Can Religion Claim MLK’s Civil Rights Accomplishments?

Attached is an argument that Martin Luther King’s inspiration for his Civil Rights work came from his faith.  The truth is, his faith was used as a defense against others using religion against him, not as an inspiration for the Movement.

We have to recognize the Civil Rights movement was a social, not a religious, project.  When Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in 1955, it was a full five years after President Truman had ordered integration of the military.   Several black bus customers had refused to move before Parks.  Neither Truman nor Parks said integration had a religious source.

What religion did was to provide some cover for the social movement.  The only place black people could congregate and discuss their grievances was in their chruches.

Similarly, decades ago there were only a few safe places for gays to gather and discuss their grievances.  It was definitely not in churches.  They gathered in secret gay bars and in San Francisco at a Harvey Milk’s camera shop on Castro Street.

The point being that social movements need an environment where they can develop.  It happened to be churches for blacks and places like Stonewall for gays.

I can understand why some religious people reach to give credit to their faith for things that happen–politicans do the same thing.  The reality is, King, or any other black person, would have been quickly ushered out of dozens of Atlanta churches at that time.


75 Responses

  1. Jay Lindgren

    An excellent point! I have often wondered why it was the Rev. Martin Luther King,Jr., the Rev. Jesse Jackson and why for Malcom X the Nation of Islam was so important. Your theory has some strong explanatory power.

  2. Michael Ross

    Its hard to know the motivation of Truman, Parks, MLK and others. They saw the freedoms and prosperity enjoyed by whites which did have its roots in the Christian Faith. The Bible – The Charter of Liberties of Henry I(1100) – The Magna Carta (1215) –


    The Reformation (1517, Luther’s 95 thesis) – The Mayflower compact (1620) – The charters and compacts of the colonies (all proclaimed Christ as Lord and His Word as the authority in all human affairs) – The Declaration of Independence (1776)

    Modern civil rights movements and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were social and secular. Tragically it was followed by the Great Society which has destroyed the black family, which for decades had been closing the gap between the races, is now in slavery and dependence on welfare. Their social movements have benefited a few but harmed the many.
    “Anything not done in faith is sin” (Romans 12:14). That is, if its not done in obedience to God in Christ it is sin. What are the wages of sin? Bondage, oppression, and death.

    1. Michael 2:10 “..the Great Society … destroyed the black family..sin now in slavery and dependence on welfare.”

      Perhaps a bit of hyperbole there–I don’t think President Obama is in slavery and dependent of welfare, nor his family destroyed.

      1. Michael Ross

        I am as thankful as anyone that a black (or any minority for that matter) can be President. I am sorry that Obama has only continued the policies of his predecessor. The ruling class enjoys pitting the races against each other. They are making fools of us all.

    2. entech

      Magna Carta, the piece you refer to is guilty of the same revisionism that it rants against. Practically every document had something about God in it, at the times you write about it was considered impossible not to believe in God. The main reason for the clauses was that the idea of the divine right of Kings had to be maintained, it was from the King that the Barons got their power, they just wanted to make sure they got their share.
      Luther seemed to me to be as much against the Church of Rome as anything else.
      The Mayflower escaping religious persecution in Europe, only to start persecuting other denominations as soon as they got the chance. This follows a long standing tradition Rome persecutes the early Jesus followers because they did not accept the Gods of Rome – later, when Christianity took over they started persecuting everybody in sight that did not accept the new Gods of Rome, the Christian Trinity.

      1. Michael Ross

        Christians are infected with human failure just as anyone. There is only One who walked this Earth that succeeded.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Google –“Dawkins and Hewitt on the historical Jesus/signs of the times”.

            Christ Myth Theory–Wikipedia Noting Bart Ehrman and others.

          2. entech

            Jinx. There seems little doubt that there was a wandering preacher called Yeshua at the time. In fact at the time there were quite a few, the two Js for example.

            The proof is lacking to justify that he was the “only One who walked this Earth … “, the son of God, who was actually God, also fully human according to some, who died and three days later came back to life accompanied by various miraculous events Apparently not alone when he came back from the grave, all the saints came with him. Or perhaps one of the other set of stories about a peripatetic preacher. There is no evidence that any of them “walked this earth”; in fact there are sufficient variations to cast doubt in all directions.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            “There seems little doubt that there was a wandering preacher Yeshua at the time”—-“There is no evidence that any of them “walked this earth””. If there was “wandering,” there was walking. Hmmmm

          4. entech

            Obviously I was talking about the ones with alleged supernatural attributes.
            Pay attention, your desperation to find fault has left you with an attention and comprehension deficit.

