Not Just a Black Holiday


Every year in January, government offices, the USPS, and many schools close in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday. In my area, several schools with a majority white population are remaining open today. The rationale? “It’s not OUR holiday, so why should we celebrate it?” In my conversations with white friends, and my experience in majority white communities, I see a reluctance by many to observe the day on the grounds that MLK day is a “black” holiday. As a white Christian, I could not disagree more.

Martin Luther King day is MY day, it’s OUR day. Dr. King’s vision of a society where all men and women were free and treated equally is not a black ideal, it’s a human one and a distinctly Christian one. True, King arose at a particular time in history and for the particular cause of African-Americans in an unjust and segregated society. The Civil Rights movement had and has particular significance for African-Americans in their four-century struggle. But King’s ideals – his dream – extends far beyond the historical moment in which he arose. America does not observe MLK Day merely to celebrate a man, but to celebrate and champion the vision for which he lived and died.

In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail,[1] Dr. King reminds us that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In that letter, King chides the white church for its tepid response to the injustice of blacks. He lamented the “lukewarm acceptance” of white Christians toward their Black brothers and the “shallow understanding” of their plight. Now, fifty years later, much of the social landscape has changed. The victories of the Civil Rights movement have meant greater freedom and equality for all. Yet, while Jim Crow has come to an end, there remains inequality, injustice, and racism in the world. While overt prejudice has declined, the Sunday worship hour remains “the most segregated hour in America.” We still have a ways to go, and as long as there is human sin, there will be the need to stand for liberty and justice for all.

MLK Day is not merely a celebration of a man nor his particular cause to end segregation in this country. It is a celebration of a godly vision. For Christians, it provides an opportunity to affirm our belief that “God created man in His own image” and that “every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”[2] As Baptists, it gives us an occasion to recommit ourselves to our “obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society,” to “oppose racism,” to “contend for the sanctity of all human life” and “seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.”[3] Let us take advantage of this Federal holiday to affirm the thoroughly Christian values that it is intended to celebrate.

The fact that many see MLK Day as a “black” holiday, I believe, is a symptom of the same attitudes that King observed from his jail cell. While we white Christians are “people of good will,” we look at the world with the false notion that, for the most part, there is justice and equality for African-Americans and other minorities. We don’t see that we have a “shallow understanding” of the issues that African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities face. When it comes to racism, we look at the people we know and at our own hearts and believe racism is uncommon and rare. We remain willfully blind to the social structures that continue to favor the majority and erect barriers for success to people of color. We examine our own attitudes toward race and give the self-evaluation “I am not a racist” while at the same time making assumptions about people of other races and acting with partiality. We declare ourselves open to fellowship with our brothers of other races and ethnicities but do not pursue such fellowship with any kind of urgency or priority. We agree with the Bible’s assertion that in Christ we are one people of God, yet we have not moved much past the “lukewarm acceptance” that so bewildered King.

I will be celebrating Martin Luther King Day today, not merely in celebration of a man, but in solidarity with the dream he laid forth. I do so as a reminder that wherever injustice exists, I must be on the side of justice. I do so as a reminder that I must honor and value all people as made in the image of God and having inherent dignity and worth. I do so as an outworking of the gospel imperative to live as one people of God with all people who have trusted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do so longing for that day when people of every tribe, people, tongue and nation will worship together at His throne.




[2] BFM2000, article III,

[3] BFM2000, article XV,


  1. Tom Bryant says

    My grandfather was a stone cold bigot. He treated people well, no matter their race, but always viewed other races as inferior. He raised my dad that way. My dad worked for the government in Washington. When the March on Washington happened (I was 12), he took me down to the Lincoln Memorial to watch and listen. I asked him as we were going home why he brought me there and should I tell Pop (my grandfather). He never spoke badly of his dad, but he told me, “I don’t want you to grow up with the same hatred for others that I did.”
    So, you’re right, this day is not just a black holiday.

