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So far in our discussion Simon you have mentioned and quoted Gandhi, and that raises a worthwhile question. Everyone has heard of people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., 20th Century icons who brought about significant social change and who were influenced by the nonviolent teachings of Jesus Christ.
But to most people these figures seem legendary, almost superhuman; what have their legacies got to do with us, in our lives?
Hagiography has a lot to answer for in setting up Gandhi and MLK Jr. as unattainable ideals. You really need to read their stories to learn their struggles and failures. MLK was a notorious philanderer and adulterer who spent much of his life in depression and self-doubt. I mean, the civil rights movement was often a mess of egos, backstabbing and embarrassing failure. Gandhi was often a terrible father and husband – his eldest son ended up dying young and homeless. To some people these failings invalidate their work and witness – but to me it humanises them, makes their example more compelling. If they were able to achieve everything they achieved despite their brokenness, perhaps I have something to offer too.
We also have to realise that MLK and Gandhi alone – just like Hitler alone – couldn’t really achieve much at all. They were made to look good by the people who surrounded them – the ones who did the hard yards out of the public eye, going to gaol, being beaten. Certainly those people no doubt learned from the Gandhis and MLKs and looked up to them but did just as heroic things without the glory. Read the rest of this entry