Black History Month: Martin Luther King, Jr

by | Feb 20, 2024


As we continue our Black History Month series, we look today at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a remarkably gifted man who managed to lead the complex, often contentious movement we now think of as the Civil Rights Movement. Though he is beloved in our day, he was hated in his own. Helping us think through all of this is Dr. Kevin Smith, a pastor and church historian. We appreciate Dr. Smith’s insight and hope you are encouraged by the episode.

Episode Caption

Austin (00:01.127) Grace and peace, friends. Welcome back to United We Pray. Austin Suter joined today by Dr. Kevin Smith. How are you, sir? Kevin Smith (00:07.33) I am fine. It’s a pleasure to be with you and I look forward to our conversation. Austin (00:12.899) Absolutely. We’re gonna, we had Dr. Smith on to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. here for Black History Month. But before I do that, let me just share a little bit about him. Dr. Kevin Smith is pastor of Family Church Village in Florida. Previously, he was an assistant professor for Christian preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware. Dr. Smith is a past first vice president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. and has taken short-term mission trips to the Caribbean and Africa. He is a member of the Organization of American Historians and the American Society of Church History. Did I get all that right? Kevin Smith (00:50.422) You got all that right. Some of that is past, and now I’m just anchored in the local church as a pastor. I have enjoyed everything I’ve been able to do in the body of Christ. Certainly love seminary students and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, but I am blessed in this season to be serving in a local congregation and doing the things that local pastors do. And you and I know some of the same people, and so I know we both have an appreciation for God’s design in the local congregation. Austin (01:31.755) Amen. We love the local church. We exist to serve Christians in the local church. And your service as a servant of churches for so long is part of why we wanted to have you on to talk about Dr. King because he existed in some of those same places. So as we talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born in 1929. How different was the world back then? Kevin Smith (01:59.506) I was just looking through the papers of Dr. King and the first volume deals with 1929 to 1951. Just imagine the Great Depression and whatever you’ve heard about that. Just imagine still living in a world where people of Dr. King’s color, race, ethnicity, however we are. You described that are still susceptible to segregation and violence in their society. Just think about the optimism of the Industrial Revolution and then a financial upheaval and even the broader society having a lack of confidence and maybe some humility about levels of optimism. And in that kind of world, when things are desperate, sometimes people could act desperate. less than humane tendencies can come out. And so in some ways it can be in a hostile environment. And in other ways, that was an era where people weren’t as mobile. And so neighborhoods and communities meant something. And so certainly the childhood of Dr. King would have been nestled in a certain kind of community based around his church and neighbors and things like that, as would have been the case for a lot of people. But 1929 and those early 30 years were times of great, broad upheaval, but things had consistently been the same in what we might call the black freedom struggle for centuries by that point. Austin (03:52.443) Wow. And he comes from, he’s got a lot of preachers and pastors in his family, right? Both in his family and then in his wife’s family, there’s a deep history there within the black church, right? Kevin Smith (04:06.762) Yes. So I would say a young adult, Dr. King, would have been the convergence of the historic black church, which would have been at that time in the in the early 20th century would have basically been the historic black denominations starting with the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded by Richard Allen in the late 18th century and then subsequent in the 19th century the emergence of what would ultimately be the National Baptist Convention and Dr. King would find himself in the National Baptist Convention. And then at the turn of the 20th century the Church of God and Christ. with the Azusa Street revival in the early part of the 20th century. And so that early Methodist stream joined by the Baptist stream, ultimately joined by that Pentecostal stream, would make up what would eventually become kind of seven historic denominations, would be the seven historic black denominations. And actually Dr. King would actually be vital in later further developments regarding a break off with one in the 60s. things around the civil rights movement. So the historic black church would be one thing. Obviously his education, Morehouse, Boston University, other things like Crozier Seminary would have been a part and the formation of who he is, who he was. And then certainly just his life in a variety of places. I mean, being in Atlanta, being in Pennsylvania, being in Massachusetts, those geographical places. are significant. The experience of life in those areas is different whether one is white, whether one is black, whether one is middle class, and so all those things