  2. Bart Barber says

    I agree, Todd. MLK Day is a day worthy of celebration by our church because we have benefitted from his life as much as anyone has. Here are just a few of the things that I mean:

    1. I get to listen to the preaching of men like Tony Evans, Voddie Baucham, etc.

    2. I get to listen to the music of Larnelle Harris, Lecrae, etc. I’ve got to say, few songs move me more than “Were It Not for Grace” and “Don’t Waste Your Life.”

    3. I get to benefit from the leadership of Fred Luter, Terry Turner, etc.

    4. I get to benefit from the friendship of Tony Matthews, Jamar Andrews, etc.

    5. I get to have my intellect challenged and stretched and formed by men like Craig Mitchell, Kevin Smith and Dwight McKissic through our interaction with one another in the theological disciplines.

    6. I get to be the pastor of African-American and Asian-American and Latino church members (although not as many as I would like) who have been a blessing to me.

    And when I think that, in order to live in 1940, I would have to have all of those things taken away from me, I realize how truly impoverished I would be by that move. White Christians can celebrate MLK Day because we have benefitted from the changes in race relations that have taken place between 1968 and today.

  3. Dwight McKissic says


    Great perspective. Never looked at this subject through the eyes of the angle that you’ve shared in this comment. Thanks.

  4. says

    Great perspective here. I wrote something similar on my blog just now before I read this, but this was said much better. Recently, I was talking with one of our African-American college students and we were talking about “black” Christian history, including the Civil Rights Movement, which I have come to see as a Christian movement and religious revival in many ways. It struck me that there was no such thing as “black” Christian history or “white” Christian history. Why had I fallen into those categories subconsciously? Those are the world’s categories. Rather, should I not see that ANYTHING that my God does as the history of God’s work in the world? It is all MY history as a believer.

    Why do I know the names of white preachers more than the names of great black preachers from the past? Why do we segment out our history? Why do we not revere the legacy of black Baptist preachers who led the Civil Rights movement and called for prayer meetings and worship gatherings in black Baptist churches all over the South? Why did we not see an attack on our brothers and sisters not just as Civil Rights issues but as religious liberty issues? The only reason for that blindness is because we took on the world’s categories instead of God’s.

    Dr. King and others are still helping set us all free, if we would listen to them. Just today, I went to an MLK celebration at his old church in Montgomery. I was the only white preacher there, that I could see, in the house that was packed with standing room only. I was so blessed and encouraged by the retired pastor who proclaimed clearly that we all need each other and we ALL need Jesus. He clearly held out Jesus as our only hope.

    I know and understand Dr. King’s theological problems. And, I have heard about his personal problems all of my life. But, the parts of his message and legacy that promote what the Bible says has power to this day and it is because that message is rooted in Biblical truth. We can all celebrate that.

  5. volfan007 says

    While I rejoice in the work that Dr. King did for our country in racial issues, it’s just really hard for me to celebrate a man, who claimed to be a Christian Pastor, who was a false teacher. I mean, I do rejoice that Dr. King helped open the eyes of Americans to truly treat all people as equals….no matter the skin color. But, when I think of all the people that he probably led to Hell….then, when you think about all of the adultery…..

    Just check out this for some info. on Dr. King:

    Also, I heard him talk….in a TV interview, one time, about how we should all work our way to Heaven. So, if yall will forgive me, I’m not ready to celebrate the man…I do celebrate his work in racial issues.

    • Todd Benkert says

      We celebrate MLK Day not because of King’s personal life or theology. We celebrate him for what he represents and what he fought and died for — equality for all.

    • says


      As Todd said, we celebrate the Biblical truth that he did proclaim. I sincerely wish that all of the orthodox white Southern Baptist pastors with great theology and exemplary personal lives would have fought for a tenth of what MLK fought for in tearing down the walls of Jim Crow in the South. How much different would America be today if they had?

