January 16, 2019

Remembering Dr. King:

“In the Quiet Recesses of My Heart I Am Fundamentally a Baptist Preacher”

On Monday, January 21, 2019, the United States will recognize the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A Civil Rights Leader and a fighter for social justice, Dr. King was also an advocate for working families, defender of the downtrodden and a voice of reason. However, we often forget that first and foremost Dr. King was a preacher of the gospel.

Dr. King came from a long line of evangelists, as his grandfather was the Reverend, A.D. Williams, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the founder of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP. Dr. King’s father Martin Luther King, Sr. succeeded his father-in-law as the pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church following his death in 1931. The church was a major factor in the King household, with most activities revolving around the work of the church and community.

At the age of fifteen, Dr. King graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and entered Morehouse College. At nineteen, he graduated from Morehouse and entered the Crozer Theological Seminary where he was ordained to the Baptist Ministry in 1948. Three years later he entered graduate school at Boston University and finished his PHD in 1955.

Following his graduation, Dr. King became the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was founded in 1877 with Dr. King being their 20th pastor. Dr. King was hired as pastor of the church with the growing racial tensions in Montgomery. A year later Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to white man on a bus in Montgomery. Dr. King held a meeting in the basement of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

"I am many things to many people," King said in 1965, "but in the quiet recesses of my heart I am fundamentally a Baptist preacher." He never forgot that the basis of his work was to spread the word of God. Even in the face of harsh treatment, Dr. King preached love and tolerance. One of his most famous sermons at Dexter Avenue was called “Loving Your Enemies.” “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation: the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” In this sermon Dr. King stated “you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when He says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.”

Dr. King not only spoke these words, but he lived them. When segregationist bombed his home following the successful Bus Boycott in Montgomery, an angry crowd gathered outside the damaged home, but Dr. King urges them to go home and to not to seek retaliation. "We believe in law and order," King said. "Don't get panicky. Don't do anything panicky at all. Don't get your weapons. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Remember that is what God said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them, love them and let them know you love them. I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known through the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped this movement will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us."

America could use a man like Dr. King today. Different ideologies have been inflamed by those who would like to see this great nation torn apart. Dr. King understood that giving in to hate never ends well. One of Dr. King’s greatest quotes is “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Maybe if we refused to let those who seek to divide us accomplish their goals, we as a people could stick together.

As we pause to remember the works of this great man, the best way to honor his memory is to carry on his work. We should stand for the fair treatment of all people; regardless of race, gender, nationality, expression of faith or anything thing else that make us individuals. Remembering not giving into hate can allow us to stay the course in building a better world. This year, may we all remember Dr. King, his work, his ideals, his faith, and most of all, stick with love!

In solidarity,

UAW Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith








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