          5. Wanna B Sure

            Oh my, aren’t you important today. Your desperation for exclusiveness got my attention.
            You fail to notice I, not you pointed out the error of “no proof”, with your version a weak follow up. Had I not posted , neither would have you, and perpetuated the 11:18 unchallenged. We know “who” that referred to, and you disagree. I could care less. TS.

          6. entech

            Obviously too many words for you, try again.

            There is little doubt that Jesus is a historical figure.
            There is a lot of doubt that it is your Jesus.

          7. Wanna B Sure

            Obviously both sides of your mouth are confused @ your 5:28

            Words? You want words? You can’t handle words.

            The “doubt” is your problem, not mine.

          8. Wanna B Sure

            Life may be short, but not too short, (yet) for you to change, but I’m afraid that is too futile to hope for. (yet—)

          9. Jinx 11:18 “No proof he ever did walk the earth.”
            That is a correct statement. If one approached the question of the “real” Jesus in a scientific way, with a null hypothesis, it would go like this: Hypothesis, there was no Jesus of Nazarath.

            The task then would be to “prove” that statement incorrect. So far as I know this cannot be done. You could make the null hypothesis about any number of other ancient figures and by surviving records and relible independent writings reject it. Not so with Jesus.

            Bart Erhman was talking about this just yesterday on his blog. He made the argument that because a letter Paul supposedly wrote said he knew James as the “brother of Jesus”, this is conclusive evidence there was a Jesus. Others, Robert Price, who was in Fargo 3 years ago, follow the supposed travels and writings of Paul and find that he did not really think of Jesus as a walk-the-earth human, but a sky god like the other Greek gods. Jesus was real to him, but not on earth.

          10. Wanna B Sure

            Of course Paul would believe the “sky god ” thingie. Paul came along after the death and resurrection. Paul’s acknowledgement of the death and resurrection of Jesus by necessity, includes the pre-death (living, and WALKING on Earth position.)

          11. Wanna 1:27 “..resurrection of Jesus by necessity, includes the predeath (living, and WALKING on Earth..)

            The problem is, he does not really acknowledge the walking on earth Jesus. He had several chances to at least mention it, visit where Jesus supposedly lived, etc., but didn’t. It leaves the door open to argument he believed all the things that happened to the Jesus character happened in the sky, like the stories of things that happened to the Greek gods.

          12. entech

            Jon 1:12pm
            Erhman and Price are an interesting pair, from what i rememeber both started as fundamentalists, did a spell of preaching and deep study of the Bible led them both to lose their fath.
            Erhman is strongly of the view that Jesus/Yeshua was a historical figure while Price is convinced of the myth theory an invention required for the new movement.
            I think both would agree that Paul had nothing to say and little interest in the life of Jesus, the death and resurrection were the important things for his starting of a new cult. A cult of death and rebirth, rebirth into the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth. As imminent seemed to be getting further away instead of closer changes were needed and 2000 years later are still being made.

          13. entech 1:53 “..the death and resurrection were the important things for his starting a new cult…into the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God….seemed to be getting further away instead of closer changes were needed and 2000 years later are still being made.”

            Well said. The unvarifiable event of a dead person coming back to life, long dead corpses walking out of graves and alway delayed coming of the Kingdom of God have served the needs of a big slice of the world’s population for more than a century. As long a these changes can be made to fit contemporary views, it will continue to attrack a big slice.

          14. Wanna B Sure

            I must remember to point out your occasional misssspellllings or typos in the future, as there have been some in the past. You must be running out of substance, when you have to stoop to such petty matters.

          15. entech

            Misspellings and typos, we all make them, even more on a blog than anywhere else.
            But when you are copying someones word to use against them you could copy it correctly.

            You will be pleased to know that rehabilitation is complete and that my performance in the gym is better than it has been for a few years, relative to the expectations for an aging man.

