The work of Josiah van Vliet

Today in 1963

…Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” . Many things jumped out at me about this letter, not least of which was the incredible writing. But the thing I wanted to point out was that if you read through his argument you can see that he has, as a minister, a deep well of moral writings to call on to justify his position. He seems to have a massive reservoir of human wisdom at his fingertips, from Socrates to the bible.  It’s not just religious fervour that gives his argument power, but his training in the history of human wisdom. It occurred to me to wonder what the secular equivalent of this training would look like.

1 Comment

  1. It seems that most of his citations are specifically chosen to frame himself as a particular kind of Christian. He cites a series of examples, with which his readers would be familiar, and which position him within a particular genealogy of non-violent protesters: Socrates, Jesus, Paul, Luther. He doesn’t mention Gandhi, who may have had a more direct influence on him, but who might not be as familiar to the clergy he is addressing.

    The secular equivalent collection of such widely known moral heroes probably starts with Martin Luther King (but doesn’t end there).

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