"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence"

Author:  King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date:  April 13, 1960

Location:  Chicago, Ill.

Genre:  Published Article

Topic:  Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views Martin Luther King, Jr. - Travels Montgomery Bus Boycott Nonviolence

On 10 July 1959,  Christian Century  editor Harold Fey asked King to write an article for “How My Mind Has Changed,” a series of “statements by significant thinkers” reflecting their intellectual and spiritual development over the previous ten years. In this essay, King stresses the academic influences that have led him to embrace nonviolence as “a way of life.” 1  He also relates that his “involvement in a difficult struggle” had changed his conception of God from a “metaphysical category” to “a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life.” God had become “profoundly real” to him: “In the midst of outer dangers I have felt an inner calm and known resources of strength that only God could give.”

Ten years ago I was just entering my senior year in theological seminary. Like most theological students I was engaged in the exciting job of studying various theological theories. Having been raised in a rather strict fundamentalistic tradition, I was occasionally shocked as my intellectual journey carried me through new and sometimes complex doctrinal lands. But despite the shock the pilgrimage was always stimulating, and it gave me a new appreciation for objective appraisal and critical analysis. My early theological training did the same for me as the reading of [ David ] Hume did for [ Immanuel ] Kant: it knocked me out of my dogmatic slumber.

At this stage of my development I was a thoroughgoing liberal. Liberalism provided me with an intellectual satisfaction that I could never find in fundamentalism. I became so enamored of the insights of liberalism that I almost fell into the trap of accepting uncritically everything that came under its name. I was absolutely convinced of the natural goodness of man and the natural power of human reason.

The basic change in my thinking came when I began to question some of the theories that had been associated with so-called liberal theology. Of course there is one phase of liberalism that I hope to cherish always: its devotion to the search for truth, its insistence on an open and analytical mind, its refusal to abandon the best light of reason. 2  Liberalism's contribution to the philological-historical criticism of biblical literature has been of immeasurable value and should be defended with religious and scientific passion.

It was mainly the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question. The more I observed the tragedies of history and man's shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin. My reading of the works of Reinhold Niebuhr made me aware of the complexity of human motives and the reality of sin on every level of man's existence. 3  Moreover, I came to recognize the complexity of man's social involvement and the glaring reality of collective evil. 4  I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism.

I also came to see that liberalism's superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. 5  The more I thought about human nature the more I saw how our tragic inclination for sin causes us to use our minds to rationalize our actions. Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man's defensive ways of thinking. Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

In spite of the fact that I had to reject some aspects of liberalism, I never came to an all-out acceptance of neo-orthodoxy. While I saw neo-orthodoxy as a helpful corrective for a liberalism that had become all too sentimental, I never felt that it provided an adequate answer to the basic questions. If liberalism was too optimistic concerning human nature, neo-orthodoxy was too pessimistic. Not only on the question of man but also on other vital issues neo-orthodoxy went too far in its revolt. 6  In its attempt to preserve the transcendence of God, which had been neglected by liberalism's overstress of his immanence, neo-orthodoxy went to the extreme of stressing a God who was hidden, unknown and “wholly other.” In its revolt against liberalism's overemphasis on the power of reason, neo-orthodoxy fell into a mood of antirationalism and semifundamentalism, stressing a narrow, uncritical biblicism. This approach, I felt, was inadequate both for the church and for personal life.

So although liberalism left me unsatisfied on the question of the nature of man, I found no refuge in neo-orthodoxy. I am now convinced that the truth about man is found neither in liberalism nor in neo-orthodoxy. Each represents a partial truth. A large segment of Protestant liberalism defined man only in terms of his essential nature, his capacity for good. Neo-orthodoxy tended to define man only in terms of his existential nature, his capacity for evil. An adequate understanding of man is found neither in the thesis of liberalism nor in the antithesis of neo-orthodoxy, but in a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both. 7

During the past decade I also gained a new appreciation for the philosophy of existentialism. My first contact with this philosophy came through my reading of [ Søren ] Kierkegaard and [ Friedrich ] Nietzsche. Later I turned to a study of [ Karl ] Jaspers, [ Martin ] Heidegger and [ Jean Paul ] Sartre. All of these thinkers stimulated my thinking; while finding things to question in each, I nevertheless learned a great deal from study of them. When I finally turned to a serious study of the works of Paul Tillich I became convinced that existentialism, in spite of the fact that it had become all too fashionable, had grasped certain basic truths about man and his condition that could not be permanently overlooked. 8

Its understanding of the “finite freedom” of man is one of existentialism's most lasting contributions, and its perception of the anxiety and conflict produced in man's personal and social life as a result of the perilous and ambiguous structure of existence is especially meaningful for our time. The common point in all existentialism, whether it is atheistic or theistic, is that man’s existential situation is a state of estrangement from his essential nature. In their revolt against [ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich ] Hegel's essentialism, all existentialists contend that the world is fragmented. History is a series of unreconciled conflicts and man's existence is filled with anxiety and threatened with meaninglessness. While the ultimate Christian answer is not found in any of these existential assertions, there is much here that the theologian can use to describe the true state of man's existence.

Although most of my formal study during this decade has been in systematic theology and philosophy, I have become more and more interested in social ethics. Of course my concern for social problems was already substantial before the beginning of this decade. From my early teens in Atlanta I was deeply concerned about the problem of racial injustice. I grew up abhorring segregation, considering it both rationally inexplicable and morally unjustifiable. I could never accept the fact of having to go to the back of a bus or sit in the segregated section of a train. The first time that I was seated behind a curtain in a dining car I felt as if the curtain had been dropped on my selfhood. I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice. 9  I saw how the systems of segregation ended up in the exploitation of the Negro as well as the poor whites. Through these early experiences I grew up deeply conscious of the varieties of injustice in our society.

Not until I entered theological seminary, however, did I begin a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil. I was immediately influenced by the social gospel. In the early '50s I read Rauschenbusch's  Christianity and the Social Crisis,  a book which left an indelible imprint on my thinking. 10  Of course there were points at which I differed with Rauschenbusch. I felt that he had fallen victim to the 19th-century “cult of inevitable progress,” which led him to an unwarranted optimism concerning human nature. Moreover, he came perilously close to identifying the kingdom of God with a particular social and economic system—a temptation which the church should never give in to. But in spite of these shortcomings Rauschenbusch gave to American Protestantism a sense of social responsibility that it should never lose. The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial. 11

After reading Rauschenbusch I turned to a serious study of the social and ethical theories of the great philosophers. During this period I had almost despaired of the power of love in solving social problems. The “turn the other cheek” philosophy and the “love your enemies” philosophy are only valid, I felt, when individuals are in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations are in conflict a more realistic approach is necessary. Then I came upon the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. As I read his works I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. The whole Gandhian concept of  satyagraha  ( satya  is truth which equals love, and  graha  is force;  satyagraha  thus means truth-force or love-force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. At this time, however, I had a merely intellectual understanding and appreciation of the position, with no firm determination to organize it in a socially effective situation.

