I’ve often wondered why the Black Lives Matter movement has discarded the teaching tenets of Martin Luther King Jr. … at least according to their actions.
I thought it would be noteworthy to remember MLK’s guiding principles. Moreover, I’d like to look at a man—NFL Hall of Famer and current pastor, Aeneas Williams—who embraces these beliefs in the crucible of relational strife between law enforcement and some segments of the black community.
The King Philosophy
According to the King Center, the MLK philosophy combated the evils of poverty, racism, and militarism.
“To work against the Triple Evils,” reads the philosophy, “you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence’ and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the ‘Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change.’”
While the King Philosophy describing poverty and racism are what you might expect, the description of militarism was like a boomerang taking aim at war abroad, yet returning to inner-city strife as well.
“Militarism – war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, human trafficking, media violence, drugs, child abuse, violent crime…”
King’s six principles of nonviolence are what really grabbed my attention. They are outlined below:
- PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
- PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
- PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
- PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
- PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
- PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.
BLM Antics Have Been an Antithesis to Dr. King’s Tenets
Sadly, the actions of BLM over the past several years have been an antithesis to Dr. King’s tenets.
They threaten, coerce, and intimidate to get their way. Interestingly enough, the text from “What We Believe” on their website is often incongruent with their actions during various protests and demonstrations.
“We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.”
In the article, I wrote:
“Black Lives Matter activists get exposed frequently due to their hypocrisy and distorted use of facts. Their emotional appeals often ignore reality.
“While reading about the death of Tuscaloosa police Investigator Dornell Cousette last week, I was once again shocked—tongue-in-cheek—at the silence of BLM.
“To date, there have been four black police officers murdered in 2019. Nevertheless, I haven’t noticed a whimper of protest from BLM.
“Ignoring selective black deaths at the hands of violent killers would be unthinkable if BLM aspirations were pure, but they are not. That is why they also ignore black homicide rates in Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and all inner cities in America.
“Actually, for a black person to receive the backing of BLM, they need to engage in unlawful activity while failing to comply with lawful orders from a peace officer to comply or surrender—at least that has been the common denominator thus far. Then, and only then, are they deemed worthy to be used to “promote social justice.”
They claim to “have a have a shared desire for justice,” yet it’s only “justice” as they define it–ignoring ultimate cause actions (crime and non-compliance), which lead to proximate cause tragedies (fatal shootings).
Hall of Fame defensive back Aeneas Williams was driving back to St. Louis in August 2014 when his phone started ringing. It was James Knowles III, the mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, and he was asking for Williams’ help.
“I said, ‘Well, Mayor Knowles, why do you need my help?’ ” Williams recalled to USA TODAY. “And he said, ‘I think (this) is going to be bad.'”
Earlier that day, Officer Darren Wilson was involved in the now famous deadly encounter with Michael Brown, in Ferguson.
As a result, race relations in the country took a major hit!
Right Place at the Right Time
Knowles didn’t want Williams’ help simply because he played in the NFL. He sought Williams because he was the pastor of The Spirit Church, which had recently started holding services in the community, according to USA Today.
“When everything happened, that’s when our congregation knew we were in the place we’re supposed to be,” Williams said. “At the right time, for the right reason.”
Eighteen years after he played in his only Super Bowl — recording eight tackles in the then-St. Louis Rams’ 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots in February 2002 — Williams is thriving in his next career as a pastor outside St. Louis.
“I never think of (myself as) ‘Oh, I’m a former player,” Williams said. “(My NFL career) is just a part of who I am, and it’s helped me become who I am, in terms of the journey I’m on.”
Williams was a devout Christian throughout his playing career, regularly holding Bible studies for teammates and their wives during the week before a game. A few years after retiring, he and his wife, Tracy, founded The Spirit Church in their basement in 2007, with a grand total of four people — their children — in attendance.
Today, he said, the church boasts a congregation of roughly 800 members, two services on Sunday and a permanent facility that sprawls across more than 44,000 square feet.
Calm in the Storm
It’s been a relatively uncommon retirement path for a former NFL player to take. But former teammate London Fletcher is not surprised by Williams’ second career, or his success in it.
“You just knew he had a presence about him that was different than everybody else,” said Fletcher, who overlapped with Williams on the Rams in 2001. “You knew he was a believer, and he shared his faith openly, but it wasn’t overbearing to guys.
“He just had a tremendous amount of peace about himself.”
Williams is a firm believer in “the ministry of reconciliation” — bringing people on opposite ends of a particular issue together. So in the aftermath of Ferguson, after receiving that call from Knowles, that’s what he did — quite literally. He walked down the middle of the street.
“During the riots and all that, I started talking to young people to find out what the real issues were, to find ways how to serve them,” Williams said. “When they find out I played for the Rams and I’m a Hall of Famer, that’s the thing that surprised them the most. I usually don’t lead with that.”
Knowles told NFL Network in 2017 that Williams’ presence as a “stabilizing force” played a significant role in the aftermath of the shooting.
Though Williams’ church has since moved about 10 minutes from Ferguson, to another suburb called St. Ann, he said his congregation still makes weekly outreach visits to the area. The group knocks on doors and starts conversations — offering everything from prayer to practical resources, like information on programs that help recently-released felons reintegrate into society or connections with the local Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s better (in Ferguson). Has every issue been resolved? Probably not,” Williams said. “So many people have played a huge role, healing and getting better — far more than we ever did. But it was just a blessing to play a small part in serving the community.”
Restoration and Reconciliation
We need more people like Aeneas Williams, people who understand the restorative value of the tenets of MLK.
The strategy of victimhood combined anger and bitterness are not edifying.
For reconciliation to occur, MLK’s philosophy asserts, “Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the ‘Beloved Community.’”
– Jim McNeff