April 4th, 2008
01:23 PM ET

Tony Perkins: Martin Luther King on the place of faith


Forty years ago, an assassin gunned down a spirited visionary whose days were spent crusading against the very violence and bigotry that ultimately took his life.

Taken in the prime of his years and the height of his influence, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King would never live to see his dream of racial harmony realized. 

In the four decades since Rev. King’s death, the gulf between black and white remains the most intense divide in America—largely because we have sought unity through networking, public policy, or lobbying techniques... 

Few seem to understand that the solution is the same as it was 40 years ago.  We must recognize what Rev. King did—that racism is not just a social problem in America; it is at root a spiritual problem. 

If we are to change the social climate of our nation, a cause to which Rev. King gave his very life, we must unite around a biblical worldview that can include all races and generations. 

That challenge is made more difficult in this new era, when simply to speak from a pulpit and to call for righteousness in the land strikes some secularists as a threat to our core liberties. 

As Reverend King said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.  It must be the guide and the critic of the state.  If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” 

It is time for America to see the church as an unbiased representative of Christ.  As a nation, we must rally behind clear-thinking, visionary leaders who will work for a nation that is both color blind and infused with character. 

Martin Luther King understood the unique place churches have in our society.  If we are to honor his memory, we must defend and rebuild the place of faith communities in bridging the racial gap.
– Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, a Washington public policy think-tank.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Sharon Patterson

    To Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL:

    In otherwords, “You lazy, no good people, hurry up…pick yourselves up…walk…work to fix yourselves. We did not cripple you, and we are tired of your ‘draining our society’.” . . .Right?

    I don't believe most of White America has any idea (or care to know) how the continual mistreatment of other cultures has had a snowball affect on those people today and has stripped dignity and strength from them. From your perspective, it is just a matter "dusting yourself off and moving on." What you don't understand is that no matter how hard someone tries to do that, in the face of overwhelming opposition (a whole country that doesn't want you to succeed), it is nearly impossible to accomplish success. It is like trying to tunnel a hole through a mountain with a spoon. Yes, it can be done, but at what cost and how long will it take.

    Also, you might consider that during slavery and beyond, black families were torn apart and the father was stripped of his dignity and power in front of his family. They were no longer able to trust him. . . not that he was not trustworthy but because he had no power to protect and support them. As intended, the black man's spirit was broken. In essence, the mother and children learned to depend on those that "owned" them or "could protect" them. Consequently, throughout history, these families have not had a leader and protector in their homes. Most understand that the father (usually) establishes the foundation, strength, morals, motivation, and direction of the family. But, because this country's motivation to disenfranchise the black male from the home has placed the African-American mother in the position of having to shoulder the responsibilities of everything. As we all know, no one can do everything and the children are without the father's necessary influence to succeed. I think even you will agree that the opportunies in this country have not been equal, which has compounded the problem. This cycle has not changed because the establshed mindset of our country and legislation is not condusive to "minorities" succeeding.

    I do, however agree with you on one thing – – "If all you seek are the rewards–without the rightous sacrifices required to earn them–well your dreams do not come true do they." However, you neglected to include that the wealth and privileges afforded White America had little to do with their "righteous sacrifices" or their "earning their rewards." Those benefits came with the wickedness of slavery, devastated families and lives, undeserving degradation, and FREE labor.

    April 4, 2008 at 7:27 pm |
  2. Kevin Facey

    I think that after forty years of Dr. King's death, I think that yeah black people in this country have come along way, but I think that there are still barriers that need to be broken down. I think that as Americans, regardless of race and ethnicity, need to do all we can to make America better for our children and their children.

    April 4, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  3. Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL

    TO: Sharon Peterson

    Don't misconstrue biblical teachings with the reality of man on earth. We are all frail and sinful creatures–and we all must repent to ascend to heaven.

    But really, where do you get this crap?

    The young and uneducated black Americans of today–who make choices that land them in prison, create unwed mothers, result in dangerous/unsafe gang controlled neighborhoods–can't be blamed on anything but choice in our nation today.