When I went to Montgomery, Alabama, as a pastor in 1954, I had not the slightest idea that I would later become involved in a crisis in which nonviolent resistance would be applicable. After I had lived in the community about a year, the bus boycott began. The Negro people of Montgomery, exhausted by the humiliating experiences that they had constantly faced on the buses, expressed in a massive act of noncooperation their determination to be free. They came to see that it was ultimately more honorable to walk the streets in dignity than to ride the buses in humiliation. At the beginning of the protest the people called on me to serve as their spokesman. In accepting this responsibility my mind, consciously or unconsciously, was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method. 12

The experience in Montgomery did more to clarify my thinking on the question of nonviolence than all of the books that I had read. As the days unfolded I became more and more convinced of the power of nonviolence. Living through the actual experience of the protest, nonviolence became more than a method to which I gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life. Many issues I had not cleared up intellectually concerning nonviolence were now solved in the sphere of practical action.

A few months ago I had the privilege of traveling to India. The trip had a great impact on me personally and left me even more convinced of the power of nonviolence. It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a nonviolent struggle. India won her independence, but without violence on the part of Indians. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign is found nowhere in India. Today a mutual friendship based on complete equality exists between the Indian and British people within the commonwealth.

I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged first react with bitterness and resistance. Even when the demands are couched in nonviolent terms, the initial response is the same. I am sure that many of our white brothers in Montgomery and across the south are still bitter toward Negro leaders, even though these leaders have sought to follow a way of love and nonviolence. So the nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.

During recent months I have come to see more and more the need for the method of nonviolence in international relations. While I was convinced during my student days of the power of nonviolence in group conflicts within nations, I was not yet convinced of its efficacy in conflicts between nations. I felt that while war could never be a positive or absolute good, it could serve as a negative good in the sense of preventing the spread and growth of an evil force. War, I felt, horrible as it is, might be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But more and more I have come to the conclusion that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons of war totally rules out the possibility of war ever serving again as a negative good. If we assume that mankind has a right to survive then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. In a day when sputniks dash through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, nobody can win a war. The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. 13

I am no doctrinaire pacifist. I have tried to embrace a realistic pacifism. Moreover, I see the pacifist position not as sinless but as the lesser evil in the circumstances. Therefore I do not claim to be free from the moral dilemmas that the Christian nonpacifist confronts. But I am convinced that the church cannot remain silent while mankind faces the threat of being plunged into the abyss of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to its mission it must call for an end to the arms race. 14

In recent months I have also become more and more convinced of the reality of a personal God. True, I have always believed in the personality of God. But in past years the idea of a personal God was little more than a metaphysical category which I found theologically and philosophically satisfying. Now it is a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life. Perhaps the suffering, frustration and agonizing moments which I have had to undergo occasionally as a result of my involvement in a difficult struggle have drawn me closer to God. Whatever the cause, God has been profoundly real to me in recent months. In the midst of outer dangers I have felt an inner calm and known resources of strength that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship. Behind the harsh appearances of the world there is a benign power. To say God is personal is not to make him an object among other objects or attribute to him the finiteness and limitations of human personality; it is to take what is finest and noblest in our consciousness and firm its perfect existence in him. It is certainly true that human personality is limited, but personality as such involves no necessary limitations. It simply means self-consciousness and self-direction. So in the truest sense of the word, God is a living God. In him there is feeling and will, responsive to the deepest yearnings of the human heart: this God both evokes and answers prayers.

The past decade has been a most exciting one. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of our age something profoundly meaningful has begun. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away and new systems of justice and equality are being born. In a real sense ours is a great time in which to be alive. Therefore I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that we face a world crisis which often leaves us standing amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark, confused world the spirit of God may yet reign supreme.

1.  This essay bears similarities to chapter six of  Stride Toward Freedom , a shortened version of which was reprinted in  Fellowship  (see King, “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” 1 September 1958, in  Papers  4:473–481). A revised version of King's essay was later reprinted in a collected volume edited by Fey ( How My Mind Has Changed  [Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1961], pp. 105–115).

2.  In notes that King may have written in preparation for this article, he stated: "Of course if by liberalism is meant merely an open and critical mind which refuses to abandon the best light of reason, I hope that I shall always remain a liberal" (King, Notes, “How My Mind Has Changed” series, 13 April 1960). In composing his notes, King may have borrowed language from a brief report written by one of his Boston University classmates on Nels Ferré (Roland Kircher, “Nels Ferré,” 27 February 1952).

3.  For more on King's reactions to Niebuhr, see "Reinhold Niebuhr's Ethical Dualism," 9 May 1952, and "The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr," April 1953–June 1954, in Papers 2:141–152 and 269–279, respectively.

4.  Cf.  Stride Toward Freedom , p. 99.

5.  King, Notes: “Liberalism failed to acknowledge that man is mostly a sinner, actually though not essentially, and that with regard to religion his reason is darkened by sin. … Neither did liberalism sense that the key to correct reasoning lies in the relation between God's eternal purpose and the historic process, that is, in the relation between eschatology and epistemology.”

6.  King, Notes: “Neo-orthodoxy came close to being a wounded wing of faith, presenting mostly a general mood of irrationalism, despair, and existentialist revolt against an inadequate liberalism. It tended therefore to stress an unknown God, an absurd faith, and a narrow, self-sufficient Biblicism … Whether for the Church or for personal life, it lacked the serene faith in the Holy Spirit which can bring strength out of weakness and clarity out of confusion.”

7.  In  Stride Toward Freedom , King used similar terms to compare Marxism and capitalism (p. 95). In his notes for this article he wrote: “The fluctuating pendulum of my mind seems most merely content to rest in a position between liberalism and neoorthodoxy, which I have sometimes called Christian Realism and sometimes Evangelical Catholicism.”

8.  King wrote his doctoral dissertation on Tillich (see “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” 15 April 1955, in  Papers  2:339–544).

9. Stride Toward Freedom , p. 90.

10.  Walter Rauschenbusch,  Christianity and the Social Crisis  (New York: Macmillan, 1907).

11.  Harry Emerson Fosdick,  The Hope of the World , p. 25: “Any church that pretends to care for the souls of people but is not interested in the slums that damn them, the city government that corrupts them, the economic order that cripples them, and international relationships that, leading to peace or war, determine the spiritual destiny of innumerable souls—that kind of church, I think, would hear again the Master's withering words: ‘Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’” (see also  Stride Toward Freedom , p. 91).

