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Reflection: An 81-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Haiti response


AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo

As you know, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will be celebrated this Monday, January 18, 2009. This is a national holiday, one of four the nation has dedicated to celebrating the life of a person, but the life and legacy of Dr. King are cherished by people all across the world because the causes he championed, the nonviolent, but forceful manner in which he did so, and the love and compassion he showed to every human being brought people of every race and creed together in the name of peace and equality. What made Dr. King different than most others before him, what endeared him to so many, what forced leaders of other races, especially those races hostile to blacks, to respect him was that, one, the strength of his convictions empowered him to serve, even in times when people, conditions, and institutions made it virtually impossible to do so, and, two, he was a man of action, committed to coming out from behind the pulpit and doing something about the injustices going on in the world around him, even when it was not only inconvenient but also physically and mentally dangerous for him to do so. When most preachers were content with going along to get along, Dr. King fathered a movement with the unbreakable mentality that he would rather lose his life striving for the life he wanted and vividly imagined than preserve it and live in a world where neither he nor his people had any prospects for advancement beyond the segregated status quo.

The greatness of Dr. King has rarely been questioned in history, not because of how powerfully he fought for the needs of black people, but because of the passion with which he adopted the causes of worldwide issues. The U.S. government was okay with Dr. King as long as he was kept at bay and as long as civil rights, in his mind, was limited to “black rights,” but when his definition of civil began to have more political, more widespread implications, the powers that be started to take issue with him. When Dr. King’s ministry expanded from organizing restaurant sit-ins to publicly protesting against the Vietnam War and the country’s participation in it, the establishment began to have a problem, but he didn’t care.

Dr. King’s birthday was on Friday, and if he were still alive today, he’d be 81 years old, an age all would consider advanced, but fiery 81; he’d still be God’s man of peace in Atlanta, Vancouver, Helsinki, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, and, most importantly, for this season, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. By now, surely everyone is well aware of the current state of disaster in which Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, finds itself, due to the earthquake occurring this past Tuesday, January 12, and you’re probably also aware of number of ways you can donate funds to the relief efforts that will be taking place there for months, possibly years, to come. 81-year-old Dr. King would have given money, but he would have also gotten on his phone and on the internet to see how else he could get involved. Of course, I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. King, but I like to think that after having read and written so much about him over my lifetime, I know him well enough to be certain that, if he were alive and physically able, he’d be packing his bags, poised to take the first possible relief flight to the nation to help out even more.

Many are in the position to donate their time and talent, as well as their treasure, in order to help their brothers and sisters in Haiti; God bless them. As for those of us who are unable to do that at this point in our lives, we can and will give generously, but, in the spirit of service, and in remembrance of the ultimate man of action, we must also shift our inwardly focused paradigm outward, exploring ways we can better serve our own community. Most of us may only be able to tangibly assist Haiti with our finances, but we can still take this time to refocus ourselves on our mandate of serving God’s people. It is during times like these that God seeks to pull out of us an anointing to be a more service-based, action-oriented people. Woe unto us if we internalize all of our singing, praising, studying, and preaching, but are unable to translate that into an impact on someone else’s life. It’s time. In the name of Jesus, in memory of Dr. King, and for the sake of the Haitians, let’s do something!

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  • Pastor D. 5 years ago

    Yes, Pastor Marcus,

    Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Would have went down to Haiti, himself, as long as he was physically able. And he would of also said, don't forget about the Need and the injustice that still lives here in the United States. Once again..A Great Article!!!
    "Be Blessed"

    Pastor D.

  • Mark 5 years ago


    There is no doubt Dr. King was used to affect great social/political reform. He led a great charge for the greater good of American life. This is and should be celebrated.

    A troubling aspect though is seeing Dr. King as God's man promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I mention this because while his achievements are something to be praised, his faith, based upon his own words it not.

    "At the age of 13 I shocked my Sunday School class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus." is a quote from Dr. King from 'An Autobiography of Religious Development' which is found online at Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Encyclopedia.

    There are other quotes that show his denial of the deity of Christ as well as the virgin birth. I mention this for the sake of Christ's Gospel not to belittle Dr. King. For even Paul rebuked Peter for the sake of the Gospel despite the kingdom work Peter had done.


  • Marcus A. Cylar 5 years ago

    There's a funny thing about the gospel, Mark. Oftentimes, your works can still draw people to Christ, even if your faith is off. While I neither doubt what you said nor the spirit in which you said it, there's no denying he did more for humanity than 95 percent of all the "Holy Ghost Filled, Fire Baptized" who have ever walked the face of this earth. His actions followed Christ's blueprint of fruitful living to a tee. Yes, believing in the deity of Christ is one of the six fundamental tenets of a biblical worldview, and if Dr. King never had an epiphany in that area of his life, he surely had to answer to God for that upon his death. As for his actions on earth, there is nothing he did in the context of activism that was inconsistent with what Jesus would have done. I have no problem talking about Dr. King with respect to the gospel because the name on the front of his jersey won more souls than the name on the back. We bring Him glory in spite of ourselves, sometimes.

  • Mark 5 years ago


    I'd love to see you flesh that your last response out biblically. If you move to the point of looking at the works in a person's life their other works must then come into play. IOW, you don't just get to look at one's "good" works (which are like filthy rags without Christ). You also must look at their "bad" works.

    Paul says to imitate him as he imitates Christ. If people followed this example with Martin Luther King, Jr., they would not be imitating Christ by denying Him. Just as Paul also writes that if Christ has no been resurrected our preaching and faith are in vain, useless.

    By King denying Christ's resurrection, deity and virgin birth, what were his good works winning people to? This seems a little more than one's faith being "off".

    Also, Christ did more for humanity than any other person in the history of the world. Denying Him while performing "good" works does not allow for an excuse as far as I understand the Bible.

    Can you show Christ's parallel acti

  • Marcus A. Cylar 5 years ago

    Okay, Mark, let me see if I can clarify myself because I don't ever want to purport something abiblical. One thing I learned in one of my first electrical engineering classes is the science behind why a copy of anything can never be as good as its original. Paul did indeed tell those he was pastoring to follow him as he followed Christ, but the point of his statement was to follow Christ, not Paul. I don't believe Paul would have dared tell anyone to follow him without that all-important four-word caveat afterward because he understood the fact that copying a copy will only render you an inferior copy of the original you should have copied in the first place. My point is that I neither told you nor anyone else to follow Dr. King; I merely stated that his example of service, not private, behind-the-door living, was something we as born-again Christians must emulate because that's what Jesus would have us do. You're right in saying there's no excusing his theology, which I'm not doing.

  • Marcus A. Cylar 5 years ago

    I merely stated that Dr. King's action-oriented paradigm with respect to problem solving replicates what Jesus has called us to do. I don't ever want to come across as an MLK apologist because while I appreciate and respect his leadership and courage, I understand fully his foibles as a man, both in his faith and his private life. I've never told anyone to follow Dr. King, nor will I, and if my article came across as one who, as you stated, presents him "as God's man promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ," then I have erred in my writing. (I am curious, however, to see where exactly you picked that up from the piece.)

    We can have all the tenets of biblical worldview down pat and be lazy as we want to be, having zero compassion or effectiveness in the kingdom, just as we can be Mother Teresa-like in our service and have the most erroneous theology known to man; neither will bring souls to Christ. I just presented one side of the coin here, but I've presented the other side before.

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