Here’s how different writers and leaders have wrestled with Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, organized from oldest to most recent.
The son of civil rights leader John Perkins, Spencer Perkins shares about the faith—and racism—that shaped his childhood.
“Today, as in King's era, we are experts at depersonalizing our ideological opponents, viewing them more as oppositional labels than neighbors whom we are commanded to love. In our contemporary clash of values, perhaps the thing we are missing most is the capacity as Christians to dream large and imagine a culture informed by kingdom values of grace, reconciliation, and justice. “
30 years after MLK’s death, Christianity Today’s March 2, 1998 issue examined what had and hadn’t changed with regards to evangelicals and race.
In this review of King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Martin Luther King Jr. Richard Lischer writes, “In his mature years [MLK] wrote no sustained theological reflections on love, justice, suffering, or reconciliation. What he did do was preach sermons.”
MLK got angry. That matters, writes Ed Gilbreath.
After watching Selma in the midst of a season of high-profile police shootings, Hope Ferguson writes, “For many years, African Americans have felt that those events were part of a painful but thankfully receding history. However, recent events have made many of us feel differently. My sister put it this way: ‘We feel stripped of our illusions.’”
Austin Channing Brown writes, “The next time we are being MLK-ed, we could respond by giving context to a random quote thrown our way. We could offer a differing, lesse- known quote in response. We can extrapolate and postulate, for sure. (I’ve certainly done all the above.) But don’t hesitate to also acknowledge the real man, made of flesh and blood, who was murdered at the age of 39 because his leadership represented such a threat to the status quo.”
Marlena Graves writes, “Funny how yesterday's Christian radical can become today's Christian saint.”
“While cross-racial friendships and political alliances can create harmony on the surface, only conversations with and about the Bible can create reconciliation at the heart. They are far riskier and more challenging, but, done well, yield far more meaningful results.”
Danté Stewart writes, “Any radical discipleship that is not undergirded with revolutionary love is an illusion. Revolutionary love for the Christian finds its root and fruit in the revolutionary love of Jesus. King wrote that ‘every time I look at the cross I am reminded of the greatness of God and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.’”
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more