12.  Cf.  Stride Toward Freedom , p. 85. During the editing of the manuscript for  Stride , King incorporated his former professor George D. Kelsey's suggestion to stress Christianity as the motivating force behind the Montgomery protest (Kelsey to King, 4 April 1958, in  Papers  4:394–395).

13.  King, Notes: “During this decade I also turned pacifist. Previously I had repudiated aggressive warfare as unchristian. I still acce pted  accept the Christian responsibility for constructive force. To accept non-violence as the solely Christian method is to limit our obedience to God to the level of redemption, whereas God has first of all made us creatures in an actual world where, under him, we are responsible for the exercise of constructive compulsion. Christians are not exempt from the disagreeable choices and chores of ordering life, which is dominated more by what men fear than by what they love. But more and more I have come to the conclusion that modern warfare is on such a scale and of such a nature that, regardless of what might be said of wars in the past, future wars can no longer be classified as constructive.”

14.  King, Notes: “I am no pacifist doctrinaire. I do not believe in the all-inclusiveness of the method of nonviolence, and deplore its being made the center of the gospel, but I believe that the Church cannot dodge taking a stand on the war issue by first finding for itself its own distinctive dimension.”

In a revised version of this article sent to Fey on 7 April, King inserted additional material at this point. King's revisions arrived too late for inclusion, but  Christian Century  later published King's addendum as “Suffering and Faith,” 27 April 1960, pp. 443–444 in this volume. King's complete essay appeared in Fey's anthology,  How My Mind Has Changed.

Source:   Christian Century  77 (13 April 1960): 439–441.

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Living a Life of Courage: Facing Your Fears with Faith


Living a life of courage requires us to confront our fears head-on, armed with the unwavering faith that empowers us to overcome obstacles and embrace new opportunities. In this article, we will explore the significance of living a courageous life, the role of faith in facing our fears, and practical strategies for cultivating courage in our daily lives. Let us embark on this journey of self-discovery and transformation as we learn to face our fears with unwavering faith.

I. Understanding Courage:

Definition of Courage: Courage can be defined as the ability to act in the face of fear and adversity. It is the inner strength and determination that propels individuals to confront their fears and overcome obstacles, even when faced with uncertainty or discomfort. Courageous individuals exhibit resilience and a willingness to take risks, guided by their values and a sense of purpose.

The distinction between Courage and Fearlessness:

While courage and fearlessness may seem similar, they possess distinct qualities. Fearlessness refers to the absence of fear, where an individual does not experience fear or is not affected by it. On the other hand, courage entails acknowledging fear but choosing to act despite it. Courageous individuals recognize their fears but refuse to let fear dictate their actions. They face their fears with determination, demonstrating bravery and perseverance.

The Transformative Power of Courage in Personal Growth and Development:

Courage holds significant transformative power in personal growth and development. When individuals choose to act courageously, they push beyond their comfort zones, challenging their limiting beliefs and expanding their capabilities. By confronting fears and stepping into the unknown, personal growth occurs on various levels:

  • Self-Discovery: Courage encourages individuals to explore their true potential and authenticity. By facing fears and taking risks, individuals discover hidden strengths, talents, and passions that may have otherwise remained undiscovered.
  • Overcoming Limiting Beliefs: Courage challenges limiting beliefs that hinder personal growth. It dismantles self-imposed barriers and expands the realm of possibilities, allowing individuals to push beyond perceived limitations and achieve their goals.
  • Building Resilience: Courage cultivates resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity. When individuals confront their fears and navigate challenging situations, they develop inner strength, adaptability, and perseverance. This resilience helps them navigate future obstacles with greater ease and confidence.
  • Empowerment: Acting courageously empowers individuals to take control of their lives. It fosters a sense of agency and autonomy, enabling individuals to make choices aligned with their values and aspirations. Courage empowers individuals to overcome challenges and actively shape their own destinies.
  • Expanding Comfort Zones: Courage pushes individuals beyond their comfort zones, leading to personal and professional growth. Stepping into the unknown and embracing new experiences fosters continuous learning, broadens perspectives, and opens doors to new opportunities.
  • Inspiring Others: Courage has a ripple effect. When individuals display courage, they inspire and motivate others to do the same. By leading through example, courageous individuals create a positive impact in their communities, encouraging others to embrace their fears and pursue personal growth.

II. Recognizing the Importance of Living a Courageous Life

Fear is a powerful emotion that can significantly impact our lives if left unaddressed. It can hold us back from pursuing our dreams, hinder personal growth, and prevent us from experiencing true fulfillment. By understanding the impact of fear, we can appreciate the importance of living a courageous life.

  • Impact of Fear on Personal Growth and Fulfillment:

Fear can act as a barrier to personal growth, preventing us from stepping outside of our comfort zones and embracing new challenges. It keeps us within familiar territory, limiting our opportunities for learning and development. When we allow fear to dictate our actions, we may find ourselves stagnant, unfulfilled, and disconnected from our true potential.

  • Potential for Missed Opportunities and Regrets:

Fear often leads to missed opportunities and regrets. When we allow fear to dominate our decisions, we may hold back from taking risks or pursuing our passions. This can result in a sense of regret for the chances not taken and the experiences not embraced. Living in constant fear can create a life filled with “what ifs” and a longing for what could have been.

  • Empowering Nature of Living a Life of Courage:

Living a life of courage is empowering. It allows us to break free from the limitations imposed by fear and embrace a sense of agency and possibility. When we choose to act courageously, we reclaim control over our lives and become active participants in shaping our destiny. Courage empowers us to step outside our comfort zones, face challenges head-on, and pursue our dreams with determination and resilience.

Living a courageous life enables us to:

  • Embrace Growth: Courage pushes us beyond our perceived limitations and encourages continuous growth. It invites us to explore new territories, learn from our experiences, and evolve into the best versions of ourselves.
  • Cultivate Resilience: Courage fosters resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks. By facing our fears and navigating through adversity, we develop strength, adaptability, and the capacity to persevere in the face of challenges.
  • Discover Authenticity: Courage allows us to embrace our true selves and live authentically. It encourages us to shed societal expectations, be true to our values, and express our unique identities without fear of judgment or rejection.
  • Build Meaningful Connections: Living a courageous life opens doors to meaningful connections with others. By stepping outside our comfort zones, we create opportunities for collaboration, empathy, and shared experiences that foster deep and fulfilling relationships.
  • Create Impact: Courageous individuals have the power to make a positive impact on the world around them. By pursuing their passions, standing up for their beliefs, and taking bold action, they inspire and motivate others, creating a ripple effect of change and transformation.

III. The Role of Faith in Facing Fear:

Faith and courage share a deep connection, as faith provides the strength, resilience, and sense of purpose needed to face fear head-on. It allows individuals to tap into a higher power, guiding them through difficult times and providing a source of unwavering support. Faith helps individuals navigate their fears with confidence and trust, knowing that they are not alone.