          16. Wanna B Sure

            Jon’s ticker is not so young either. Jon makes many typing/spelling errors. I can usually figure out what he means, and move on like an adult. I expect you, Entech to remind Jon whenever he errs also. Gene Autry would expect no less.

          17. Wanna 2:27 “Jon makes many typing/spelling errors.”

            I apologize for these–I don’t see them because of some deficiency I’ve always had, can’t blame it on age. There was until a few months ago a spell check on the blog draft site, but that do longer works for some reason so it’s just write on without it. I could write on something like word with a grammer spell ck and paste, but I just don’t want to.

          18. Wanna B Sure

            Yet aging just the same. But aren’t we all.

            “…could copy correctly.” More pettiness. You really need to move on.

          19. Wanna B Sure

            Sorry: Didn’t see your 2:28. until now. The phone rang, in the meantime, and had to answer it. Thank you.

          20. Wanna B Sure

            Jon @ 3:20–That’s OK. I usually look past it, and can figure it out. I usually don’t dwell on it, unless the meaning or context doesn’t jibe. I do the same sometimes.

          21. Wanna B Sure

            Jon @ 3:15: Read ALL the Epistles of Paul. See my 1:27. Paul’s emphasis was after the resurrection. The result of, and the reason for.

          22. Wanna 3:44 “Paul’s emphasis was after the resurrection.”

            I agree. I don’t feel qualified to argue Paul actually believed Jesus was a sky god before the resurrection. I’m just saying the Bible’s door was left open for that interpretation in some people’s view of it.

          23. Jinx

            SInce I replied to MR at 6:06, the he I was refering to is Michael’s He……… I thought everyone who posts on this site would be smart enough to figure it out.

            Wanna, I don’t engage in nit picking arguments nor do I sit here at the computer all day……I have better things to do. You know what I meant.

            Thank You Jon and Entech

          24. entech

            Jinx 10:58. There is probably a name for the disorder that causes someone to believe that another person doesn’t know what they mean when they say it, it is especially exaggerated when they keep repeating the statement, which breaks down to, “you didn’t mean what you said only I know what you mean”.

            Now it is quite a different matter to say, “you don’t know what you are talking about, I have knowledge which you lack”, perfectly reasonable basis for many a discussion (or even an argument in the logical usage of the word).

            A fair and valid argument can never be:
            That is not true, Because;
            I know better.
            You don’t know what I know.
            And anyway you didn’t mean what you said, you meant something quite different and it is more conducive to my case, what you really meant is … .

          25. Wanna B Sure

            See Jinx @ 6:06: “No proof he ever walked on Earth”. Contradictions/corrections following.

            Entech @ 5:11 “There seems to be little doubt that there was a wandering preacher called Yeshua at the time”. Who was it? Not Howdy Doody.

            Entech @ 12:12 “There is little doubt that Jesus is a historical figure. There is a lot of doubt that it is your Jesus”. (Not saying it wasn’t either). Doubt is not an absolute.

            Jinx: Your tag team is not that convincing.

          26. Wanna B Sure

            Which gets us to “How many Jesus were there”? Remembering Joshua was a root word for Jesus, as is also Justus, among others.

            1. Bar Jesus, (son of Joshua) AKA Elymas The Sorceror in Acts 13–2. Jesus who is called Justus, mentioned once in NT @ Col 4:11

            There were several false ” Messiahs” (most likely self named for garnering support), in the intertestamental period, such as Simon Bar (son of) Kokhba @ 132 AD. during the Jewish revolts. There have been and are those who claim the name and title up to this very day . Every one of them have collapsed on themselves.

          27. entech

            Ok, you win, life is too short to engage in the futility of trying to get sense from you.

            However, one last little attempt to make you think and consider that you are pushing far too hard to make points against non-believers.

            Merriam-Webster. doubt verb:
            a). to be uncertain about (something)
            b). to believe that (something) may not be true or is unlikely.

            Entech @ 5:11 “There seems to be little doubt that there was a wandering preacher called Yeshua at the time”. Who was it? Not Howdy Doody.
            “There seems to be little doubt .. “, could be interpreted as, “it is quite possible” or something similar, that is not an overwhelming endorsement for a particular candidate, but, not a denial either. definition a).
            As to who it was I can only respond to a Ken Ham type question: I don’t know I wasn’t there.