    There is opportunity–but opportunity requires challenging yourself, overcoming your fears, and seeking a higher purpose or calling. If all you seek are the rewards–without the rightous sacrifices required to earn them–well your dreams do not come true do they.

    April 4, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  4. Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL

    How right you are Tony!!
    Great reporting. Rev. King was a gentle man with a powerful vision–that empowered a whole generation of Americans of all races to make things better.

    His legacy will live on. But it is indeed discredited when the churches of America can't rise above the symbolic, the emotional clapper, and the vehement rebuke of the past without rejoicing in the accomplishments of the present.


    April 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  5. Ruth Jones

    If Dr King were alive today he would be ashamed that our rich USA still refuses to look past color. Why can't White or Caucasian Americans feel "Black" are still hurting from the way we are treated. Even though we have created such greatness and made educatinal strides it forever boils down to "I'm white, your Black" This is such a pitiful country. Race should be outlawed. We are all of the human Race. First, we want an Apology and final " the mule and land blacks were promised is in the form of "Money" Once blacks are paid believe me this USA will be better, every wronged group or race that whites did wrong receives to this day money each month. But the Blacks, are supposed and are judge to be as equal and capable of being at the same tax bracket as white. We can never catch up and I want to be Paid for all the mistreatment of Martin Luther King and my entire so-called "Black" race. Please demand this all Black people. If we are Never paid, at least the white people know how to Heal the Racial Divide". For the first time I am proud of my country because I love all races and want to be with whites and other races even though they look down on us.

    April 4, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  6. Tony Feruchi

    Hi Tony

    I am an Italion man from Philadelphia. When I saw in the TV, the debate of Hillary and Obama. I felt finaly, Dr. King's "dream" came true. A black man and a white woman in nNtional TV. His hard work did paid off.

    April 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  7. Debi, Oklahoma

    I am a 52-year-old educated woman who lived in a small segregated town outside of Memphis when I was young. I remember being terrified when both Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. I just thought of them as leaders, not black or white and I was scared. I think that our media continues to perpetuate the very sterotypes that Dr. King cautioned against. He saw a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Why in 2008 is CNN running a series on converstions with black America? Has no-one noticed that regardless of our politics or our copororate problems we now have a a generation of young adults and a generation of children who are not judging by color of skin?Why are we not having conversations with Americans? Why is our media focusing on what is wrong and not on what is right and how we are coming closer to Dr. Kings dream. If we don't stop reporting the divisivness and start reporting the areas where we are coming together as Americans we will never reach Dr. King's dream.

    April 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  8. Lisa Brown

    Dr. King's legesy will not die. He was a good man and a good teacher.I did not heard him in the church. I heard his "I have a Dream speech." He is like Moses. "Moses did not went to Promis Land."

    He died and he stii lives in people's heart. Jesus also died very young age. He did said in the cross "Father why me." I believe that, Dr. King was chosen by "our Father in Haven."

    He taught us division of class, not race. Poor is always poor regardless of race. He was color Blind. Your interpetation is differnt than mine. I belive Dr. King separated the church and politics in his speech "The Church----Spiritual authority."

    April 4, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  9. tina

    I loved Martin Luther King, however for CNN to use it as a platform for Obama's campaign (listen to the radio announcers being portrayed on Cnn) A day in the life of a black person????? come on give me a break.

    April 4, 2008 at 3:22 pm |
  10. Richard

    If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today we would live in a much different United States of America. Dr. King didn't just preach about fairness and equality, he spoke of personal responsibility. If he were resurrected from the grave he would be digusted by what has become of Black America. In 1968 Black America was struggling on its own to find its rightlful place in American society. Black America had pride, ambition, and a sense of community. Today, Black America exists in a state of learned helplessness, either unable or unwilling to help itself economically, educationally, and socially. They seem all to willing to blame White America for all of its misgivings rather than take some personal responsibility for their inequitable social condition. Black America needs to actually read the words of Martin Luther King, and heed those, words if it wants to see real change in All of America.