  • The connection between Faith and Courage: Faith provides a foundation for courage, as it instills a belief in something greater than oneself. It involves trust and surrender to a higher power, recognizing that there is a purpose and plan beyond our immediate understanding. With faith, individuals can draw upon inner strength and tap into a source of guidance and support, empowering them to face fear with determination and resolve.
  • Strength, Resilience, and Sense of Purpose: In the face of fear, faith provides individuals with the strength to persevere. It offers comfort and reassurance, allowing individuals to endure challenging circumstances and overcome obstacles. Faith instills resilience, enabling individuals to bounce back from setbacks and maintain hope in the midst of adversity. Moreover, faith provides a sense of purpose, helping individuals navigate through fear with a deep understanding that their actions are aligned with a greater plan.

IV. Cultivating Faith:

Faith is an integral aspect of the Christian journey. It is nurtured through various practices that deepen our relationship with God and strengthen our trust in Him. Here are practical ways to cultivate faith in our lives:

  • Prayer: Prayer is a powerful tool for cultivating faith. It is a direct line of communication with God, allowing us to express our joys, concerns, and desires, as well as listen for His guidance. Through prayer, we develop a personal relationship with God and deepen our trust in His love, wisdom, and provision.
  • Scripture Study and Meditation: Engaging with the Bible through regular study and meditation is vital for cultivating faith. Scripture is God’s Word, which nourishes our souls and provides guidance for our lives. By meditating on God’s promises, teachings, and stories of faith, we allow His truth to shape our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
  • Worship and Fellowship: Participating in corporate worship and engaging in fellowship with other believers fosters an atmosphere of faith. Gathering together to worship God, sing praises, and listen to biblical teachings strengthens our faith as we witness the faith of others and experience the presence of God in community.
  • Sacraments and Spiritual Disciplines: Sacraments such as baptism and the Eucharist (Holy Communion) hold great significance in the Christian faith. They serve as visible signs of God’s grace and deepen our connection with Christ and the community of believers. Spiritual disciplines, such as fasting, solitude, and service, also aid in cultivating faith by focusing our hearts and minds on God and aligning our actions with His will.
  • Trusting God’s Promises: Cultivating faith involves nurturing a deep sense of trust in God’s promises. By studying and internalizing the promises found in Scripture, we develop confidence in God’s faithfulness, love, and provision. Trusting in His promises, even in the midst of uncertainty or adversity, strengthens our faith and empowers us to live with courage and hope.
  • Surrendering to God’s Will: Cultivating faith requires surrendering our will to God’s sovereign plan. It involves acknowledging that He is in control and surrendering our desires, fears, and worries to Him. Surrendering to God’s will allows us to rely on His wisdom and guidance, trusting that He knows what is best for us.
  • Cultivating Gratitude: Practicing gratitude cultivates faith by shifting our focus from our challenges to God’s goodness. Expressing gratitude for His blessings, provision, and faithfulness reminds us of His presence and care in our lives. Gratitude opens our hearts to receive His grace and strengthens our faith in His ongoing work.
  • Reflection and Journaling: Taking time for reflection and journaling allows us to intentionally contemplate and record our experiences of God’s faithfulness. This practice helps us recognize His presence, guidance, and answered prayers, fostering a deeper sense of trust and faith.

V. Overcoming Fear with Faith:

  • Examination of Common Fears: It is essential to identify and examine common fears that hold us back in life. These fears may include fear of failure, rejection, uncertainty, or the unknown. By recognizing these fears, we can confront them head-on and understand how they hinder our growth and limit our potential.
  • Strategies for Confronting and Overcoming Fear: Confronting and overcoming fear through the lens of faith involves relying on God’s strength and promises. Strategies include prayer, meditating on relevant Scripture passages, and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. Trusting in God’s faithfulness and believing in His power can empower us to face our fears with confidence.
  • Stepping Outside Comfort Zones and Embracing Growth: Overcoming fear often requires stepping outside of our comfort zones. By stretching ourselves and embracing new challenges, we can experience personal growth and discover God’s faithfulness in unfamiliar territories. Embracing growth involves trusting in God’s plan, relinquishing control, and allowing Him to lead us into new opportunities.

VI. Embracing Resilience and Perseverance:

  • Importance of Resilience in Cultivating Courage: Resilience is crucial in cultivating courage as it allows us to bounce back from adversity and setbacks. Through resilience, we develop the ability to adapt to challenges, learn from experiences, and grow stronger in our faith. It enables us to face future obstacles with greater confidence and trust in God’s provision.
  • Strategies for Building Resilience: Strategies for building resilience include reframing challenges as opportunities for growth, seeking support from fellow believers and mentors, and practicing self-care. Reframing challenges helps us view them as stepping stones rather than roadblocks, while seeking support provides encouragement and accountability. Additionally, self-care practices such as rest, proper nutrition, and engaging in activities that rejuvenate our spirits contribute to our overall resilience.
  • Power of Perseverance: Perseverance involves pressing on and remaining steadfast in our faith, even in the face of adversity and setbacks. It is through perseverance that we develop endurance and experience the faithfulness of God. By trusting in His promises and relying on His strength, we can persevere and overcome obstacles that would otherwise discourage us from pursuing God’s purposes for our lives.

VII. Learning from Role Models of Courage:

  • Stories of Courageous Individuals: Exploring stories of individuals who exemplify courage in the face of fear provides inspiration and guidance. These stories may include biblical figures like David facing Goliath, Esther standing up for her people, or the apostles boldly preaching the gospel despite persecution. We can learn from their unwavering faith, trust in God, and the impact they made through their courageous actions.
  • Historical Figures, Religious Leaders, and Everyday Heroes: Drawing inspiration from historical figures, religious leaders, and everyday heroes who demonstrate unwavering faith and courage expands our understanding of courageous living. Examples include figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Corrie ten Boom, or missionaries who risked their lives to share the gospel. Their stories serve as powerful testimonies of how faith can overcome fear and make a lasting impact.
  • Lessons from Their Examples: By studying the lives of courageous individuals, we can glean valuable lessons. These lessons may include the importance of trust in God’s faithfulness, the power of prayer, the significance of standing up for truth and justice, and the impact of personal sacrifice. We can apply these lessons to our own lives, drawing inspiration and strength to face our fears and live out our faith boldly.

