The Library Basement
Reading under ground

MLK the Prophet?

This morning we prayed a collect in remembrance of Martin Luther King's death. In the prayer, he is titled a prophet. Was he? I like to avoid throwing that term around too much. It gets applied to Wendell Berry and Stanley Hauerwas and the like, and that is just silly. King is a fairly compelling case for being called a prophet, seeing as he spoke God's truth to power, and he advocated for social justice.

There is no doubt in my mind that King was the most important American of the 20th century. His preaching and nonviolent resistance engaged the conscience of a nation, and great social change followed in his wake. He of course was not the sum of the civil rights movement, but he was its voice.

In spite of the great recognition King receives in this country, it is sad to me that only a portion of his mission is celebrated. MLK is about civil rights and race relations - that is what I learned in school. In no official curriculum did I learn of his commitment to the poor, his opposition to the war in Vietnam, and his support for organized labor. That is why I am excited to note that on the anniversary of his death (which occurred while visiting striking sanitation workers) there are commemorations focused on labor.

I think the best evidence for King being a prophet is that his legacy has been marginalized to suit the State's preferred interpretation of history. That seems to have happened to the Hebrew prophets as well. Luckily we have their written records, just as we have King's sermons and speeches. That way we can see through the official memory into the truth which the prophets proclaimed.

Category: Christianity