Dr. Johnson on the legacy of Dr. King

A commentary by Rory Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Religion, recently appeared on Sightings, the blog of the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion, at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Written in anticipation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Dr. Johnson's commentary of Jan. 14 was titled, "Martin Luther King, Jr.: Nonviolence Is the Sword That Heals." Dr. Johnson argued that Martin Luther King's advocacy of nonviolence and forgiveness remains urgently relevant in the face of events such as the shooting, last summer, of nine African American churchgoers in South Carolina, or the recent controversies over the deaths of African American men at the hands of police officers. As Martin Luther King taught: forgiveness heals.

At the same time, Dr. Johnson insists, "the ritual forgiveness that has become the African-American response to tragic outcomes imposes an obligation on those who are forgiven: the setting-aside of a demand for retribution requires the assurance of justice. Otherwise, the legitimacy of justice is jeopardized and the social contract on which the Republic stands risks being invalidated."