    Sacramento, Ca.

    April 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  11. Lopa Bhaduri

    I am not a black person. However, I love Dr. King and what he did for Americans. I did lisien to his speeches. He was not a "White or American government hater." He was sad for "his country's action and the tratement of black people."

    He was a real christion man. He belived in forgiveness. He was killed because, the time were different in America Jesus also had to die because,time was different in the Middle East. . I understand, he is not Jesus. But, he was a Teacher like Jesus. Dr. King is our good history. People alover the world loves him and will never forget him. He is still alive in peoples heart.

    April 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  12. Sharon Patterson

    Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a nation standing in unity has sadly been unrealized. Black America continues to desperately want and need healing in this country. White America say they want healing, but it is almost impossible for healing to occur when there has been no humility or repentance on their part. Humility entails saying, "We were and are wicked in our mistreatment, theft, and murder of African-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans because of our pride and greed." Repentance entails making a 180 degree turn and restoring all that was stolen – no matter how long it takes.

    White America continues to say that they want change, but they have severed the limbs of three major groups of people and continue to send the message, "You lazy, no good people, hurry up...pick yourselves up...walk...work to fix yourselves. We did not cripple you, and we are tired of your 'draining our society'." But how can a people "in Egypt" make bricks with little more than tears, blood and brokeness?

    White America has always been in a state of rabid hallucination, therefore they continue to treat others like mangy, flea-ridden dogs at their stolen dinner table. King's dream can only be realized when pride and greed are abandoned and a lovingly- prepared, nutritious meal has been set at the table for their "brothers and sisters."

    Solution: In a righteous household, parents require that siblings share equally by "cutting it down the middle." White America refuse to obey the laws of a loving and just household. "Cut it down the middle."

    April 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Len

    Almost all of the corporate media's tributes to the Martin Luther King's legacy avoid mentioning the inconvenient facts that King was adamantly opposed to the Vietnam War and was vilified for it as much as the Rev. Wright is being vilified by todays media.

    King had the self control to avoid Wright's inflammatory language, but much of what the two men have said is basically the same. And King would certainly be as adamantly opposed to the Iraq war as he was the war in Vietnam. I doubt he would be getting invited to be a guest on CNN shows very often if he were alive today because of his opposition to unnecessary wars and his harsh critique of social problems in the US. In fact, CNN would probably be running segments with titles like "Is Martin Luther King Patriotic Enough?"

    April 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm |
  14. Don Gentry

    I think it is shamefull that Cnn does a huge piece on MLK and omits intentionally the 99 jury trial that in no uncertain terms showed the world that Ray was not the shooter,how bushes the shooter shoty from were dug up the next morning,and so on.
    This country is getting further and further from being a democracy when the media outlets donr cover the news,but instaed cover what they are told to cover.
    Americans should get all the news,and decide for themselves.
    Shame on Cnn

    April 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  15. Jamila. B

    Let's HOPE this never happens again inthe USA

    April 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm |
  16. Cindy

    I agree that we have to look at this race issue as a spiritual thing like Dr. King did. We should all follow the Bible when it says that God made all of us to live together in harmony. And that he isn't a respecter of persons no matter who you are, what race you are, how much money you do or don't have or any of that. He treats us all the same and we all need to learn to be the exact same.

    I agree that the church needs to be the conscience of the state but that is going to be VERY hard to do when the state is trying it's best to kick anything to do with religion or it's teachings out of every thing that is state run. To me that is why the U.S. is in the state of disarray that it is!! We need to get back to having morals and values and living right! Hey you know that old saying... if you don't believe in something you will fall for anything. That definitely applies here!!

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Deana Martin

    If Rev. King had lived, Barack OBama would be classified as an American. He should not be named an African American, If that be the case, I should be called a German American as my Great Grandfather Abraham Eirer was born in Mimbeck Germany.

    Hillary Clinton stated in her address that she held Rev Kings hand when she was 14. Show me the photo, as she has lost all credibility in my blue eyes.

    April 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm |