The Misappropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Comments (12)
  1. Douglas E Richardson says:

    MLK was a great man and anyone who would cheer is death and claim to be Christian is a misguided individual. But less not for get at that time that was the Democratic party not GOP of today. I personally love the quotes of MLK and and see nothing wrong with remembering him in this way. This article is just another attempt to label today’s conservative as racist

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  3. Grant Morgan says:

    Thank you for authoring this article Jemar! Dr. King was much more than the 2 dimensional person we are used to reading in our history books.(all people are, for that matter) Thank you for reminding me of that.

  4. Jason Kettinger says:

    The comment on ecumenism is the only one with which I disagree.

  5. Ian Hammond says:

    “If we admire Martin Luther King, Jr., then we should be prepared to reckon with a more robust memory of his life and methods.”

    Exalting Dr. King for parts of his life and methods we resonant with is almost unavoidable. It is no sin to praise what you believe is praiseworthy in a figure. This argument is the same argument that some evangelicals use for why one should not celebrate Dr. King. They argue that we should not only talk about what good he has done but highlight his sexual infidelity and heretical theological positions. Just because one celebrates Dr. King for his fight for integration and the full recognition the humanity of persons of color does not mean we have to celebrate him for his view on redistribution of wealth, his low view of Scripture, nor his practice of infidelity.

  6. Brendt Wayne Waters says:

    Having grown up both politically and theologically conservative as all get out, I remember us decrying — and sometimes outright mocking — the “world” when it cherry-picked the warm, fuzzy things that Jesus said, while ignoring all the things he said that would make them uncomfortable.

    While not drawing an equivalency between Jesus and King, I find it interesting (read: insanely hypocritical) that many of those same conservatives are perfectly willing to do exactly what they decried/mocked.

  7. Tim L. says:

    Perhaps what Tisby is mostly trying to say is that contemporary blacks often feel as though King’s legacy has become a convenient echo chamber for whites when his birthday comes around every year.

    What Tisby may not realize is that for King to be as respected as he is today within America’s white evangelicalism represents a profound improvement from King’s day. That’s not to excuse the lack of progress that still needs to be made, or to give kudos to whites for their progressivism. But as King becomes venerated by more people who aren’t black, perhaps blacks sense that their ownership of King’s legacy is slipping from their control.

    Another aspect that I see as a white guy is that we whites are blamed by practically every other demographic for all sorts of problems. And to varying degrees, that blame is justified, considering the fact that white men “ruled” the world for so long. But this blame conveniently ignores the fact that, while the sins of the fathers are visited upon their offspring, each of us individually is only responsible for how we act individually. Just as our fathers’ faith doesn’t save us, their sins don’t automatically damn us. This is the marvel of grace, and mercy.

    Not because any of us deserve it. But because we genuinely love our neighbors as ourselves.

  8. Brian Hager says:

    So we can chastise those who use soundbites from King, by using soundbites to correct them? That makes sense?

  9. Draco says:

    The things he did were obviously controversial at the time… but those ideas today are not controversial. That’s why we remember “The quotable King”.

    The King who advocated nonviolence. The King who would be appalled by BLM’s actions and words. That’s the King we honor.

    “it is hypocritical for anyone to assert that they would have been on the side of King during the Civil Rights movement but then decry current racial justice movements.”

    Today’s “activists” do not stand for the same thing King stood for… so that statement is dishonest.

    “Conservatives who now prop King up as positive example of Christian activism often fail to recognize that that they may have opposed him in his day.”

    And comparing people today with how they might have acted in the past is a false equivalency. We’ve grown as a culture, and today’s people WOULD side with king. That’s the point. If I, as I am and think today, lived back then, I would have sided with him. If I, raised the way they were raised back then, didn’t… doesn’t matter.

  10. Tim L. says:

    As a white middle-class, middle-aged male, I would say that King was a significant person in American history to whom the general public makes shallow deference… much like Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln argued for the emancipation of slaves, yet during the Civil War, scholars have learned he was secretly arranging to have the newly-freed Negroes shipped en mass to Carribbean islands, since he still considered them inferior to whites. It’s obvious that King was a more complex person than many recall him as being; some evangelicals, for example, doubt he was born-again. Others fault his adultery. Yet when I post my “favorite” King quote on Facebook. I do so with an authentic hope that someday, we will each be judged not on the color of our skin, but the content of our character. Unfortunately, that day may probably only come on the Day of Judgment.

  11. Daryl Little says:

    The author seems to be making the mistake of assuming that supporting Dr. King’s work of racial reconciliation requires supporting all that he said or did.
    It the intent here to say that anything less than full, unmitigated support, is somehow wrong or unChristian? I hope not.

    Surely no one, anywhere or at any time, deserves the full support of all they did and said.
    If supporting Dr. King’s legacy when he was right and not supporting it where he was wrong is misappropriation, then I hope we all misappropriate his legacy. And every other great man/woman’s legacy.
    To do otherwise is is idolatry in it’s most basic form.

    1. You’re right. But the MLK’s contribution in racial reconciliation is so great that people want to support him in all directions.

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