With the unveiling of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington this week , it’s important to take a moment to understand the profound impact Dr. King has on the Christian conservative movement.
No one can question Dr. King’s commitment to fighting for the rights of the individual. His efforts are well documented in his quest to secure racial equality, to speak for those who did not have a voice. That’s the cornerstone of his legacy.
It is the way he went about his work that is so inspiring. Controversial? Yes. Unorthodox? Yes. Effective? Definitely.
When the Sekulow family moved to Atlanta some years ago, we saw first-hand the impact of his life and spent many hours at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Powerful. Revealing. A must visit for every American.
Dr. King was not afraid to speak the truth. Not intimidated to issue a call to action. As a Baptist minister, he understood that the best way to get his message out was to take the establishment head-on - not by embracing violence, but by choosing non-violence coupled with civil disobedience. At the center of Dr. King’s blueprint for change: standing up for the value and the dignity of the individual. Human rights. Civil rights. That’s what mattered most.
That’s what should matter most for conservative Christians, too. We see it every day in our international work. We battle hostility, discrimination, and persecution - aimed at Christians around the world, particularly in predominantly Muslim countries. Christians repeatedly face punishment - including death - because of their religious beliefs. In one case, we’re working now to keep a pastor in Iran from being executed by the Islamic government because of his Christian faith.
And, here at home, we represent many in the pro-life movement who have modeled their work after Dr. King. In addition to an aggressive legal strategy, pro-life advocates often rely on non-violent, civil disobedience in the ongoing struggle to protect the life of the unborn.
With Dr. King, and his life back in the news, it’s important to realize that for many Christian conservatives, he has served as a powerful role model in the fight to protect the rights of the individual. And, that challenge is as equally important today as it was 50 years ago during Dr. King’s days.
Dr. King talked about the “Beloved Community” - a global vision encompassing his core beliefs. In a 1966 interview with Christian Century Magazine, Dr. King stated: “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that end or that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.”
Certainly a goal worth pursuing then. Even more so today.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and has successfully argued precedent-setting First Amendment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the ACLJ and oversees the global work of the ACLJ and its international affiliates.