VIII. Shifting Perspectives: From Fear to Possibility:

  • Transformative Power of Shifting Perspectives: Shifting our perspectives on fear can transform our mindset and empower us to embrace possibilities. Instead of viewing fear as an obstacle, we can see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. This shift in perspective opens us up to new possibilities and allows us to approach challenges with faith and optimism.
  • Reframing Fear as an Opportunity: Reframing fear involves changing our perception of it. Rather than being paralyzed by fear, we can recognize it as a catalyst for growth and an invitation to trust in God’s guidance. By reframing fear as an opportunity, we shift our focus from limitations to the potential for personal and spiritual development.
  • Embracing a Positive Mindset: Embracing a positive mindset involves cultivating optimism and focusing on possibilities. By choosing to dwell on positive outcomes and God’s faithfulness, we can overcome negative thinking patterns that fuel fear. A positive mindset enables us to approach challenges with confidence, knowing that God is with us and that good can come out of difficult situations.

IX. Embracing Vulnerability:

  • Relationship between Vulnerability and Courage: Embracing vulnerability is closely linked to courage. It involves being authentic, open, and transparent about our thoughts, feelings, and struggles. By embracing vulnerability, we acknowledge our humanity and demonstrate the courage to show up as our true selves, even when it feels uncomfortable or risky.
  • Embracing Vulnerability for Personal Growth and Connection: When we embrace vulnerability, we create space for personal growth and deeper connections with others. By sharing our fears, doubts, and insecurities, we invite others to do the same. This vulnerability fosters empathy, understanding, and a sense of belonging, allowing us to forge genuine connections based on shared experiences and mutual support.
  • Power of Authenticity and Openness: Embracing vulnerability allows us to live authentically and fosters a deeper connection with God and others. It requires us to let go of pretenses and masks, embracing our true selves and trusting that God’s grace is sufficient. By being vulnerable, we demonstrate courage, strength, and a reliance on God’s love and acceptance.

X. Courageous Action and Impact:

  • Importance of Taking Courageous Action: Taking courageous action is vital in living out our faith and making a meaningful impact. It involves stepping beyond our comfort zones, facing challenges, and standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult or unpopular. Through courageous action, we align our lives with God’s purposes and demonstrate our trust in Him.
  • Inspiration and Influence: Our individual acts of courage have the potential to inspire and influence others. When we live out our faith fearlessly and take courageous action, we become a testimony to God’s power and faithfulness. Others may be encouraged to face their own fears, live with conviction, and make a positive impact in their spheres of influence.
  • Impact in Communities and Society: Courageous action has the power to create positive change in communities and society. By addressing social injustices, promoting love, compassion, and justice, and standing up for the marginalized and vulnerable, we can be agents of transformation. Our acts of courage ripple outward, inspiring others to join in the pursuit of a more just and compassionate world.

Conclusion: Living a life of courage is a transformative journey that requires us to face our fears with unwavering faith. By understanding the nature of courage, recognizing the role of faith, cultivating resilience, and embracing vulnerability, we can overcome obstacles, pursue our dreams, and live authentically. Let us embark on this path of self-discovery, drawing upon our inner strength and trust in a higher power, as we face our fears with courage and embrace a life filled with possibilities.

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Freedom and faith have much in common

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On July 4th Americans celebrate Independence Day. Freedom and Faith both have much in common — both require continual vigilance, personal responsibility, and sacrifice. Each requires our personal sacred pledge to endure.

James T. Draper Jr. wrote an engaging essay “Was Their Pledge in Vain?” regarding Americans’ celebration of the 4th of July. Draper writes:

The excitement of independence boiled in the streets of Philadelphia as John Adams rose early on July 2, 1776. He sat at a small desk in his rented room and quickly wrote a note to his wife, Abigail. “The second day of July 1776 will begin the most memorable epoch in the history of America.…It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.…” July 2, 1776, was the day for final debate regarding Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. The document served England notice that America would no longer live under England’s tyranny. It was officially adopted two days later. It is important for us to reflect on those tumultuous days 247 years ago, to pause for more than a moment so that we can transport ourselves from our slick, high-tech world of convenience to the uncertain future facing our ancestors. Those 56 men who signed that document immediately became outlaws, objects for the hangman’s noose if captured by the British army. Most paid dearly for their desire for self-government. Five were captured and tortured before their deaths. Two lost sons in battles; sons were captured. Nine fought and died from wounds received. Many of the 56 were wealthy farmers, lawyers or businessmen. Most of these Founders wound up bankrupt and destitute. Independence cost them everything.

It is well to remember that freedom is never free. Freedom always comes with a price. The same can be said of faith . Consider well the price paid for freedom. Consider well the price paid by martyrs, that is still being paid today, for the free exercise of faith and religious freedom, lest we ever forget.

The last sentence of the Declaration reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” [John] Adams was…a deeply religious man and believed that it was thru God’s providence that this nation would be established.  So, was there pledge in vain? The irony is that the question of their pledge is ours to answer. One way for all Americans to answer is thru our stewardship of their ideals. The responsibility with which we handle the freedoms established by those great men and women of vision becomes paramount to the greatness of our country. Because we have a right to exercise a freedom does not always make it responsible for us to do so. Irresponsibly pushing to the outer boundaries of our liberties eventually weakens the cloth from which we were cut. America was founded to be a moral oasis. The choices we make determine if we will continue the legacy of greatness given to us or if our glory fades like that of other great nations … Christians should ask themselves an additional question while answering the first: “Am I being salt and light for my nation?” Our responsibility is to live lives that morally transcend the expectations of the founders and meet the expectations of our heavenly Father. Get personal; ask yourself, “Am I living a life that positively impacts my nation because it reflects God’s holiness?”

In his 2008 Welcoming Ceremony Address at the White House, Pope Benedict XVI said:

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good Few have understood this as clearly as St. John Paul II.…he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,” and a democracy without values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.”

Draper concludes his essay, 

God has unquestionably blessed America. Believers must also ask themselves, “Is America blessing God?”…

Let us hear again from St. Benedict XVI: Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility.

Likewise, faith is a  summons to personal responsibility .… a challenge held out to each generation. Pray today, for the wisdoam, the courage and the guidance to safeguard the sacred pledge of freedom and faith.

And, may it never be said that our sacred pledge was ever made in vain.

US saints

  • James T. Draper Jr., President, LifeWay Christian Resources, “was Their Pledge in Vain?”, posted July 3, 2003, https://www.baptistpress.com/resourcelibrary/news/first-person-was-their-pledge-in-vain/.
  • Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Journey To the United States of America and Visit to the United Nations Organization Headquarters, Welcoming Ceremony, South Lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 April 2008 https://www.vatican.va/content/benedictxvi/en/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080416_welcome-washington.html.
  • Op. Cit., Draper

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Liberating Faith and the Journey of Inconclusion: A Close Reading of Paulo Freire’s Essay “My Faith and Hope”

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2021, Dialogues in Social Justice: An Adult Education Journal

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In this essay, I offer a close reading of Paulo Freire’s essay “My Faith and Hope” in which he theorizes a liberating faith. I condense Freire’s thoughts about faith, spirituality, and theology into ¬¬¬¬three major themes or arguments. First, I argue that Freire’s liberating faith involves the complexity of becoming unsettled which empowers one to divorce silence for a holy rebelliousness against injustice. Second, I argue that Freire’s liberating faith encompasses the challenge of being in faith which is a process in which one commits to being actively engaged in the struggle to free the oppressed. Finally, I argue that Freire’s liberating faith is comprised of the courage to battle through hope which Freire describes as a permanent search, process or journey toward liberation or freedom —that is, the journey of inconclusion. Finally, I discuss the implications that Freire’s view of a liberating faith has on racial equity in education.

