Martin Luther King Jr.

Born as Michael Luther King, Martin Luther King Jr. is renowned for leading the Civil Rights Movement from his home area of Atlanta. He was a Baptist who taught a gospel of faith and devoid of the Catholic Church. In fact, he is on record attacking the papacy and the filtration of the Bible by the main churches (King & Carson, 2001). According to him, the people needed to interpret the Bible on their own to avoid being misled into false beliefs in the name of religion. Later on in life, he graduated from Boston University where he received a doctorate in theology. The famous leader was a spiritual man as is evidenced through his theories and teachings. In fact, most of his activism ideologies derive from his religious beliefs that dictated non violent ways to attaining freedom. Moreover, his radical definition of Christianity was a key influence on his life including his view of the religion as a brotherhood spirit that was showcased in social ethics. Ultimately, his faith was a major factor in the decisions he made and the livelihood that he chose to pursue.

From an early life, Martin Luther King Jr. was raised in the religion of Christianity. His father was an ardent follower of Christianity and was even a reverend at a local church. It is the early teachings from his father that shaped his idea of religion and life in general. In one instance, his father had taken him to a shoes store to purchase shoes for him while he was still a small boy (King & Carson, 2001). As they were ushered in to the store, his father pointed out a seat for him as he himself talked to the attendant. However, the father was angered by utterances by the attendant to the effect that black people were to stand at the back. Immediately, the father took him by his hand and led him away. Upon enquiring why they had walked out without buying shoes, the father asserted that they would only buy shoed from stores that respected their dignity. The events from the shoe store shaped the entire life of Martin Luther King Jr. as he learned to demand respect from everyone. Ultimately, he came on to be the champion of human rights and especially against racism and discrimination.

It is no doubt that Martin Luther’s ideas were rooted in the African American traditions and religions. The ties that his family held for so long with the local Baptist church prompted his path to civil rights movement (Shuker, 1985). In fact, most of the leaders in the preceding churches and hid pastoral fathers and grandfathers had civil rights ideas in them. The writings from Martin Luther’s scholarly work point out to the inextricable relationship between African and European traditions as relates to religion. Essentially, his influencers included European American religious leaders both direct and indirect. For instance, most of his black religious leaders drew their mentorship from white people and seminaries. Even the schools that he attended were based on the ideals of white people’s religion.

In the summer of 1947, King Jr. was faced with a difficult decision involving the choice of career he intended to pursue. At the time, he had been appointed to lead religious services among his fellow students who were working at a tobacco firm. His desire to lead the services affirmed his instincts that he was meant to be a religious leader. Instantly, he telephoned his mother to confirm that he wished to be a minister. The short preaching stint at the workplace confirmed that he had great passion for ministry and thus crushing out any doubts about his career path (King & Carson, 2001). This was in spite of his earlier inclinations towards being either a lawyer or a doctor. He affirms that all the other career options were suppressed by an undying urge to serve God through ministry.

The involvement of Martin Luther in religious life from a very early age was a key influence in the path that he took regarding human rights activism. However, this was later enhanced through his stints at Boston and Crozer where his studies enhanced his incorporation of theological disciplines in his speeches and teachings. In fact, a look at his papers while in school point out to a man who voluntarily adopted European theological aspects and incorporated them into his traditional religion. From an early life, he was a critique of the traditional Baptist leadership that focused on scriptural literalism and emotionalism in its teaching. In contrast though, he welcomed the idea of innovation and political consciousness in the spreading of the gospel therefore making him a darling among African American clergymen (Shuker, 1985). It is no doubt that his role models were mostly African American preachers who themselves were students of European American theology. In finding a link between the two theological disciplines, Martin Luther presented correctives to the beliefs that he did not believe in.

Another instance that shaped the religious life of Martin Luther King was during his age of seven. It is through recollection of this event that one can understand the magnitude with which Martin Luther preached about salvation. It was during a Sunday church meeting that his first sense of religious roots had become evident to him. The church had invited a guest preacher who was to talk about salivation thereby seeking new recruits into the church (King & Carson, 2001). Before this incident, Martin Luther confides that he had never given the thought of salvation any seriousness and was used to postponing and rubbishing such thoughts when they occurred. According to him, his being in church was enough and he had never seen any urgency to delve into salvation before the incident. However, as he was still debating on whether to give in to salvation, his sister stepped forward to receive salvation. The boldness in her sister coupled with the emotions of the revival pushed him to accept the salvation.

Martin Luther King admits to being a questioning child who had his doubts about certain aspects of religion. In fact, he asserts that at the time of taking up salvation, it was as a result of a childhood conviction to be in the church with his sister. Aged thirteen years, he is on record as having denied the resurrection of the body of Christ during a Sunday school class in his local church. Although the event shocked his peers and teachers alike, it was a starting point to his many doubts about what the mainstream church taught about religion. The admission by King that he did not share in all the aspects of his religion must have been shocking to both family and self. However, he chose the path of reconciliation rather than blatant rebellion of the word of God. In the midst of his religious doubts, his conviction to stay in the church led him to influence thousands of people through his touching teachings.

Despite having differences with his father and other African American leaders, he had an early understanding of the details of the church. His early involvement in the singing at church and his passionate love of music prepared him for the altar. In fact, King respected his father’s role in shaping his destiny that he attributed his success to his teachings and tutelage. It is noteworthy that his entry into ministry was shaped by the noble examples that his father set before him. It is because of his family’s involvement in ministry that King decided to stay in the church and influence millions of people’s lives. Besides seeing a combination of scriptural conservativeness and social activism in his father, King was aware of many leaders who actively engaged in both religion and politics. The influence from these mentors led him to believe that he could tackle both aspects while still maintain the ministry work he had been called to do.

The entry of King Jr. to college and eventually university marked a point of change in his life. It is upon joining college that he refined his understanding of the Bible and it is through the experiences that he improved his mode of sermon delivery. Even while in school, he remained consistent in his understanding of his religious faith and the path he wished to follow. Eventually, he realized that his mission was God sent and involved the salvation of many people. The consistent application of his faith and religion confirmed the fact that school life was not a transformative experience in his theological understanding. Rather, his experience in school was meant to bolster and refine the faith he had rather than to exert or diminish it. He approached education as an important tool that would add intellectual respect in the process of his ministry. However, at no time did he let his advancement in intellect set him apart from other religious leaders that preached the same doctrine of faith.



King, M. L., & Carson, C. (2001). The autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: IPublish. com.

Shuker, N. (1985). Martin Luther King. New York: Chelsea House.

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