Remembering the Real, Radical Martin Luther King | Sojourners

Remembering the Real, Radical Martin Luther King

"I had no idea Martin Luther King was a radical!" These shocked words were spoken to me this weekend after an activist training I'd been running in Sydney. I had the privilege to be part of the Make Poverty History "action lab" -- a "teach-in" for 15 young anti-poverty activists chosen from each state of Australia.

With this group of intelligent, motivated, and compassionate young adults, we explored Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals and how Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s witness affirms, yet subverts Alinsky with the gospel insistence that "love has within it a redemptive power ... if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption."

As I've written elsewhere, I agree with Dr. Cornel West's insistence that undoing the "Santa-Claus-ification of Martin Luther King" may be one of the most meaningful ways to remember and learn from his legacy. We must deconstruct hagiographies of a super saint and truly hear from this exceptional, yet broken brother who courageously followed Jesus in the way of the cross despite the costs of it not being safe or popular.

So as a way of letting Dr. King be as dangerous as the sermon he gave 44 years ago, which Vincent Harding links to him being assassinated 43 years ago to this day, I'll leave you with the conclusion to Tavis Smiley's brilliant special "MLK: A Call to Conscience" featuring Susannah Heschel, Vincent Harding, Cornel West, Micheal Eric Dyson, and others:

Lord, protect us from turning your prophets into Santa Claus figures and super saints. Instead, may we hear from cracked vessels your dangerous call to be your prophetic people. Amen.


Jarrod McKenna is seeking to live God's love in a world where business as usual is costing us the earth (at the expense of the poor). He is the National Advisor for Youth, Faith, and Activism for World Vision Australia, a co-founder of the Peace Tree Community serving with the marginalised in one of the poorest of areas in his city, and is the founder and creative director of Empowering Peacemakers (EPYC), for which he has received an Australian peace award in his work in empowering a generation of "eco-evangelists" and "peace prophets." You can follow him on Twitter here.