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Courage — Courage And Its Importance In Life


Understanding The Importance of Courage in Life

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Published: Jan 28, 2021

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The role of courage in history, works cited:, learning from mistakes , whereas fear leaves us stagnant. thus, the significance of courage in our lives cannot be overstated.\n\nthroughout history, numerous individuals have demonstrated extraordinary courage, reshaping the course of world events. rosa parks, an african american woman, exemplifies such courage as she bravely challenged the status quo and effectuated lasting change. in the early 20th century, the oppressive jim crow laws sanctioned racial segregation, subjecting african americans and impoverished whites to unjust treatment, including discriminatory bus seating policies that favored affluent whites. rosa parks, an unassuming, hardworking woman, was arrested on december 1, 1955, for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white man. she became a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement and was a member of the national association for the advancement of colored people (naacp).\n\nfollowing her second confrontation with the bus driver, james blake, who had twice humiliated her by demanding her seat, rosa parks's resolve to fight grew stronger. it takes immense courage for an individual to stand against an inherently biased system that exploited a marginalized segment of society. while many perceived her as physically tired, her weariness was not physical but stemmed from her refusal to acquiesce to an unjust situation. this incident served as the spark igniting a wildfire. her courage inspired and mobilized countless others, culminating in the montgomery bus boycott, led by dr. martin luther king jr. this year-long protest resulted in a landmark u.s. supreme court decision declaring bus segregation unconstitutional.\n\nrosa parks drew strength from her family, raised in an environment that esteemed education. her family values and education played a pivotal role in nurturing her courage. despite facing discouragement from her husband and other family members due to concerns for her safety, she pressed forward with unwavering courage. her humble beginnings did not deter her. in recognition of her exceptional courage, rosa parks was awarded the congressional gold medal by the u.s. government. her resolute courage resonated with and motivated countless individuals. it fueled their aspirations for equal rights and the abolition of racial segregation, propelling them toward their dreams. one brave individual can ignite the spirits of millions, as exemplified by rosa parks, mahatma gandhi, and nelson mandela , all of whom demonstrated exceptional courage in their quests for freedom. courage, akin to wildfire, has the power to spark hope and move multitudes.\n\nin conclusion, courage plays a pivotal role in life, compelling us to stand up for our convictions. it empowers us to act boldly and share our beliefs with the world. our world's greatness is a testament to the courage displayed by countless individuals. wholeheartedly embraced, courage can turn the seemingly impossible into reality. courage, when translated into action, has the potential to make anything achievable."}" data-sheets-userformat='{"2":515,"3":{"1":0},"4":{"1":2,"2":14281427},"12":0}'>conclusion.

  • Ahmadi, S., & Sadeghi, H. (2015). The relationship between family function and mental health in female students of high schools in Tehran. Iranian Journal of Psychiatric Nursing, 2(2), 1-6.
  • Bernstein, D. P., & Fink, L. (1998). Childhood Trauma Questionnaire: A retrospective self-report manual. The Psychological Corporation.
  • Brazelton, T. B. (1992). Touchpoints: Your child's emotional and behavioral development. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Chauhan, P., Gupta, R., & Parmar, R. (2018). A study on parent-child relationship and mental health of adolescents. International Journal of Indian Psychology, 6(3), 124-131.
  • Gardner, T. W., & Ward, S. (2016). Life span developmental psychology: Introduction to research methods. Routledge.
  • Goodman, R. (2001). Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1337-1345.
  • Hough, M. (2017). Marriage, divorce, remarriage. Open University Press.
  • King, D. (2009). The impact of family breakdown on children's well-being: Evidence review. The Scottish Government.
  • Lopez, F. G., Castro, N., & Rincón, P. (2013). Mexican-American men's and women's preferences for and attitudes toward counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(2), 227-235.
  • Santrock, J. W. (2017). Life-span development. McGraw-Hill Education.

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essay on faith freedom and courage

Essay on Faith

Faith is hope, faith is believing, faith is you know it is going to happen you just do not know when and how it is going to happen. One should always believe and trust in themselves and hold onto faith in their challenging period because that is exactly the point of faith, “it works”. Faith is aspiration that an individual has, that decides how the individual chooses to lead his life.

Faith gives power and strength to accept the failures of life to the individual, it gives them motivation and eagerness to achieve the goals of life and it comes from within the individual it cannot be taught or forced on anyone. When one’s faith is low or lost then he must be prepared for, as the failure is approaching.

Faith works as the base of any task / operation and if one is lacking the base which is faith, does not matter what skills or capabilities an individual has he cannot achieve its task / goals. Of course, having faith does not mean that your tasks or your life is going to be easy but by having faith you get strength to face those difficulties and hardship that may come in your way.

Lack of faith will lead to hopelessness which can affect the individual of how he sees himself and others. Hopelessness usually make a person negative he no longer feel the importance of things which once was precious to him, it is a powerful emotion that can influence an individual in suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, eating disorder it all leads to poor mental and physical health of the individual.

Faith does not need to be religious or non-religious it just makes your struggles, difficult times easy for the individual by giving them hope, people have faith in themselves, in others, in the God, does not matter who do you have faith in, the only thing that matters is that you believe something or someone.

If you have faith in yourself then you will follow your dreams and make them real, if you believe in yourself then you will also have faith in others that way others will also believe in you and if you have faith in God then you will also have faith in his timing, he will make you calm, make you believe that he is with you all the time, he takes control of all your struggles and worries and tells you to stop stressing yourself out and trust him.

With a little courage, hard work and faith by your side you can make the unachievable possible. Faith keeps your heart alive, it clears out the sadness, hopelessness and darkness away from you and bring happiness, hopefulness, calmness and satisfaction.

To sum up everything that has been stated so far, we all have faith in something or someone there are all sorts of faith and you must choose whatever makes your heart at ease.

“Faith demands you to believe in something you cannot see. You choose!”

-Bob proctor

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Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

Israel’s Attack on Aid Workers Can Only Make Hunger in Gaza Worse

The Israeli strikes that killed seven aid workers overnight as they tried to avert famine in Gaza will be much debated, but three points seem clear to me.