      Yes, we can be aware of his shortcomings while also recognizing that there was power in his message when it did match up with Biblical truth – as much of it did.

    • Bart Barber says

      Look at it this way, David. Although it would be perhaps controversial for some of the folks in the convention, our church celebrates Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, etc.

      Independence Day involves the celebration of a government that sanctions a whole host of things that run contrary to the gospel. It also involves the remembrance of some Founding Fathers who were far less Christian than MLK.

      Memorial Day and Veterans Day involves the recognition of a whole host of flawed, imperfect, sinful people. Not all of them have good theology. Not all of them have good behavior.

      We celebrate these days at FBC Farmersville because, in spite of the imperfections of these folks, we can see the hand of God at work in what they have done. We are celebrating not so much these people as we are celebrating God and His work.

      I can’t help but think about James 5:20. A person has done a great favor to you when he has shown you your sin so that you can repent of it. MLK and his compatriots showed us—white Christians—our sin so that we could repent of it. What a blessing! And things having changed so much since 1968 among white Christians, we have much to celebrate in what God used him to accomplish among us.

      At least, that’s the way I see it.

      • Todd Benkert says

        Bart, I love your perspective on this.

        “MLK and his compatriots showed us—white Christians—our sin so that we could repent of it. What a blessing!”

  6. says

    I agree, Bart. It was an amazing revelation to me when I realized that my white elders who continually ran down King for his failures also were largely racists who were quite happy with segregation and Jim Crow and were upset that it ended. At that point, I realized that the log/speck analogy affected this discussion greatly.

    We can definitely appreciate Dr. King for showing us our sin and for demonstrating to us a better way.

    • Ann says

      Alan, could you please tell me who this Jim Crow is or what it means. I have never heard of this person or term.

  7. volfan007 says

    First of all, I’m just a sinner saved by the grace of God. I wish that I didn’t fail to be all that God wants me to be, as much as I do.

    Secondly, I do CELEBRATE the good things that MLK brought about in our country. I said so in my comment above.

    Thirdly, I don’t celebrate Joel Osteen, either. He preaches a false Gospel. I don’t celebrate Benny Hinn, or Kenneth Copeland, or Paul Crouch, or any other false teachers, who are leading people to Hell. I may rejoice in the fact that they’ve fed hungry people, or built homes for homeless people, or any other good that they may have done. But, I do NOT celebrate the preaching and teaching of a false teacher…and, that goes for any white, Southern Baptist Pastor or Professor, who is a heretic, who is preaching a false Gospel of universalism, or a works salvation….like we used to have in the SBC before the Conservative Resurgence…and may still have, lingering around, today.

    Fourthly, I am not a racist just looking for a reason to put down MLK, and I’m not upset about desegregation, or that Jim Crow laws ended. I am glad that America has gone away from the racist practices of the past, and I’m glad that Churches have repented of their racist views.

    Fifthly, I know that EVERY Pastor sins….every last one of us. If anyone says that they don’t, then they’re lying. And, every Pastor struggles with some temptation…whether it be pride, vanity, loving money, loving power, fear, sexual, or whatever. We all struggle with something. If someone says that they don’t, then they’re lying, too. But, if your Church heard…and knew….that any of you were committing adultery with a lot of women…..and you were unrepentant about it….living in it… you think your Church would be happy with you? Would they celebrate you as their Pastor?

    So, I understand what some of you are saying….but, I’m sorry. I just can’t get past the false teaching part. I mean, we’re not talking about any ole Joe, out here, doing something great for our country. We’re not talking about a President, like JFK, who many revere, and he was committing adultery the whole time. We’re talking about a man, who claimed to be a CHRISTIAN PASTOR, and who preached a false, works salvation to people.

    If MLK wasn’t a Black man, and you weren’t scared of being labeled a racist, how many of you would decry MLK as a Christian Pastor? Just as I’ve read many of you decry Osteen, Crouch, Copeland, Molly Marshall Green, Rob Bell, etc?

