There is freedom

Daily Reading for April 4 • Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader and Martyr, 1968

To sink in the quicksands of fatalism is both intellectually and psychologically stifling. Because freedom is part of the essence of man, the fatalist, by denying freedom, becomes a puppet, not a person. He is, of course, right in his conviction that there is no absolute freedom and that freedom always operates within the context of predestined structure. Common experience teaches that a man is free to go north from Atlanta to Washington or south from Atlanta to Miami, but not north to Miami nor south to Washington. Freedom is always within the framework of destiny. But there is freedom. We are both free and destined. Freedom is the act of deliberating, deciding, and responding within our destined nature. . . . But fatalism stymies the individual, leaving him helplessly inadequate for life.

Fatalism, furthermore, is based on an appalling conception of God, for everything, whether good or evil, is considered to represent the will of God. A healthy religion rises above the idea that God wills evil. Although God permits evil in order to preserve the freedom of man, he does not cause evil. That which is willed is intended, and the thought that God intends for a child to be born blind or a man to suffer the ravages of insanity is sheer heresy that pictures God as a devil rather than as a loving Father. The embracing of fatalism is as tragic and dangerous a way to meet the problem of unfulfilled dreams as are bitterness and withdrawal.

From the sermon “Shattered Dreams” quoted in Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1963, 2010).

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