First, the killings reinforce the widespread criticism that Israeli forces often appear to act recklessly in Gaza, with too little concern for civilian casualties. The latest deaths were unusual in that they included foreigners, even an American, but there is nothing new about Israeli strikes killing aid workers in Gaza: At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since the war began in October, the United Nations says.

Second, the tragedy will compound the hunger crisis in Gaza that is already leading to deaths from starvation and risking both famine and epidemics. The result is that just as famine looms and children are dying, international efforts to ease it may be reduced, not amplified.

Third, Israeli credibility will take another hit, and America’s with it. Some elements of the Israeli narrative are entirely accurate: Hamas started the latest round of fighting and uses civilians as human shields. But Israel also argues that it is doing everything possible to reduce civilian casualties, and that is hard to argue in this case — and this is also an embarrassment for the Biden administration, which provides an endless flow of weaponry for airstrikes like these (although the origin of the particular weapons that killed these seven workers is unclear for now).

The seven people worked with World Central Kitchen, a charity founded by chef José Andrés, and were in clearly marked vehicles . The nonprofit group, which has now suspended its aid efforts in Gaza, said that it had cleared its movements with Israeli forces, and The Financial Times reported that the vehicles were hit over a two-kilometer stretch, implying targeting by multiple strikes rather than a single errant missile. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has promised an investigation.

The killing of humanitarians puts aid groups in an impossible situation. The organizations focus on easing suffering, yet they also must look after the safety of their own people. If Israel continues to kill aid workers at such a pace, it will be very difficult to distribute aid to the people who need it.

And increasingly, it may be essential to have trained aid workers to provide special emergency foods to children with severe acute malnutrition. All that is now uncertain.

The Biden administration is issuing tougher statements about the situation, but President Biden still seems unwilling to use his leverage to press Israel to ease up. Politico reported on Monday that the U.S. government is considering a major new weapons sale to Israel.

Michelle Cottle

Michelle Cottle

Opinion Writer

An Abortion Rights Vote May Not Be Enough for Biden in Florida

Just when you thought it was safe to ignore Florida politics, up pops the state Supreme Court with an abortion-rights decision seemingly designed to provoke electoral turmoil this year.

The court allowed a six-week abortion ban to go into effect while ruling that Floridians can vote in November on a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion access before fetal viability (around 24 weeks). The combined rulings immediately shoved reproductive rights to the political front lines. But how will things shake out in this increasingly red state ? And not to make everything about the presidential race, but how much could it help President Biden?

The issue of reproductive rights has been a boon to Democrats pretty much everywhere it has appeared on the ballot, directly or otherwise, since the death of Roe v. Wade. And there’s reason to be optimistic that Florida’s amendment will succeed as well. Though passage requires at least 60 percent support, a November poll by the University of North Florida put support at 62 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans. And that was before things got real with the court ruling.

But can this new wrinkle save Biden there? I mean, this is Florida. The state didn’t show him the love in 2020, and more generally, its Democratic Party has been a hot mess for several years. Registered Republicans now outnumber Democrats by nearly one million . In 2022, Floridians re-elected Gov. Ron DeSantis with almost 60 percent of the vote. Ron. DeSantis .

More troubling, Republican state lawmakers have shown themselves happy to thwart the will of the public to tilt the field in their team’s favor. (See: voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences.) And it is the adopted — and spiritual — home of perhaps the ultimate Florida Man, Donald Trump. (When thinking of the MAGA king kicked back in his so-called Southern White House, I like to picture him with a state-appropriate mullet.)

With the proper mix of sweat and strategy, abortion rights advocates and Dems should be able to save reproductive rights in the state — not to mention force Republicans to burn time and cash there. But pry it away from Trump? That feels like a reach.


Zeynep Tufekci

Zeynep Tufekci

A Farm Worker With Avian Flu Means a Rapid Response Is Urgent

The discovery of the country’s second human case of H5N1 avian flu, found in a Texas dairy farm worker following an outbreak among cows, is worrying and requires prompt and vigorous action.

While officials have so far said the possibility of cow-to-cow transmission “cannot be ruled out,” I think we can go further than that.

The geography of the outbreak — sick cows in Texas, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio and New Mexico — strongly suggests cows are infecting each other as they move around various farms. The most likely scenario seems to be that a new strain of H5N1 is spreading among cows, rather than the cows being individually infected by sick birds.

Avian flu is not known to transmit well among mammals, including humans, and until now, almost all known cases of H5N1 in humans were people in extended close contact with sick birds. But a cow outbreak — something unexpected , as cows aren’t highly prone to get this — along with likely transmission between cows, means we need to quickly require testing of all dairy workers on affected farms as well as their close contacts, and sample cows in all the dairy farms around the country.

It is possible — and much easier — to contain an early outbreak when an emergent virus isn’t yet adapted to a new host and perhaps not as transmissible. If it gets out and establishes a foothold, then all bets are off. With fatality rates estimated up to 50 percent among humans, H5N1 is not something to gamble with.

Additionally, H5N1 was found in the unpasteurized milk of sick cows. Unpasteurized milk, already a bad idea, would be additionally dangerous to consume right now.

Public officials need to get on top of this quickly, and transparently, telling us the uncertainties as well as their actions.

The government needs to gear up to potentially mass-produce vaccines quickly ( which we have against H5N1 , though they take time to produce) and ensure early supplies for frontline and health care workers.

It’s possible that worst-case scenarios aren’t going to come true — yet. But evolution is exactly how viruses get to do things they couldn’t do before, and letting this deadly one have time to explore the landscape in a potential new host is a disastrously bad idea.

Mike Johnson Is Trying to Explain Simple Math to the Far Right

I come today not to bury Mike Johnson, but to praise him.

No. Seriously. I mean it.

Johnson, the House speaker, sat down with Trey Gowdy of Fox News over the weekend to discuss “realistic expectations” for Republicans in this era of narrowly divided government.

Quipping that he was there as an “ambassador of hope on Easter Sunday,” Johnson offered “three simple things” his party should be focusing on: No. 1, “Show the American people what we’re for. Not just what we’re against.” No. 2, “We have to unite. We have to stand together.” And No. 3, “We’ve got to drive our conservative agenda and get the incremental wins that are still possible right now.”

Nos. 1 and 2 are the sort of meaningless boilerplate politicians are forever blathering about. But No. 3 was clearly the core message of his mission, and he really leaned in, repeatedly noting that his team’s right-wingers — with whom he has long identified, mind you — need to come to terms with the political reality of holding “the smallest majority in U.S. history.”

“We got to realize I can’t throw a Hail Mary pass on every single play,” he said, with that mild manner and beatific smile that makes him seem thoughtful and genial even when he’s speaking harsh truths. “It’s three yards and a cloud of dust. Right? We’ve got to get the next first down. Keep moving.”