    And lastly, I just want to proclaim that I am not a racist, just because of my views on MLK. I’m all for racial equality. I’m all for everyone being judged on their actions and character, rather than based on the color of their skin. I try to not be a racist. Red and Yellow, Black and White, all are precious in His sight.


    • Bart Barber says


      For me, it comes down to this: MLK Day is the official celebration of the Civil Rights Movement. That’s really what it is about. It is a celebration of MLK not as a Christian pastor but as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m absolutely not celebrating King as a Christian theologian, although I celebrate some of the good theology that is present in some of what he has written. I’m not celebrating King as a Christian pastor. I don’t know that he tended his flock very well. I’m not sure how much time he had to devote to hospital visits, discipleship, and the care of souls. I’m celebrating the role he played in the Civil Rights Movement.

      In our celebration at FBC Farmersville, almost nothing was actually said about MLK. We talked about E. V. Hill, Tony Evans, Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, Larnelle Harris, Lecrae, Wintley Phipps, Leo Day, Fred Luter, Terry Turner, and others. I don’t think any mention of MLK was made except to use his name to refer to the title of the day.

      • says

        By making this day on the monday closest to his birthday, the day is meant to be, or at least strongly including the man MLK. If it was suppose to commemorate the Civil Rights movement, why not make it July 2nd, date the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was finally made functional law. Or how about August 28th, date of the March on Washington. Why not some time in March to commemorate the Selma to Montgomery marches? No, the date chosen was to celebrate one singular man.

        The problem with that man is he has some serious flaws, flaws that if it were any other person, would cause serious concern.

        I am working on my graduate history degree at a public university. Most (if not all) of my history professors are left of center. Some of them openly socialist/communist. I have actually had a class discussion where a professor was happy that the country finally was getting to the point where he (and others like him) could openly talk about and praise King’s communist connections. That he, other historians, and the former civil rights leaders, have closely guarded those facts to “preserve” King’s memory. I have heard them pass off King’s adultery as “nothing serious”, in one case pointing to Bill Clinton as proof that marriage infidelity is not something that should ever tarnish anyone in the public sphere.

        Again, if it were any other man, the cries against propping up an immoral person would be loud and deafening. Especially in Christian circles this would be true. One simply has to look at recent “scandals” in Christian circles. Such things are quickly used to tarnish everything that person ever touched, no matter how good or noble the “ministry” was/is. Yet we do not do the same thing with MLK. That is a level of hypocrisy that is more that a little uncomfortable to tolerate.

        • Todd Benkert says

          I submit that MLK Day is not merely celebrating a man, but the ideals he represents (particularly in his speech “I have a Dream” and his Letter from Birmingham Jail) and the significance of his place in history in helping bring an end to racial segregation. We do not celebrate King with a blind eye to his failings, we celebrate him for his unique and important place in American History. We celebrate him because he was right in championing freedom and equality for all. Further, the observance of MLK Day is NOT a celebration of adultery, communism, or liberal theology — it is a celebration that we ended a heinous societal wrong and a reminder that we must continue to be on the side of justice for all people. For Christians, and particularly Baptists, it is an opportunity for us to affirm the biblical truths about race and human dignity that King championed and for which he is remembered.

        • Jerry Smith says

          Sorry, for most its about being political correct, instead of staying in the steps of Jesus.

          • says

            I wish that our Baptist forefathers had stayed more in the steps of Jesus when it came to how other people different from them were treated. Then, we would not have had a need for the Civil Rights Movement.

        • Bart Barber says

          “If it were any other man…”

          I think that’s pretty easy to disprove:

          1. Here in Farmersville, TX, we celebrate Audie Murphy Day every year. Audie was born in Farmersville, and one of two funerals upon his untimely death was held in the room where I preach every week. Nobody says anything about his divorce, his church attendance record, etc., when that day rolls around.

