In a couple different Facebook strains around the Martin Luther King holiday, I read suggestions that Martin Luther King was a creationist. This is, as far as any evidence I’ve seen, a total fabrication.
First, a sidebar: apparently, there’s a narrative out there that suggests that philosophically – it is a Darwinian worldview that allows racism to exist, while a biblical perspective does not, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Implicit was the notion that King must be a creationist because he believed all people were created equal.
The problem is the only “evidence” to support this theory about King is the fact that he was a Baptist preacher, and aren’t all Baptist preachers creationists? (No.)
Dr. King’s understanding of the Bible is quite simple: he believed it was written in a pre-scientific world and used language that was representative of its era. He flatly rejects a literal interpretation of biblical stories, claiming such a reading would be “absurd” in a Copernican world.
For Dr. King, the value of biblical stories is not diminished by their mythological nature. Rather, the myth serves to take the reader beyond the idea or thought within the mind. In short, he accepts the standard methods for critically examining the Bible. …he explains that this modern method “sees the Bible not as a textbook written with divine hands, but as a portrayal of the experiences of men written in particular historical situations.” Textual and literary criticism, archaeology, and history revealed to King the inadequacy of a literal biblical interpretation. He claimed that this critical approach to the Bible was “the best or at least the most logical system of theology in existence.”
Also read what he said fairly early on in his papers. No public record suggests a fundamental change from this viewpoint.
For those who have found reading the Bible confounding because it contradicts itself, or for a myriad of other reasons, King’s viewpoint may make the reading more understandable.
Daniel Nester on why Maple Shade, NJ is important in the MLK story.
5 thoughts on “MLK as creationist?”
Stepen Jay Gould argued that science and faith are “non-overlapping magisteria” in their answers regarding man’s place in the Universe and Meaningfulness. I see it somewhat differently, that science concentrates on cold, hard facts, and “faith” is primarily about emotions and feelings. Science can show us wonder, but it’s not very comforting. However, I find the comfort provided by religion a lot like that provided by fairy tales; it’s nice, but there is no evidence of reality behind it. In our FB exchange the other day you referred to “power,” and I would interpret that statement also to lie in the emotional category, as in “confidence?” I myself agree with neurological researcher and atheist Sam Harris that there is a NATURAL internal state which is perhaps best described as “spiritual,” but reject the idea of SUPERNATURAL personalities (“Gods, ghosts, souls”) due to a lack of evidence. For instance, I adore the HUMANE teachings of the man, Jesus, but don’t believe that he was any more supernatural than Lao-Tsu, whose intuitive writings help me center myself in a Universe that doesn’t care one way or the other. Someday I’ll actually write an article about this!
What I mean is that there is power in the stories themselves. As King said: “the myth serves to take the reader beyond the idea or thought within the mind.” It is utterly unnecessary for a story to be factually true to move the spirit; think of the science fiction books you’ve read. They tell of the nature of people in the world, even if they come from the imagination. The characters, if drawn well enough, become real, and the experiences they go through inform one’s life.
@Roger: okay, I buy that, one CAN get inspiration even from works of fiction, prose, and fable. That being said, even if you exclude the fanatical literalist fundies, in my experience, the vast majority of religious believers DO believe in a literal, if vague, truth behind their beliefs. That there IS a Big Supernatural Personality ultimately in control, and that one’s loss of family and friends will be resolved in a conscious reuniting after death. NOT parts of my belief structure… I’m just passing thru.
I really like this post. I’ve heard evolution called both anti-Christian and racist.
I like the reading which includes excerpts on MLK’s thoughts on Christ’s divinity. Some echoes of Teilhard and transcendentalism in it.
Since the bible is a mixture of allegory, history, Hellenistic biography, poetry and narrative, it’s very difficult to point to any one particular genre. It needs to be read in context with the culture as well as with an eye on the bigger picture.