would have been the convergence of who this young adult minister would have been who had gone would go eventually to pastor in Montgomery. Austin (06:13.739) And it’s so interesting to think about all of those different influences coming together. I mean, he’s incredibly well educated. He’s got all those degrees you just mentioned. And then he’s got this deep history of growing up in the Baptist Church, which really seems to have informed his instincts in how he sort of operated as a public figure because he stayed rooted in the local church his whole life, right? Kevin Smith (06:37.61) Yes, he stayed rooted in local church. His father would have been just classified as kind of a Bible believing black Christian. Maybe sometimes you’ve seen, I cannot remember the author, but there’s a historical theological work called Black. fundamentalists and it’s talking about Bible believing black Baptists and Methodists at the turn of the 20th century. And so his father would have certainly been within that strand. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of his college experience and certainly at Crozer Seminary, he even begins to kind of wrestle with some of that background of what you might call the Bible believing black church as he’s developing his own theology which you know which all children of the church do. At some point they shared some of their parents’ things and kind of want to find their own theological skin. And so he’s tremendously shaped and influenced by that, certainly his communication style. So whether he’s giving a lecture in the future or whether he would be preaching in a church or whether he’d be addressing Congress or doing a press conference. Austin (07:36.527) Mm-hmm. Kevin Smith (07:58.206) it was rare that he would communicate and you weren’t aware that you would be communicated to by a black preacher. Just the cadence, the rhetoric, just everything about his communication style was certainly influenced by the homiletic, homiletics being the study of communication, certainly by the homiletic of the historic black church. But Dr. King was a wonderful student and so undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels. All those things were impactful for him. This first volume of the papers of MLK has some undergraduate papers and some master’s papers and some doctoral papers. And it’s really interesting just to see him wrestling with things of his childhood, seeing him express a call to ministry, seeing him write papers on things like. How to use the Bible in modern theological construction would have been somewhere around 1949 at Crozer’s Seminary and see the influences of people, people on him like Miller Burroughs and Harry Emerson Fosdick and some people like that, see him write a paper on something like the humanity and the divinity of Jesus maybe a year later. 1950 in Chester, Pennsylvania. So again, would have encroached the seminary. And then his engagement with philosophical writings, his engagement with other world religions. And so it’s fascinating to see, you know, if you want a snapshot historically of the interaction between upbringing, home, religion, church, education. He’s a fascinating case study of the integration of influences that can become a young adult and then obviously a continuing adult because he was a reader and a thinker throughout his entire life. Austin (10:04.071) I mean, you mentioned so many different skill sets. It’s, he’s one of those people that’s just so gifted. You almost can’t stand it because you mentioned his, his intellect, his skill as a student, he’s always learning. And then his skill as an orator. I mean, he’s still unmatched. Nobody could communicate like him. How did he think of himself? Did he think of himself as public figure, a pseudo-politician, or an activist, or a pastor, how did how did he conceive of himself in these different arenas? Kevin Smith (10:43.011) Early in Montgomery, you know, if you read biographical sources, he really thought of himself as a Christian minister doing something external that kind of would fit within the context of love your neighbor. Throughout his writings and throughout his speaking, you see the teachings. of Jesus Christ, the New Testament teachings of Christ being tremendously influential, probably only second to just the basic Judeo-Christian Genesis account of creation and all people being created in the image and likeness of God. And so, the doctrine of creation is tremendously important, but also the great commandment, particularly the second half of the great commandment, is tremendously important. And so… No, there were many times where he would reject the description of a politician or some kind of societal strategist or something and much more describe himself as a Christian or as a Baptist minister. So certainly that would be a way that he would have seen himself. But then also like for example… If you think about somebody like David Chappell, a stone of hope, much of that movement anyway was rooted in Christian thinking, Christian organizations. Most of the meetings were at, many of the meetings were at Christian congregations. Many of the marchers would have been Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostals, or even Christians beyond that as the marches began to get larger, like Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic priests. Austin (12:31.396) Mmm. Kevin Smith (12:32.506) Jewish rabbis again appealing to that Judeo-Christian Genesis Pentateuch ethos of the image of God