          2. Although we do not have any sort of a Reagan’s Birthday celebration, I think it would be a great idea. The man brought the Cold War to an end. He is a great American hero. The SBC has been madly in man-love with Reagan for thirty years, and I’m not saying that to be critical. And yet, ask Paige Patterson about all of the pastors who turned a blind eye to the fact that Reagan was not a believer until, perhaps, far into his presidency.

          3. Will you celebrate Lincoln’s birthday? Don’t take too hard of a look at HIS theology.

          4. I think that God used George Patton to topple Hitler and liberate the Jews. If I had been a pastor at the time I would’ve led my church to celebrate V-E day and V-J day. If I could’ve landed George Patton to be present for that celebration, I’d have gone for it. Patton believed in reincarnation and was, spiritually speaking, a kook.

          5. We celebrate Veterans Day. We generally have the veterans in the service to stand when we do that. Does your church do that? How about Mothers Day & Fathers Day? I’ve got to say, a careful examination of the morality and theology of the veterans, mothers, and fathers who might receive recognition in our services would probably be quite disconcerting.

          Now, if you want to make the case that I’m being consistent in the WRONG DIRECTION, then maybe that’s something I ought to hear and think about. But I do not believe that I am being very inconsistent.

          • volfan007 says


            I could make the case that everyone you mentioned did not claim to be a Christian Pastor, who were, in fact, leading people to Hell with a false Gospel. I mean, Audie Murphy and Reagan did not claim to be Christian Pastors. And, if MLK had not been a “Christian Pastor,” and leading the movement, then there’d be no problems with me celebrating an MLK Day. But, he did claim to be a Christian Pastor, and he most certainly did preach a false Gospel. Thus, it just makes it very, very difficult for me to celebrate the man….I do celebrate what the Civil Rights movement.

            Also, I remember the SBC having a Race Relations Sunday sometime…maybe in February…I just can’t remember. I think I would pick that day to do all that yall are doing to promote race relations….but, FBC Farmersville can choose to do what they want to do….and, they’ve got a great man, who is the Pastor of their Church. I think the things yall are doing to promote race relations are great….good ideas.


          • Jerry Smith says

            Every good gift:

            Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

            Lets praise Him giving Him thanks while leaving out the praising of men. Our life should be all about Him.

  8. Dwight McKissic says

    David Worley,

    I have read with great interest the conversation between you & Bart. Because I know the both if you, I read and interpret the conversation in light of that knowledge. If I did not know either of you, I would be hugely impressed with Bart. I would want to at least visit his church, and if I lived in his area & otherwise liked his church I would be interested in joining. I would be impressed with the fact that Bart would even dare acknowledge MLK Day at his church; and then, evoke the memories, legacy, and current contributions of men like MLK(by the sheet mention if his name), E. V. Hill, Tony Evans, Lecrae, Terrey Turner, and the other names that he mentioned. The message that he is sending is that my family would be assured that our racial reality & history would be acknowledged in FBC Farmersville, along with our celebration & appreciation of Lottie Moon, and whatever person that might be mentioned in a positive light who is of another ethnic background. It would be very important to me & my family to know that our racial reality is not ignored, or just tolerated, but actually, and proactively appreciated.

    David, I would not conclude by what I’ce read here regarding your unwillingness to celebrate MLK day that you are a racist. You state well your reasons for not celebrating Kings birthday. I would disagree with your reasoning, in favor of the reasoning of Benkert, Alan Cross, and Bart. I would also view your reasoning as being important and possibly the right position to take for the reasons stated; but I would ask myself, do the reasons stated trump the need to be racially sensitive & inclusive? I would recognize that if my family & friends knew that my church & pastor refuse to celebrate MLK even for the reasons mentioned,it would put them in a position of being ridiculed & rejected for attending a “White Church” that rejected the celebration of the MLK holiday. It would be an impossible PR war to win. Even now(and I wouldn’t, nor do I want to) but if I chose to paint you as a racist for your position on this issue it would be quite easy. But I would be just as wrong as those who attempted to paint Phil Roberts as a racist of Duck Dynasty fame.

