Sunday, January 22, 2012

MLK and church

I had thought that I might fill last week with blog entries reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr. and the holiday honoring him, a post each day, but as it happened, the same sorts of things that kept me from blogging earlier in the month kept me from this dream as well.

Last Sunday, our Unitarian church's service was devoted to MLK, and it occurred to me that in all my years going to Christian churches--and in one of the most liberal denominations, at that--I can't recall a single service dedicated to Dr. King.

Of course, the Martin Luther King Jr holiday is not a religious one, and so perhaps I shouldn't expect a church to devote time to it. But then, neither is Thanksgiving a religious holiday, but there always seemed to be a sermon on thankfulness in late November. Startling coincidence or staking a claim? Right.

So why not MLK? He was a Christian who was driven by his beliefs to act. Shouldn't churches be eager to claim him?

Is it because he's black and the churches I've known have been predominantly white? While I certainly wouldn't be surprised if predominantly-black churches embrace the man and the holiday more readily, I also can't help but suspect that there's more to it than that. King, as someone who was driven by his beliefs to challenge the status quo, really calls on people--especially religious believers?--to make of belief something far beyond attending church on Sundays: to work for social justice with a passion that won't be quenched short of achieving justice (which, given the world we live in, probably means lifelong struggle). While we can all admire those who fight for change once the change has been achieved--or, anyway, once we've settled into the change and achieved a new equilibrium--people are generally much less comfortable with the process that it takes to achieve change, preferring stability. Every crusader--and King is a prime example--has had to fight as much against those who value stability over everything else as against those who actually have a stake in maintaining injustice.

I'm just throwing out ideas here; if anyone has another explanation, I'd be happy to hear it.


  1. Change is always hard, even if it's a change for the good. But of anything in this life, that is one thing we can be sure will happen- change. As for Dr King- what a brave inspired man. I think I shall put him on my list of biographies to read.

  2. MLK said, in effect, your beliefs should drive you to act for change, for justice. And any church that is not doing so is no church at all. That may be why. I wish I could remember the exact quotation.