and all humanity and so I don’t know how the word religious strikes your listeners but yeah he always saw himself as entering this and approaching this as a religious man and really steeped in the Christian tradition. and Christian truth claims, obviously from his upbringing under his father, and then in university and seminary and things like that, he was influenced by what you might call broader liberal Christianity or mainline Christianity. And then even as a pastor and as a leader in the SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Council and working with people like Ralph Abernathy and other type. ministers and pastors, Fred Shuttlesworth, coming back even to considering more of what you might call the orthodoxy of his father. There’s several times when he says, he would write something like, yeah, I need to get back to the God of my father. And you know, I think many times you could read that to represent a Austin (13:48.72) Hmm Kevin Smith (13:52.966) more biblical orthodox view of God over against perhaps some of the philosophical or extrabiblical things that have been gathered from doctoral studies or master’s studies or other world religions. Austin (14:13.435) So when you think about Dr. King today, it’s hard to think of someone who’s more universally loved and respected in society at large. And even people who maybe are souring on Baptists would recognize that this Baptist minister was a good man who did good things in society. But it wasn’t like that in his day. How was he received by Christians in his day, both white Christians, black Christians, other, how did that go for him? Kevin Smith (14:45.894) Yeah, we are recording this as about a week and a half after the MLK federal holiday. And it always amazes me on the holidays how complementary and how affirming people are of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for he died as a much hated man. Obviously, he didn’t die of a disease. He was assassinated. And so that gives you a certain level of understanding of how some people felt about him. Let’s go through some categories. If you look at the letter to the Birmingham jail, obviously there were white Christians in the South and many other places that were either hostile towards his message or methodology and you know, intellectual honesty. requires that you say there were some people that were friendly to his message and hostile to the methodology something like the Montgomery bus boycott or something like that or something like the this particular march here or this particular march there. So let’s say white Bible-believing Christians you might use the category evangelical. It was those that were hostile towards his message or message. methods or message. There were those that were indifferent towards his message or method. And he writes often about indifferent Christians. I mean, he’s like, at least you understand where hostile people stand, but the indifferent was always a discouragement to him. And then, of course, there were those that were very much with him. Austin (16:27.995) Yeah. Kevin Smith (16:33.546) white Christians in the South and white Bible-believing Christians that would have affirmed the image of God in all people and would have been okay with the methodology or at least weren’t openly hostile against the methodology. So now let’s go over to the historic black church. Those same categories of support, opposition, and indifference, you can find those same categories in what you might call the historic black church. Um… One of Dr. King’s most stringent opponents was the president of the National Baptist Convention, which at that time would have been one of the largest black religious bodies in the world. There was disagreement. Number one, there was just fall in humanity, sinful, competitive, covetous, envious, interpersonal problems going on. Austin (17:16.368) Wow. Kevin Smith (17:33.79) I am the president of this large religious organization. When you wanna know what black Christians or black people think about a certain matter, why are you trying to interview this little young guy from Montgomery, Alabama instead of someone as regal and prestigious and old as I am? So there were some interpersonal things going on, but also there was a serious disagreement about just how Austin (17:35.847) Wow. Austin (17:56.004) Yeah, yeah. Kevin Smith (18:02.286) congregations or how denominations should engage a civil rights movement from an institutional standpoint. And so people like Dr. King and the late gardener C. Taylor, one of the most fascinating pulpitiers in the black church in the 20th century, they would eventually start what is now the progressive National Baptist Convention over disagreements. about methodology, not disagreements about the message, not disagreements about the image of God in all humanity, not disagreements about love your neighbor, not disagreements about whether segregation was right or wrong, but disagreements about institutionally, how connected should the church, as in a local congregation or the domination, be connected? And so, yeah, he had tremendous opposition from black Christians who did not embrace his methodology. Then there were also, there were often large pockets of indifference in black Christianity, meaning those who perhaps did not think change was possible, those who were perhaps comfortable where they are, were, or at least had established a certain kind of understanding and a routine where they were for, you know, don’t forget