    Volfan, simply food for thought. I know that your heart is as pure gold. I know that you have the right intentions & motives in your viewpoint. But you must consider how you come across to one outside of the SBC. And your position sounds & seems like a throwback to the past. I wish you would reconsider & rethink your position. I recognize that you, not Bart, may not want me to be a member of your church for various reasons-and race would not be one of them, Thank God. But, you should not allow your position on the. MLK holiday keep me from wanting to be a member of your church. Because I know you, it would not hinder me.What about those that don’t know you. You must consider them.

  9. Dwight McKissic says

    The typos are atrocious. I must be tired. Time for bed. Forgive the typos, please David W.

  10. Todd Benkert says

    One other question, you keep mentioning that King preached a false gospel. I can find some evidence that he believed a false gospel, but have not seen anywhere where he preached or taught one. Most of the evidence for his heterodoxy comes from his seminary days at Crozer (I can think of a few SBC conservatives who wrote pretty liberal things in seminary papers) and his private writings discovered after his death. While his beliefs may make him a religious liberal, I personally haven’t seen evidence that he preached a false gospel or that he preached a message that, believed, would send people to hell.

    • Dwight McKissic says


      Amen and Amen!!!!

      If Kimg preached a false gospel, how would we label the gospel that the Baptist slavemasters preached, the ones who organized the SBC? They certainly preached a flawed gospel.

      I recently read a quote of Tony Evans who paid a tribute to Billy Graham and MLK. Evans said, ( this is relying on my memory) “The gospel of eternal life, is also the gospel of social justice & equality.” If King would have preached the false gospel that Volfan alleges, he would not have been accepted in Black Baptist Circles to the extent that he was. I see no evidence that he preached a false gospel. He preached at Southern in the ’60’s. Would Southern have allowed a false gospel preacher to have preached there?

      Jerry Falwell called Calvinism “heresy.” Does that mean all of the SBC Calvinist are preaching a false gospel? I went through a brief period in my teen-age years where I contemplated agnosticism. If one could find evidence of that I could be painted a false gospel preacher. Dr. King pastored two storied Black Baptist congregations. By his own admission he was disciples into “fundamentalism” by one of them that he later pastored. To label MLK a false gospel preacher in such flimsy evidence is unfair to his legacy & the people he pastored in Montgomery & Atlanta. If MLK had ever questioned the resurrection, deity of Christ, virgin birth, authority of Scripture, or the physical return of Christ–he would have lost a lot of favor in the Black Baptist Circles I grew up in. I am attending a National Baptist Convention mid-winter Board Meeting in Birmingham as I write this. I have witnessed, read, or heard anything that would lead me to believe that this group has loosened their beliefs in these fundamentals of the faith. This is the group that provided King, his father, and most Black Baptist their spiritual nurture. It is very irresponsible to make such a claim that King preached a false gospel & then back it up with zero evidence.

      I have found evidence that MLK belived that Jews who had not accepted Christ were heaven bound. He was coming to the defense of Jews who had been told by a SBC preacher that they were all lost and going to hell. In their defense MLK made a statement to the effect that heaven was large enough to include the Jews who had not accepted Jesus. Although I disagree with King on that question, I realize that John Hager holds a similar view regarding the Jews. No one would consider him a false gospel preacher for that reason. Hagee preached for Falwell. The Jews marched with King; prayed with King; and financed to a great degree the CR(civil rights) movement. The SBC by and large opposed the CR. I can see why King would reason that the Jews would be with him in heaven. The very people who opposed the CR movement can’t write all the doctrinal rules. If they were so doctrinally accurate, they would not have opposed the CRM. The SBC personalities who are uncomfortable with a King holiday need to grace him on whatever doctrinal and moral flaws that King had, just as they grace Ergun Caner, B H Carrol, W A Criswell, John Broadus, Calvinist adherents, and all other SBC personalities, who has moral and doctrinal defects.

