What many of us wonder as we approach the national holiday in his honor is this: What would King have to say about our current problems?
What would he have to say about fatherlessness in the African-American community, and in America?
What would he have to say about crime and drug abuse and the culture?
What would he have to say about abortion?
We know what he would have said about the economy. King was a social-justice liberal, and he cared passionately about the poor. Indeed, he spent the last years of his life fighting for the poor.
Not all Christians (and not all Americans) agree on how best to deal with the vexing issue of poverty. King believed in more government redistribution and saw government as the best instrument for correcting the problem of income inequality and other grave social ills.
Conservatives believe that free markets and a growing economy lift all boats. We observe that as government grows, churches and the private economy get crowded out of the public square, to the considerable detriment to all Americans, rich and poor.
Would King learn lessons from European socialism and its effect on churches throughout the continent? Would King see the folly of the Great Society, or, like President Obama, would he double down on the commitment to redistributionist policies?
Whatever your opinions on the matter, say this about the Reverend Martin Luther King: He cared deeply about the poor. He was there. He showed up. He was in the streets fighting for the poor every day, every day until his last.
On April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination, King gave a speech at the Mason Temple, then the Church of God headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. He was there to support black sanitation workers, represented by AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident that spurred the strike, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees received a full day’s pay.
In the speech, titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” he made at least a dozen references to the Bible, and toward the end, he spoke of the end of his own life as if he knew it would be ending shortly:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.
The audience roared. They could not know that their hero would be gunned down the very next day at the Lorraine Hotel in downtown Memphis.
Though King had a sense of foreboding, he was not despondent — because he knew he was doing God’s work. Here were the final words of his final public speech:
And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
Listen carefully to the stories of King this week. Listen very carefully.
The man who so loved God — and who feared only God’s judgment — will be stripped of that animating spirit by a fiercely secular media.
But it was God, and King’s desire to serve his God, that changed this country forever. No amount of revisionist history by the secular left and the mainstream media it dominates can change that eternal truth.
That’s what drives totalitarians crazy about Christians: They believe that no God shall come before theirs, even if his name is the State. That’s what really drives liberals crazy about Jesus. His followers believe He is the answer to their problems, not government.
That’s why liberals hate Jesus, even the ones who say they love him.
As King said that night in Memphis, a few hours before his death:
We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around, he must tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, who said, “When God speaks, who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.
Martin Luther King Jr. changed America by acting upon his closely held beliefs about that old book he so deeply loved, and he impressed those beliefs upon millions of Americans, so many of whom were Christians themselves.
— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network.