that turn into joy.”

to read the rest of this devotional see Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen

February 2008