racism. segregation all those things play out differently in different parts of the country and so you know in places like Chicago, St. Louis, they were places outside of the south where he had tremendous opposition from white opponents of the civil rights movement but also sometimes from black people even black Christians who thought the methodology was not viable or who upsetting a rhythm and a comfort level that they had established and they had found. And then he had opposition from people like other civil rights activists or maybe not civil rights activists, other black freedom fighters in the long trajectory of the black freedom struggle in the history of the U.S. who thought even the nonviolent civil rights movement was too passive and too slow and pressing for the freedom. So he had opposition from black people. Kevin Smith (20:23.902) in things like the Black Panther Party or other black nationalisms that would have taken a different approach. Obviously, there was disagreement. They may have been civility most of the times, but there was disagreement with him and people like Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam and whether Christianity was even the tool to bring this type of equality and things like that. And again, obviously, remember, he’s always standing upon the doctrine of the image of God. All people are created equal in the image of God. and Jesus’ ethos to love your neighbor. And so those who reject Christianity, those who reject the Bible, would often reject his methodology as well. And so yeah, on the Martin Luther King holiday, just the tone of everything is just always interesting to me because he died as a man with much, much opposition, some of it really hostile among black people, white people, among Christians, among non-Christians. Austin (21:26.315) Yeah, it’s so fascinating and you just, you hate that he never got to see the result of his legacy. That just, that makes me sad. Um. You’re a man, we alluded to this earlier, you’re a man who’s worked in church institutions for a long time. What can you, with your experience, infer about Dr. King the man as you see him navigating these disagreements within institutions? Like, what was he like? What were his principles that helped him do that? Kevin Smith (21:54.484) Mmm. Kevin Smith (21:59.294) Well, one thing I can infer, but I can also just read in primary sources, he writes about this kind of thing. And you and I, I mentioned this to you when we were getting started. And I’ll use Christian vocabulary. Unity work is lonely work and hard work. And to be in the middle of the 20th century. saying that you could think that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and calling a nation to live up to its words and its ideals is a lonely place. There are times when you’re, you know, again, 1963, the Progressive National Baptist Convention. starts. That means, you know, Dr. King came to a point of feeling alienated within his own denominational family. And, you know, that doesn’t mean much to people today because we’re so…we lack such loyalty to institutions, but throughout much of the history of black people in the U.S., the Christian church has been an anchor and a refuge and a… otherwise hostile society. And he reached a point of feeling alienated even within the context of his own particular denomination. There were times when there were visions and divisions within the movement. Again, he’s working with people. There are different organizations, SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Committee Council, or Urban League, CORE, Congress of Racial Equality, SNCC. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was often influenced by people who thought the Civil Rights Movement was old and slow. And so one way to negotiate that is, you know, if you look at his writings. Kevin Smith (24:01.666) He never wavered in his principles. You know, one of the things that distinguishes him from a politician or political actor is he wasn’t just putting his finger up in the wind and seeing which way the wind was blowing. He really did believe what he said he believed about Genesis and the creation of all people in the image of God and he really did believe that loving God and loving your neighbor was the great command that Jesus Christ gave in the New Testament. And so… He negotiated those things having solid principles, but he was a listener and he was a reader. And if you read, if you listen, if you YouTube a debate or discussion, or if you read an article or something or him discussing someone with whom he disagrees. Obviously, I’m not a King scholar, but I just don’t remember in my reading seeing Dr. King engage in caricature. Even if you read something like the letter from the Birmingham jail, he genuinely seeks to connect with his opponents. He genuinely seeks to explain his opponents. He doesn’t engage in caricature nor character assassination. And so I think it’s fascinating how you negotiate those kinds of things in all those different spaces. But… He died with a lot of opposition. He died with a lot of discouragement. And he died with very little material resources. He was a spent man. And so how he negotiated all that. You know, the listener has to determine whether he negotiated it successfully or not. To die hated, to die as a spent man, to die as a discouraged man. You know, you have to figure out how well he negotiated it, but that’s how he walked through all those different things. Clinging to the principle of the doctrine of