            Entech @ 12:12 “There is little doubt that Jesus is a historical figure. There is a lot of doubt that it is your Jesus”. (Not saying it wasn’t either). Doubt is not an absolute.
            Considering your statement that doubt is not absolute and the definition of the word Defs a). and b)., it follows that you spend a lot of time in self contemplation.
            … Evidently you don’t know what you meant. …

            Well time to go out, a life to live. Again thanks t WBS for the fun, you are a constant source of amusement – never quite sure who amuses most W or H.

          28. Wanna B Sure

            Ah yes, the ever irrepressible non-believer. Dog is spelled cat for such as you.

            Yes, I do consider what is written, and what you write falls short of credible. That you must live with.

    3. Jinx

      Slavery split up families for generations in the new world, not the Great Society! Spouses were sold to different buyers, young children were sold from their parents, siblings were traded and sold……I believe that has had more impact on today’s black families that any social programs. The one exception was/is programs like AFDC and TIF practically demanded the woman not have a man in the household for any reason………..it would have made more sense to allow the family a litle higher income if the man stayed with the family.

      1. Michael Ross

        We are all debt and tax slaves. We work to subsidize government and service debt. More and more we are working for subsistence wages while the ruling class grows obscenely wealthy. The plantation master fed the slave to keep the alive and making more money for him.

          1. entech 12:53 “Do you have any other hobbies?”

            The Judge Corwin’s sexual harrassment problem brings great delight to anti abortion locals. He ruled as invalid a ridiculous piece of anti abortion legislation just passed by our North Dakota legislature. Now he, himself, has to appear before a court and be punished for ridiculous behavior. It must be the long winters that bring us strange local news.

          2. Michael Ross

            Corwin is a real “law and order” guy. He was just getting after a couple that was legally prescribed medical pot in another state but wants to put them in jail for possessing it here. Really protecting society from these bigtime druggies. He is the son of Charlie Corwin, the auto dealer that just passed away. “Wick” grew up just down the block from me. He was a good kid but didn’t associate with me as he was brilliant and I not too bright, as entec would concur.

          3. entech

            Michael I do think you are bright enough, brighter than the average creationist. The fact that you, or anyone has beliefs which I find impossible to reconcile with the reality I see around me, is (in my view) misguided and in thrall to the need for a belief system which places them at the centre of creation, but in no way carries an inference of not being bright or any reduction of intelligence however described.

          4. Michael Ross

            “Brighter than the average creationist”. Thanks entec, I’ll take that as a complement. Although to you that would put me on par with a rock or a tree stump.

          5. entech

            Not at all, that would be Dawkins talk. Although I suppose it would be worse to put you in the same category as Ray comfort.

            In spite of some of your fellows I do not (or very rarely) deliberately try to be denigrating, merely to suggest that there could be other explanations.

        1. Jinx

          Thats a pretty weak comparision to the slavery of african americans…..at least the govt. isn’t selling off your wife and kids.

          ….and for you taxes you get police, fire, schools, roads, food safety, public health, air water and soil protection, safe airlines, etc.

          1. Henry

            What a deal. Let’s buy more. Can’t go wrong.

            The soil is safe? Very worried with the oil pollution existing in the Bakken. We better pump more oil out and get the contaminants out of the soil.

          2. Jinx

            …..and the Repubs want to eliminate the EPA and built a pipeline that will carry toxic tar sand slurry from Alberta CA to New Orleans USA…….go figure!

          3. Henry

            Better than the environmentalist “plan” of railing all the oil and burning some cities down. Pipelines are the safest method of transport. Democrat Waren Buffat would likely tell you otherwise. He owns the rail system profiting handsomely from the environmental obstructionism and the Bakken bonanza. Good for him.


  3. esther haugen

    He could have chosen to meet in basements or garages and pursued a violent response to racism. I believe there were a lot in his community that pushed for this. In reading his writings regarding his non-violent approach it is impossible not to see his spiritual background in driving the formation of his policies. His speeches have strong biblical references. He was a Baptist minister. To think that his faith was not a portion of the driving force for his activism seems to be pure folly.