Southerners do love their football metaphors.

When asked about Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to remove him, he acknowledged that she is “very frustrated” with how certain negotiations have gone of late, especially when it comes to spending. “Guess what? So am I,” he said. But with Republicans clinging to the majority by their fingernails, “we’re sometimes going to get legislation that we don’t like.”

This kind of squish talk isn’t very MAGA. And working with Dems is what got the previous speaker kicked to the curb. (Poor Kev.) But Johnson is in some ways in a better spot than was Kevin McCarthy. A smattering of Democrats have suggested they would save Johnson from a coup attempt, especially on a key issue such as funding Ukraine. Plus, ousting another speaker so soon would only lock in House Republicans’ rep as a bunch of hopeless chaos monkeys — not a shrewd move in an election year.

This is not to say that Johnson is shaping up to be an effective or competent speaker. But it takes a certain courage to talk reality — and math — to today’s House Republicans. Kudos to him for going there.

David French

David French

There’s Valuable Speech on Social Media, Even for Kids

Last week I wrote a rather long column arguing that blanket bans on social media for children are a bad idea, even if you are persuaded (as I am) that smartphones and social media are a significant reason for increasing childhood mental health struggles. My basic point was simple: The First Amendment rights of children and adults are too precious to diminish, especially when there are less restrictive alternatives for combating the problem.

I received an enormous amount of helpful feedback, but I want to briefly highlight one response. The American Enterprise Institute’s Brad Wilcox posted a thread on X that began like this: “Could not disagree more w/ @DavidAFrench here, partly because he doesn’t fully ack how much the teen problem w/ social media is not just about the message(s) but the *medium* itself. Social media does not function like some debating society for teens.”

I respect Wilcox greatly, and he’s got many valuable things to say about kids and social media, but he’s wrong in one key respect: Social media is, in fact, a debating society for teens, just as it is for adults. It’s often a miserable and contentious debating society, but social media is where an immense amount of our nation’s substantive debates takes place. Kids debate one another, and they read adult debates.

Protecting political speech is a core purpose of the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court held in Garrison v. Louisiana , “Speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.” One reason children enjoy First Amendment rights is that they are essentially citizens in training. They have to learn how to engage in political debate.

There are certainly issues with the medium itself, and there are ways to combat the pernicious effects of the medium without obliterating access to the content. The First Amendment, for example, permits reasonable and content-neutral restrictions on the time, place and manner of freedom of expression, and it’s easy to see a valid ban on smartphones during school hours. It’s also worth considering whether certain features of social media — such as infinite scroll — could be limited.

But it’s important to note that time, place and manner restrictions can’t function as a form of disguised content discrimination. If you’re looking for reasons to ban social media because of what’s on the platform, then you’re playing a dangerous constitutional game.

Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose

The Christians Who Aren’t Buying Donald Trump’s Sales Pitch

Last week, former President Donald Trump hawked his “God Bless the USA Bible” in a video posted to social media , stating “we must make America pray again.” In a story published today, The Times’s Michael C. Bender notes that Trump — despite a background few would call pious — “is framing his 2024 bid as a fight for Christianity, telling a convention of Christian broadcasters that ‘just like in the battles of the past, we still need the hand of our Lord.’”

A new report on religious change in the United States from The Public Religion Research Institute suggests that Trump’s attempts to tie Christianity tightly to a particular set of Republican political values may be turning some Americans away from Christianity.

P.R.R.I. surveyed Americans who left their childhood religions to become “unaffiliated,” a group that includes people who call themselves atheists, agnostics and nothing in particular. The vast majority of people who become unaffiliated are Christians. While the largest percentage say they left religion because they no longer believe the religion’s teachings, 47 percent of those who became unaffiliated say they did so because of negative treatment or teaching about L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, and 20 percent say they became unaffiliated because their church or congregation became too focused on politics.

“Among white Christian groups, the largest decline in the past decade took place among white evangelical Protestants, whose numbers saw a 3 percentage point decrease, from 17 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2023. In 2023, the percentages of white mainline/non-evangelical Protestants (14 percent) and white Catholics (12 percent) remain largely similar to those of 2013,” according to P.R.R.I.’s survey. Trump has frequently and closely aligned himself with white evangelical Christians.

P.R.R.I.’s findings align with what I learned last year when reporting on those leaving religion. As one woman I spoke to put it, she became less religious “because evangelicals became apostates who worship Trump, nationalism and the Republican Party.” Trump promoting a Bible is just another example of his modus operandi: He may make a quick buck, but at what cost to the institution in the long run?

Whether it’s a political or religious institution, the outcome always appears to be the same.

Patrick Healy

Patrick Healy

Deputy Opinion Editor

Have Swing Voters Stopped Listening to Joe Biden?

Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

One of the worst things that can happen to a president seeking re-election is to have voters stop listening to you. As the campaign unfolds this week, I’m curious whether President Biden says or does things that really command attention from voters, and in particular might be persuasive to swing voters.

My curiosity stems from reading the latest polls and my colleague Nate Cohn’s article on Saturday. This is how Nate summed up Biden’s standing in the race since his strong State of the Union speech on March 7: “It has gotten harder to see signs of any Biden bump. Taken together, new polls from Fox , CNBC and Quinnipiac suggested that the presidential race was essentially unchanged, with Mr. Trump still holding a narrow lead nationwide. The president’s approval rating doesn’t seem discernibly higher, either.”

Now, State of the Union speeches themselves rarely produce a bump. But Biden was a new man in March, with a sharper message, lots of campaigning, strong ads and any number of Trump comments to whack. Yet we enter April with Trump in a narrow lead.

Something is not working for Joe Biden right now. Trump is behind him in campaign money , tied up in court, making crazy comments and posting videos showing Biden hogtied. For all that, Biden doesn’t seem to have changed large numbers of minds. Are voters still listening to the president?

Previous presidents who lost re-election, including Trump, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, struggled to persuade voters they were effective and sympathetic. In their own ways, the three men were seen as all talk, no action, and that’s what some progressive Democrats and young voters think about Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. While his administration is talking tougher about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the bombs keep falling on Gaza (and more American bombs are on the way) and the aid keeps being blocked from reaching starving people.

And it’s not just Gaza: It’s immigration, abortion rights and, especially, the economy. Nate Silver had a striking chart last week showing how “even as consumer and investor sentiment has improved, President Biden’s approval rating hasn’t , or at least it hasn’t by much .”

Right now, Biden doesn’t have the same galvanizing, persuasive political narrative for swing voters that he had in 2020 — I think Trump nostalgia is very real — nor does he have the results enough voters want. Some voters have already written him off because of his age. But I think the bigger threat to re-election is that more voters will stop listening to him if he doesn’t offer a stronger narrative and stronger results.


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