creation and love your neighbor. Austin (25:56.903) Well, now I mentioned earlier how well respected and well received Dr. King is. The one sort of exception to that would be, Folks who want to dismiss him because in our circles, he’s not always seen as being theologically in line with us, or some people will bring up his moral failings as a reason not to talk about him or even to learn from him. Do you think those differences or anything like that mean we shouldn’t try to learn from him? Kevin Smith (26:17.73) Yes. Kevin Smith (26:36.09) I mean, I don’t, but I mean, I taught church history and I’m used to engaging historical figures and I’ve never considered them to be any more than any other post Genesis three person living in a fallen world and so I engaged Dr. King the same way I engage Augustine or Luther’s anti-Semitism or. Jonathan Edwards is slave holding or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or just any other person. And then also, you know, with Dr. King, I think there’s a different question of, is he, I was talking to a Presbyterian brother, I said, there’s a different question of. Is he right about this principle of America not meeting up to its standards and his ideals in the Declaration of Independence? That’s a different question than, you know, would I admit him to our presbytery or would we ordain him in our presbytery? And so I think historical figures, you have to just say, what am I trying to get from this person? What am I trying to gather from this person? And then just use it like that. I use primary sources. And I’m often concerned about what someone wrote or what they said or what they did at a particular time. But I have no assumption, even among Christians, I have no assumption that people are anything other than not yet apprehended. And so I gazed them as that. But again, I have a biblical, I guess, reformed. understanding of humanity and fallenness and depravity that just kind of, you know, I’m suspicious of the person I look at in the mirror when I brush his teeth. I mean, so I don’t put a lot, I’ve never been accused of like being overly optimistic about what people are able to do. But no, I think historical figures, we have to see them as human just as we are. And, you know, there are many people who have been very influential in history and you could give critique. Austin (28:35.735) Right. Now that makes sense. Kevin Smith (28:47.986) to their marriage and there are many people especially people who have written a lot in over a long time like the later Augustine could critique some of the things written by the earlier Augustine The later Luther could critique some of the things written by the earlier Luther and so also if you have a long corpus Is I don’t know if as long is the word if you have a deep bit if you have a large if you have a large corpus of written material and ideas Yeah, you have grown and you have changed over time. I think it’s legitimate. Like I was showing you those primary sources. I think it’s legitimate to look at some of the things in some of his master’s degree and doctoral degree papers. But I also, you know, I just encourage people to continue examining the biography and see how… Um… Ha ha! This is not funny. It’s just, sometimes I laugh because I just find stuff ironic. Like… Unbiblical liberal theology makes a lot of sense in academic institutions. But there’s this episode, I think people call it the kitchen conversion or something. And someone calls on the phone and I think threatens Dr. King. And he’s thinking about his wife there. He’s thinking about his, I don’t know how many children at that time he had there. And he just describes like at that moment there was nothing liberal theology could do for me I needed to call on the God of my father and so you know whatever you learned in institutions like real life and real depravity and real fallen this has a way of showing you that the only one who can really give peace answer in those kinds of times is the true and the living God and so I can tell you who he was theologically as a child. I can tell you who he was through his education and when he was leaving his doctoral program. But there’s a lot of biography that you just kind of have to mysteriously, you just have to kind of figure out what you think is happening in his adult life theologically. And he’s not preaching a lot of in the congregation type sermons that are distant or separated from the civil rights movement. And so, Kevin Smith (31:08.246) You know, you have to look at those kinds of things. But I mean, to have Jesus as a constant ideal, an example, and neighbor love, and then to have the image of God as a constant doctrine that’s being put forth, I think that should give some helpful indication of the Judeo-Christian kind of influence. And then don’t remember, and didn’t remember, I tell people, He’s not ultimately, he’s ultimately making a social or constitutional appeal that’s just tremendously influenced by his Christian convictions about the equality of humanity and neighbor love. But he makes appeals to the Declaration of Independence and to the Constitution. So there’s many civic or civil benefits one can gain in thinking about our society from the writings of Dr. King. Austin (32:10.651) When you read in the Bible and you see passages like 1 Corinthians 13, you see love described with verbs. I think Dr. King understood that. The love he demonstrated, as you’ve been saying, was clearly, it was theologically informed. So how else