I recently ran across an article explaining how MLK’s theological beliefs easily led to his opinions on Civil Rights. A thoroughly engaging read– it covers, in part, his time at Boston University where he earned his Ph.D. in theology circa 1950.
I can not help but opine how morally advanced MLK Jr. was in comparison to many theologians and ministers of his time. His gift to the US and those who care about his legacy was his deep, loving compassion for the oppressed. His approach was non-violence but to many of us who also profess to believe in it — he stands head and shoulders above us. He, much like the great Mahatma Gandhi, knew how and where to use non-violence. Oh, how we need MLK’s wisdom now!
Allow me to quote his approach to Christianity that appeared in the article from which I quote:
King’s God: The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“God is bigger than any one religion, and King’s theology is a pertinent reminder of this. King was able to express a vision of Christianity that was both meaningful and welcoming of others. In our present world, where fundamentalism is on the march, a look back at his reasoned and thoughtful approach to religion can serve the public well. And for the spiritual progressives working to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth, Dr. King’s expression of faith offers a powerful synthesis of how justice, love, and peace can be manifest as paradise here and now. His theology is inclusive, tolerant, renewing, and life-sustaining—free from dogma and exclusionary views, which can lead to violence and separation. The history of religious intolerance within Christianity is, needless to say, troubling.”
Although many of us wish we could practice non-violence in manner of Dr. King, perhaps the first aspect to realize is that non-violence is a world view that’s an alternative the prevailing world paradigm. It is not dogma. It is a practice to be learned alike a form of spirituality.
“The purpose of the church for King is not to create dogma, theology, or creeds but rather “to produce living witnesses and testimonies to the power of God in human experience,” and to commit to action. From a young age, King understood the importance of combining his religion with social justice. From this perspective King viewed the church’s role as promoting a way of life rather than a belief system, saying, “Jesus always recognized that there is a danger of having a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.”[xxvi] He stated that Christ is more concerned with how we treat our neighbors, our attitudes toward racial justice, and living a high ethical life than he is with long processionals, knowledge of creeds, or the beautiful architecture of a church.[xxvii] According to King, the church had strayed from Christ.”
While many of us wish he were still with us– we need to realize: we have his writings. We also have the writings of Gandhi, and a few others worth studying:
Thich Nhat Hanh: The Miracle of Mindfulness & Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
Henry David Thoreau: Walden; or, Life in the Woods & Civil Disobedience
Mahatma Gandhi: The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas is a collection of Mohandas Gandhi’s writings edited by Louis Fischer.
I thoroughly believe that there is a spiritual commonality running through all the writings mentioned above. Mastering it–should bring an epiphany.