    1. I agree, up to a point. Going back to the article Jon referenced, the author’s contention that Dawkins was incorrect is misguided. The author makes the gigantic leap of logic that because King was a pastor and a religious man all advances in race relations are a result of that religious belief when actually, King’s leadership, while incredibly important, was only a part of the civil rights movement. Many others contributed to this grass roots movement in civil engagement mode involving community leaders, activists who were not religious people and political leaders. King’s passionate work toward racial equality had elements of his faith undoubtedly just has his everyday actions in all aspects of his life did. But to say that it was his religious faith that brought about civil rights reforms is a bridge too far. Dawkins was essentially right in his interpretation of what actually happened during the civil rights era (which I remember very well indeed since I am as old as dirt).

      1. realist 1:51 “I agree, up to a point.”

        I also agree with esther up to a point. We don’t know what drives the mind of someone else. King was a preacher, probably referred to scripture in his everyday work and sermons. So, when he stepped before a microphone, scripture was in his head. I heard him talk a couple of times, once at Iowa State University and once in Riverside Church in New York City. The Riverside sermon is referred to occasionally for some points he made. I don’t recall references to religion at all, but I’m sure there were some.

        That said, his references to scripture were also a pragmatic political strategy to counter the religious message of opponents. As I wrote, churches in his city would not allow him in for religious reasons. That’s why it is totally incorrect of the link I gave to assign to Christianity the accomplishment of equal rights. Christianity was on both the wrong and right sides. It was cultural forces like the pragmatic decision of Harry Truman to integrate the military that drove the change.

        If I live to be old enough, I’m absolutely certain I will see Christian operatives rewrite history some day and claim it was Christianity that gave gay marriage rights because some Christian churches advocated it right from the start (United Chruch of Christ). And, it will be correct some did, but mostly Christianity has been an opponent.

        1. “If I live to be old enough”

          Yes, indeed. Many ideas end up being embraced by those who initially stood in the way. I expect that when Obamacare is successful, the Heritage Foundation will finally trumpet their role in formulating those policies and it will be rechristened “GOPcare”. :)

          1. Michael Ross

            You have great (blind) faith in Obama and the federal government, realist. Such faith has brought us to a poverty rate that is now higher than when the Great Society began in the mid ’60s and a federal debt from a few $billion to $17 trillion. Keep on trust’n, my friend.

          1. Michael Ross

            In the ’90s Clinton ordered the Marines to integrate (co-ed) training as the Army had done. Marine generals signed a letter to Bill that they would resign in mass if he did not rescind that order. Clinton backed down and Marines maintained the distinction between the sexes. For the first in many years I felt proud to have been a Marine (’68-’72). Obama wants a unisex military with no distinction in dress or anything else. The Pentagon just declared women eligible for “frontline combat duty” so I would guess that Marine would be making training co-ed. What does in matter anyway. With our high-tech, remote control, wiz-bang weaponry all combat is is pushing buttons and vaporizing the “enemy”, women and kids included. Just like a video game these kids grew up with. Its great fun and the gals want in on it too.

          2. Don’t you even read the articles you pass on to this blog? Obama has nothing to do with this idea of changing hat designs, marines are going to vote on this, and Amos the head of the Marine Corp will decide what will happen. This is exactly why it’s difficult to trust what the rabid right-wing is saying. Most of it is bs.

          3. Michael Ross

            “Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a “unisex” look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines’ iconic caps – known as “covers” — with a new version that some have derided as so “girly” that they would make the French blush.”

            Obama plan is unisex. The Corps, apparently, has some leeway in implementation. I’m sure Henry read the article.

          4. entech

            Looks a little like the French Foreign Legion, double dare you to call one of them out. :roll:

            Like beauty somethings are simply in the eye of the beholder, if you are like Henry and seem to spend all your life looking for these things you are sure to find them.

  4. Michael Ross

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” ~MLK

    “What my father is asking is to create the climate where every American can realize his or her dreams. Now what does that mean when you have 50 million people living in poverty?” MLK III

    I agree that the civil rights movement was not founded on the Christian faith and so blacks have gone from chattel slavery to welfare dependence, another form of slavery.

    “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ~ Jesus (John 15:5)

    1. Michael 2:51 “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

      Thank you for reminding us of that great sentence King provided us. It’s the one that jumps out to me when I think about his contributions to the cause. I remember it was in the Letter From the Birmingham Jail and I would guess in many speeches.

  5. Wolfy32

    So you’re saying God wants people to suffer… and live in squalor because they can’t think past their current conditions?