do we see his theology, whether from the black church he grew up in or from institutions, how do we see that influencing his ministry or his methodology? Kevin Smith (32:36.522) Well, certainly the role of preaching in the church and in the religious assembly He valued that the preparation he would put into things but also just the spontaneity and Just really interaction with the people their wonderful narratives memoir things where he may have gone into a particular setting with a particular idea in mind or maybe some lecture notes in mind and then actually got into that environment and found out that other things were needed and it went in another direction. There are one or two beautiful episodes where he would be speaking somewhere and the black church tradition is very influenced by call and response and so he may have been going in a particular way and someone he knew like Mahalia Jackson would have encouraged him to do something else. You know, there’s several accounts that Dr. King had a different… notes in different lecture lined up for 1963, the March on Washington. And Mahalia Jackson there encouraged him to talk about the dream, which eventually would turn into what we know as the I have a dream speech. And so I think the theology of preaching and the theology of proclamation in the black church certainly influenced him. Obviously, as you said, a biblical. understanding of love. I do think if you read something like where do we go from here, chaos or community, I want to say 1965, 66, it’s after 63. That’s my thing. Every Martin Luther King day I tell people read something written after 1963. All y’all know is I have a dream. Read something else. So read something after 1965. But if you read something like where do we go from here? Kevin Smith (34:31.434) You realize that you see an articulation of biblical anthropology regarding the potential of sin in people and the fallenness of people, the potential for violence and wickedness in people against one another. He has a fascinating passage there I really enjoy about the root of bitterness and he says one thing that we are sure about with bitterness is his blindness. And so, you know, every MLK holiday, I want to check my site and make sure bitterness is not causing any blindness or cataracts in my thinking. And so, obviously, a biblical doctrine of humanity was very much a part of what you see there as well. But no, I never hesitate to say, you know, whatever you think was there at the master’s program or the doctor program was there, but how those things kind of worked out and drifted away in real life, I think that’s a reality as well. You could be a young student and impressed by a lot of things that your older, scholarly, more informed professors say, but when you get out there on the streets in the real world and you’re praying with people, you’re interacting with real human beings and interacting with real churches and real people, It’s just hard to say where things are and how he developed over those subsequent years. I mean, you think about somebody like Fred Shuttlesworth, somebody like Ralph Abernathy. You know, a lot of the people involved with SCLC were Apostles Creed, Bible-believing type pastors. And so Dr. King was around some. Austin (36:04.975) Right, right. Kevin Smith (36:08.758) wonderful men and women, Fannie Lou Hamer, just a variety of people. These were, I mean, much of the black freedom struggling in the US is rooted in biblical Christianity. Even go back in the 19th century, I mean, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner True, all those people were like Methodists. Those people were like Bible-believing people. They believed that people were created in the image of God because the Bible said people were created in the image of God. I mean, so. Austin (36:27.239) They’re Bible folks, yeah. Kevin Smith (36:33.354) Those are some of the theological influences. But again, his appeals were civic appeals based upon language rooted in the Declaration of Independence and rooted in the Constitution. Austin (36:50.411) If our listeners want to learn more about Dr. King, what would you recommend in terms of a biography? Kevin Smith (36:58.722) Oh, I recommend that trilogy by Taylor Branch. Oh my goodness. Yeah, if you have some time and, well, I imagine now in this world we live in now, if you travel a lot, you probably could find it on audio books as well. But yeah, that Taylor Branch trilogy, I’m not gonna think of the three names of it, but it’s three. three or four, it might be, it was three. I think it’s three wonderful volumes on Dr. King. I think that’s just a wonderful introduction. He just does a wonderful job of setting him in a historical context, religious sources, the media sources. This doesn’t get most people off, but the, I mean, the footnotes are just like awesome. I mean, and so if you’re in the footnotes, yeah, Taylor Branch, I mean, news, New York Times articles, this little article here, so. I would definitely say that. And then… Some of those early things he wrote in the early 60s about the Montgomery bus boycott and why we can’t wait. and strive for freedom and all those things, they’re very biographical, very memoir oriented. I think they’re just fascinating, give you insights into his life. I mean, he talks about highs and lows, he talks about good feelings and bad feelings. He tells you how professors are influencing him, how his father’s influencing him. You know, I find him to be a very honest writer. I find him