By Ian Kirk
With the celebration of the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we see where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is used to bolster movements and causes that he did not specifically speak on. For example, in Raleigh-Durham, NC, a gay rights activist is torqued that a pastor who preaches a historical understanding of the bible’s view on homosexuality will be speaking at a tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Regardless of what either person in question believes is right or wrong, both are imposing their beliefs onto Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and for very different reasons.
Honestly, with what we have been told (the King family is very careful with their messaging in this regard), both views could be considered as being compatible with what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed (again, as far as we, or at least I, know).
I see this argument every year, and while I do suspect that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not view gay rights as compatible with Scripture, that really isn’t the issue at hand. Let’s go back in time to 2008.
Sen. Barack Obama was the Democrat Party’s nominee for President of the United States. While I freely admit that I was, and am still, not a fan of his, his passion and charisma were undeniable. His speeches were also quite good. However, what was amazing (in that he did it as well as he did, but not that he did it, as all politicians do) was how two different political views saw a completely different person. What was even more amazing, was how supporters viewed him differently. While he was pushing for health care reform of some sort, I heard different supporters come away with different meanings of his statements and words. In other words, they put on him what they wanted to see.
It is the same, but more so, with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Or, should I say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Both Reverend and Doctor are correct, but for each person who reads this, Rev. and Dr. will probably provide different starting points, and it doesn’t matter that his doctorate was theological.
Famous people, especially dead ones, are easy to put one’s own beliefs onto. We will often look at them, and interpret everything they did or said through the lenses of our beliefs.
Christians (not all, but far too many) have done the same thing. We take our beliefs (communism, capitalism, race, nationality, culture) and shape Jesus. However, if we read the scriptures and the views of other Christian people (especially from other cultures or theologies), it has a tendency to shake our lenses a bit. Sometimes more than we like.
We like our Jesus just like we like our politicians and celebrities: safe for us, but not for them. Sometimes I’ve been guilty of that, too. However, with Jesus, at least, if is safe for everyone, then we can be sure that that’s a false view of Him.
Ian is a husband and father of three. He is working in the manufacturing world, while working on his ordination. He lives in Northern Idaho.