Because he was taken from us just before my first birthday, what I know about Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. comes from his speeches and writing. His words provide a stark contrast to so many activists and politicians in today’s polarized political climate.
Despite his attempts to speak from a love of God, love of country, and love for mankind, he was not a unifying figure because Americans in the 1960s were sharply at odds over the Vietnam War and racial strife.
King spoke in terms that were dear to most every American and which necessarily made many uncomfortable. He pointed out the obvious mistreatment of blacks in an America that perceived this injustice but too often preferred to do little to correct it.
He spoke a language that forced Americans to wrestle with the inconsistency between what they knew to be right and the wrongs that persisted. While King’s words didn’t immediately persuade, they were a constant irritation, like a pebble in a shoe, that would eventually demand action.
King was different from many of today’s social justice activists in three very conspicuous ways: He was a minister of the Gospel who loved God and preached Jesus Christ as his Savior. He loved America and the ideals upon which it was founded. He showed love toward his adversaries rather than bitterness and hatred. (more…)