The Spiritual in the Political: Dr. Martin L. King’s Birthday

Dr. King, 1967 Minnesota Historical Society photo

Dr. King, 1967
Minnesota Historical Society photo

Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday we celebrate today, infused the spiritual into American politics as no one else has–at least since Lincoln.  His “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was one of the great uplifting moments in American history.  “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” King told the assembled crowd.

Before he became widely known, Dr. King addressed a church congregation in my home town of Detroit, and explained how faith inspired his political vision.

“There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong,” he told a Detroit congregation in 1954. “The great problem facing modern man,” he said, “is that . . . the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. . . . The problem is with man himself and man’s soul.”

Those words illuminate our current political culture with a light that is sadly lacking in today’s discourse.

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2 thoughts on “The Spiritual in the Political: Dr. Martin L. King’s Birthday

    1. Tom Schultz Post author

      Thanks, Kate. Gandhi called it Satyagraha, or soul force. It’s hard to overstate the importance of faith and community in the southern civil rights movement. The black church and its traditions played such a major role. The absence of a strong community of faith proved too great an obstacle to Dr. King when he attempted to bring the southern Movement to Chicago in 1966.

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