Is Martin Luther King Jr.’s faith in God ignored?

In “King’s Media Makeover,” Lee Habeeb points out in National Review that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s deep faith in Christ is mostly absent from modern media writings about King:

Listen carefully to all the celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. this week. Listen very carefully. There is one aspect of King’s life that you won’t hear much about, no matter how hard you try: his devotion to his faith, his devotion to God, his devotion to Jesus Christ.

Listen carefully and you’ll hear endless mention of Doctor Martin Luther King — but little if any mention of the Reverend Martin Luther King.

Listen carefully to all of the video and audio clips, and you’ll hear some of the greatest rhetoric and some of the most passionate speeches of the 20th century. The sound bites and clips will stir your soul. But you won’t hear the references to God that so often filled his speeches, nor will you hear references to the book that most inspired him: the Bible. …

The Reverend Martin Luther King loved the Bible so much that he got an undergraduate degree in Bible studies. At modern universities, they call it a divinity degree. His Ph.D. was in theology. To King, the Bible wasn’t some strange old book that didn’t have relevance in the modern world. It was God’s word. It was a book that was — and always will be — relevant because it expresses eternal principles and eternal truths.

Habeeb compares King’s nonviolent approach with that of Malcolm X, who derided King as an Uncle Tom:

Not everyone agreed with King’s approach in the early 1960s. A young Muslim named Malcolm X had a different vision for black America. Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam and a follower of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Like King, Malcolm X was a brilliant orator, but he had little tolerance for King’s Christian emphasis on nonviolence — especially the whole part about loving our enemies, and the part about loving the same white people who had mistreated so many black people in our country.

Indeed, Malcolm X thought King was weak and his message feeble. On more than one occasion, he publicly accused King of being an Uncle Tom, a tool of the white establishment. In his “Message to the Grass Roots,” in Detroit 1963, he described the role of an Uncle Tom:

The same old slave master today has negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th-century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent. That’s Tom making you nonviolent.

Malcolm X wasn’t just taunting King; he was mocking his faith. …

Luckily for America, King’s Christian impulse prevailed.

Click here to read the rest of Habeeb’s article on National Review Online.


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