to be a very honest writer. And if you just want to know something about his tone… Kevin Smith (38:35.574) If you just want to know something about his tone, I would just say the first and easiest place to start is just a letter from the Birmingham jail. Austin (38:43.183) Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was my next question is, what works of his would you commend to be read? That’s, I agree with everything you just mentioned. You said earlier that you really appreciated the stuff he wrote after 1963. Kevin Smith (39:00.542) I appreciate all of this stuff. I just encourage people to read some stuff after 1963. But yeah, I really do like, I probably make the most reference to where do we go from here, chaos or community. And I think that might be 65, 66, something like that. Austin (39:08.508) Got it. Kevin Smith (39:19.274) And then obviously, you know, if you have nails on YouTube. Austin (39:20.291) Well, brother, thank you so much for coming on. Oh, and I. Kevin Smith (39:24.666) I’m sorry, on YouTube there’s some wonderful speeches in 1967 and 1968 before he was assassinated, certainly at Mason Temple. And I think many times you would find it stunning, the prophetic nature of just some of those speeches. I mean, I was just amazed. I was like, well, I may not be here with you much longer. And then they’re like, I mean, yeah, I think just the prophetic nature of some of those things is like, wow. Austin (39:55.471) Yeah, it’s like he knew. Yeah. Kevin Smith (39:58.903) Mm, mm-hmm. Austin (40:02.863) Well, brother, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for helping us reflect on a complex but remarkable legacy. Would you join me in praying for a more realized vision of the things Dr. King was pursuing? Kevin Smith (40:21.09) Amen. Let’s pray together. Father, we are grateful for the grace that you give us. Yes. Austin (40:25.355) I mean, I can start and you close. Austin (40:32.507) Our connection’s a little laggy. I’m sorry about that. We keep stepping on each other here at the end. But I can start us and you close us out. Austin (40:42.851) Father, we are grateful for men and women you raise up for a particular task and equip for that task and especially just filled with skill for what you have them to do. We thank you for Dr. King and all of the ways you gifted him with his mind, with his… ability to speak and teach and the commitments and the backbone you gave him to not compromise on things like nonviolence or to compromise his methodology. Lord, we pray for a more realized vision of what he was after. We pray for greater unity. We pray. greater justice. We pray that people who look like him would be treated better. And we thank you Lord for the progress that has been made on that front that people today don’t have to face the same things he faced. And we thank you for the work of a generation of saints who pursued that and who made that possible with your help. So we thank you Lord in Jesus name. Amen. Kevin Smith (41:36.467) An accident, your wife? Oh, um, I can’t tell. Kevin Smith (41:56.61) Father, we thank you for the truth of your word and we pray that we would have others in our society and even other nations who would just be so influenced by the truth of the early scripture, early in the scripture that men and women, male and female, are created in the image and likeness of God. Likewise, we pray that many, many Christians will be influenced by the great commandment. that we would love God exclusively with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and also that we would love our neighbor as ourself. Thank you for this Black History Month. May we just reflect on how things have been in our country and whether we are black, white, Asian, or Hispanic, male or female, may we consider how we can influence things reflecting more of your design. that humans would value one another as made in your image. We thank you for the things we’re gonna rethink about and reflect on this month, and we praise you that you allow us to be a part of that. Thank you so much for uniting. We pray, and I pray, Lord, that you would encourage them in this… enduring work of pursuing the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace and of being salt light witnesses for Jesus Christ and we love you in his name. Amen. Austin (43:35.703) Amen. Thank you so much for listening. Grace and peace.

LINKS & SHOW NOTES:

  • This UWP Podcast Episode was produced by Josh Deng with editing by Roshane Ricketts.
  • You can read Letter from Birmingham Jail here.
  • The King biography Dr. Smith mentioned can be found here.

To learn more about United? We Pray, follow us on Twitter and keep exploring our website. Please consider rating the podcast on Apple Podcasts, and subscribe using your favorite podcast client to hear more!

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    United? We Pray is a ministry to help Christians pray and think about racial strife. We want to encourage Christians amid the strife to rely upon God in prayer. So our prayers can be informed, we strive to learn and write about race, racism and its effects, and theology. We aim to be biblical, beneficial, and clear in all our efforts. While we’re burdened for all racial strife, we focus on racial strife between Christians because of the unique privilege and stewardship God has given his people: to bear witness to Him and to love all people, especially one another (Gal. 6:10).

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