Martin Luther King Jr. was an extremist

martin-luther-kingToday we remember the legacy left by civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher who was hated because he pushed his religion on other people.

If you are willing to publicly express your Christian faith, especially if you voice your opposition to injustices like abortion and demand they be outlawed, odds are good people will say, “You’re an extremist!”

Well, what’s so bad about being an extremist?

Certainly we should not be the popular idea of an “extremist,” or a hateful, violent person. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. opposed those elements of the civil rights movement that advocated for violence against Whites.  He believed that justice could be achieved through non-violence and that violent extremism was wrong.

In the same way, Christians must reject all forms of violence in their quest to end evils like abortion. This goes beyond opposing the killing of abortion providers.  It includes opposing vandalism of abortion facilities, sending death threats, lying or lazily passing on falsehoods, and even yelling hateful words at either abortionists or the women seeking abortions in their facilities.

So we should not be the typical “extremist” that is portrayed in the media. But Dr. King also pointed out that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being an extremist, provided one was an extremist for something good.  When Dr. King was accused of being an extremist because he promoted non-violent protest he wrote this in reply (take the time to read the whole quote, it’s worth it):

 . . . though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.

Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .”

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment.

The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Perhaps the Church is also in need of creative extremists. Perhaps the Church is in need of you.

P.S. If you think you are too broken to do good in the world, remember that Martin Luther King Jr. was unfaithful to his wife and he plagiarized his doctoral thesis. But our weaknesses do not invalidate the truths we proclaim.

2 thoughts on “Martin Luther King Jr. was an extremist

  1. Dean

    As my favorite Arizonian said around the time MLK was saying similar things: “Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue”.

  2. Patricia

    I was part of the prolife movement in the 1980s and I do remember Christians justifying vandalism and such by reasoning that if you saw a child being murdered on the street you would do whatever is necessary to save that child. I never quite bought into that reasoning (I was a young mostly illiterate Catholic back then) and I don’t agree with it at all now. I also feel this is one reason why our efforts to stop abortion did not succeed. We can win this war by doing only good. We will win. On God’s time.

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