Rev. King

I found this picture of Martin Luther King, Jr after a pretty quick google search. I chose it because it shows a side of him not always in the media or history spotlight. MLK was a brilliant orator, activist, and a hero. But I think first and foremost he was minister. His non-violent strategies and his message of peace came from his Christian beliefs. He was able to persevere because he was doing the work of the Lord and he knew his cause was just. I work at a church and for MLK weekend this past January, we did a whole Sunday school on the scripture that MLK used in his speeches. For example, one of his favorite passages comes from the prophet Amos – “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” He uses that verse in the speech at Newcastle and in several others. 

King was already seen as a radical before he started opposing Vietnam, but he was even more radical after waging war on the war. Ward says that he became “out of favor with black moderates because of his stance on Vietnam” and that people are “skeptical about King as a viable leader.” So it wasn’t his most popular. But I think, and I think that King would agree, that doing what you believe and following Jesus sometimes requires being radical. Jesus was a radical dude and was killed for his beliefs just like King was. He views is dissent of Vietnam as part of his Christian duty, that he must speak for peace because “the good news was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative.” His belief in equality is unmatched by anyone before or since

King’s final speech Where do we go from here? is a good one. It’s title and message is almost a foreshadowing of what’s to come. At least it can read that way in retrospect. But I would think it’s possible that King new his days were numbered. Perhaps he had enough insight and intuition to know that he needed give some instructions to follow after he was no longer around. One sentence that stuck out to me was right at the beginning of the speech. It’s a short and simple directive.

“First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth.”

I feel like this a sentence Fredrick Douglass could have written. Douglass was a man who was certain of his dignity and worth, despite being enslaved and belittled. Not only is it is a command, it’s an encouragement. He’s telling people that they already do have self worth. Now it’s time make sure everyone else knows it.

As far as picking one singular quote from MLK to name as his most powerful… that’s a tough task. He is one of the greatest writers and speakers that the world has ever seen. His arguments are clear, his voice is sonorous, and his use of scripture is brilliant, especially since the people he’s writing about are for the most part Christians. I’ve listened to a lot of his speeches on YouTube – I’ve been to the mountain top, I have a dream, and a few others. I get chills every time. His message is clear. We’re all equal, and we need to treat each other as such.

King, Martin Luther, and James Melvin. Washington. A Testament of Hope. Harper & Row, 1991.

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