Essay on Martin Luther King and Civil Religion

Published: 2021-06-29
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Martin Luther King Jr., from a prison in Birmingham wrote a letter to eight white clergymen who were the critics of the timing of civil rights movement. Although the letter was addressed to these clergymen, the letter from Birmingham jail speaks to a national audience, particularly Kings Jewish and Christian brothers (king, 29). This letter serves as an exceptionally persuasive voice to an immensely chaotic situation and is seen as the fundamental turning spot in the civil rights movement. King use of pathos entreats sympathy, anger, and empathy. His use of classical argumentation and silver-tongued language makes his case convincing and resilient.

Dr. King addresses the duties of organized religion directly, particularly in the case of Christian Church. In fact, he does confine his argument to conceptual virtues of morality. He directly criticizes the clergymen for letting their organizations compromise to the true mission of Christian Spirit. King appreciated and was optimistic about the ability of the church to grow. Comparing them with the early Christians Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego who risked death and persecution to incite justice and transform the world. In his letter, he argued that the modern church risked becoming insignificant as it attempts to defend the status quo rather than stimulate people to exceed their weakness. He warns that the church will one day be judged if it does not stand against injustices. His tacit argument was that the church had decided to support a group mentality of inequality rather than pushing individuals to face their failures and change. In general, Martin Luther Jr. was trying to make the church to understand the values and purpose of the church as a religion.

King affirmed the chase of justice was not only the will of God but an essential part of Americans heritage. He turned his displeasure with the white churches with their huge buildings and towering pinnacles: Over and over again I ask myself: what kind of people worship here? Who is their God?. King main agenda was to bring an end to the unfair systems of economic and segregation injustice. His letter showed the religious struggles of his time, especially addressing the pressure the southern Christians were facing at the time. Moreover, this letter was set to defend the idea of non-violent demonstration on religious grounds. Martin Luther Jr. was a great leader. However, at some period of his leadership King was under pressure, other groups were surfacing and taking the initiative to bring about change, and Malcolm X was gaining popularity. And Kings entire reputation of whether he can properly lead a campaign was at stake. His choice to go to Birmingham jail represented his deeply religious roots.

American civil religion provides background ideas and vocabulary for a national discussion. Most Americans see the faith as a vital element of their national identity. Some critics have discarded the term civil religion for reasons that vary across a range of doubts. Kings Birmingham letter shows a crucial point of American religious expression and is by no means unprecedented in the annals of US church history. It occurs in this historic example that the movement that starts in the church and depends on its supports, infrastructure, and resources exceeds the church and overwhelms its limits. It changes the rhetorics of the church into discussions that are at once practical, strategic and visionary.

It is evident through the letter of Birmingham that Martin Luther Jr. stood within his civil, religious tradition. Kings objective in the letter was to cause a response among moderate white readers and get them out of dark vaults of arrogance to the enchanting hills of creative demonstration. It was a call to arms without violence, a cry for mutual brotherhood and a plea for freedom. Dr. King used the force of language to achieve his goal. Kings commitment to human freedom was more directly in keeping the promises that were put in place during the founding of the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. combined democratic principles with biblical instructions to condemn racial segregation as a treachery of the nations belief in equality for all. He said " Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus?. A significant component in the success of the movement was the approach of protesting for equal rights without using violence. King spearheaded this strategy as an alternative to armed uprising. He spoke, wrote and organized mass demonstrations and nonviolent protests to draw awareness to racial unfairness and to demand civil rights law to defend the rights of African-Americans. King put a united face on the civil rights movement, acting as a bridge-builder between different activist groups at the time. He drew upon the actions and writings of Gandhi for inspiration. Although he faced tremendous and often brutal opposition from local police forces and officials, he was still able to recruit a critical mass of white Americans to join the movement.

Rev. King led Americans to defend their rights and to speak in the face of violent resistance. He reminded them how important a free civil society is to citizens in a democracy. King was a controversial extremist for justice he ensured that civil rights movement as a whole acquired an implicitly resolute moral authority, a worthy replacement to the original American Revolution. It is significant that we remember that even after spearheading those movements, his work allowed black Americans to claim a full array of political and civil rights guaranteed to American citizens. Moreover, he was able to pressure public authorities into negotiations by using an illustration of civil disobedience. He showed discernment and prudence in his incautious rhetoric. The influence of the black church and its central theme of freedom and hope can be seen in the language of Kings speaking and writing. Martin King was able to create mutual respect among people of different races by explaining to them that those individuals who benefit from unjust political, social and economic order are not likely to be the ones who will change it radically. He also suggested to them that freedom was not a gift but a right that must be taken. King continually urged people from the African American to extend their openness to reconciliation to the white community. And his influence made the African American community as a whole to be willing to forgive the whites regarding their brutality during slavery and oppression. His movement of speech and appropriate tone empowered people with the hope of freedom. The people believed that freedom is coming whenever he made his speeches.


Jr., M. L. (2015). Martin Luther King Jr. on the Black Revolution of 1968. Kalfou, 2(1). doi:10.15367/kf.v2i1.56

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