Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King and racial intolerance

The following post was published on the new-defunct on this date in 2010. I reproduce it here for posterity, for whatever it's worth.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wikimedia

Although Friday, January 15, 2010, was actually the 81st anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, the official holiday will be observed throughout the United States Monday. The South Bend Tribune lists a variety of activities which will mark the occasion.

The activities include free admission to South Bend’s Center for History, which will show three films from the 1960’s with racial themes:

10:00 a.m. – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
12:30 p.m. – A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
3:00  p.m. – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Even as we remember his birth, there is a debate about whether King was a true Christian and believed the Bible. There has been talk for years about his moral lapses. (See The 'Truth' About Martin Luther King.) But who of us is without sin?

One website has an article which purports to show King’s doctrinal position was heretical. It quotes two papers written while King was attending Crozer Theological Seminary. Although the contents of these papers would cause most conservative Christians concern, it must be remembered that these were written when he was a young college student, and do not necessarily reflect his beliefs as he got older.

On the contrary, an article by Charles Gilmer on indicates King had a very high regard for the Bible and its teachings. Gilmer points out that the civil rights activist did not teach racial “tolerance,” which is often based on moral relativism, but love.

 “At the center of the Christian faith is the affirmation that there is a God in the universe who is the ground and essence of all reality. A Being of infinite love and boundless power, God is the creator, sustainer, and conserver of values....In contrast to the ethical relativism of [totalitarianism], Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable.”
 “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, p. 51) [Cited by Gilmer.]

That Martin Luther King understood the message of the Gospel is clear in another passage quoted in the article.

 "Evil can be cast out, not by man alone nor by a dictatorial God who invades our lives, but when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' God is too courteous to break open the door, but when we open it in faith believing, a divine and human confrontation will transform our sin-ruined lives into radiant personalities." (Strength to Love, p. 126)

As we remember Martin Luther King this weekend, remember these words. He was not striving for us to just “tolerate” each other, but to let God’s love transform us so that we would truly love one another.

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