Reflections on MLK Day — What is MLK Christianity?


I highly recommend a posting by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, the Senior Religion Editor at The Huffington Post. He provides some thoughtful religious  questions with some answers Martin Luther King gave in his writings, in Seven Ways to Be Sure You Are a Martin Luther King Jr. Kind of Christian.

Below I extracted two of Raushenbush’s questions that really struck me and gave sample answers from MLK’s writings and speeches that the post suggests. But read his full post; these are great questions to meditate on during (and after) MLK Day.


Does your faith encourage an active and prophetic stance towards creating justice in this world; or does it explicitly or implicitly encourage complacency towards inequality here on earth with the idea that faith is more spiritual than social and that it will all work out in the afterlife?

Quoting from Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” (italics added)

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.”… In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward… Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Does your faith promote social justice and equality as well as individual charity as both integral parts of the Gospel?

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” –“Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence”


So is your God anything like Martin Luther King’s God, who radically advocates love, social justice, the equality of all God’s children, and prompts you to act? Or is He exclusive, unconcerned with this world but greedily seeking only your worship?

MLK Day is a good day to reflect on your ultimate values, and the questions in the Raushenbush post provide a useful tool for framing these reflections.