      • volfan007 says

        “He preached at Southern in the ’60?s. Would Southern have allowed a false gospel preacher to have preached there?”

        A short answer….yes…yes they most certainly would have.


        • volfan007 says

          “In their defense MLK made a statement to the effect that heaven was large enough to include the Jews who had not accepted Jesus.”
          That is similar to what Osteen believes and preaches, and Osteen is white. I also consider Osteen to be a false teacher.


    • volfan007 says


      Well, did you read the hot link I put in my comment above? And, I heard Dr. King say….in a TV interview…that we basically all had to earn our salvation by living for a good cause, and being willing to even die for that cause….like Jesus did….like Ghandi did….and, he might have mentioned a few others. I heard the interview a long time ago, so I can’t remember word for word, but he was clearly saying that we must earn our salvation by living and dying for some great cause.

      I guess I never should have mentioned my thoughts about MLK….and, I hesitated due to being labeled a racist….I wish now that I would’ve just kept my mouth shut about him….obviously, he is an untouchable saint, who did no wrong, and anyone, who says anything bad about him is a mean, ugly, white hooded racist.


      • Todd Benkert says

        I don’t think that about you at all, David. I just have read many posts that make such claims about King, but provide only a very few pieces of evidence and rely most heavily on his seminary papers (including the GC article you link to). I agree with you about your assessment of his theology. I just do not agree that his theology came out in any significant way in his teaching and preaching ministry — certainly not to the extent that I would say he led others to hell.

        I have similar qualms about writings/statements made by white Christians like C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham — unorthodox, but not rising to the level of saying their ministries sent people to hell.

    • says

      We also need to question if Southern Baptists of the past who preached racial segregation in our churches were preaching a false gospel. According to Ephesians 2 and Galatians 1-2, I think that they were. Where is the historical outrage over that?

        • Bart Barber says

          That’s a struggle I faced and a decision I made early in my studies in Baptist History: What do you do with Martin Luther? He launched the Protestant Reformation but was a virulent anti-Semite. C. S. Lewis made brilliant arguments for the existence of God and wrote beautiful stories that capture the imagination and point people toward the gospel, yet some of his beliefs about the gospel are disconcerting. The founders of the SBC were right about following a convention method rather than a societal method, but they were, nearly to a man, racists. Wesley was a baby-sprinkler, as was Whitefield. Annie Armstrong was disliked by most of the people who worked with her.

          Is there any biblical precedent to help us understand what to do with this? I think there is. Look at how people in the New Testament interact with the memory of David. Look at the “roll call of faith” in Hebrews and the treatment of people like Lot. I think there’s a biblical pattern given to us there: Don’t ignore the faults, but also don’t be afraid to celebrate the ways that God has used people.

          So, I faced this question long before I came to the case of MLK. I’m just trying to apply that same principle to this case just as I do with someone like W. A. Criswell.

          • volfan007 says


            You make some excellent points, here. Thanks for making me think hard on this cold, frosty, TN morning.


  11. Todd Benkert says

    The ultimate point of my post was not arguing against those who do not celebrate MLK Day for the reasons David has stated above. I was arguing against those who view MLK Day as a “Black” holiday. Apart from the man, the values of equality and freedom for all people, are not “Black” values but human and Christian ones. The victory of the civil rights movement was not a “Black” victory, but a human and Christian one.

    And Bart has made a very important point — that the work of MLK helped white believers to see their sin and seek repentance. I’m reminded of King’s words in an interview when he knew that he might be killed: ” If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”
    Even if in the final analysis, we find that King was not a true Christian, he was indeed used of God to help right a great wrong and forge a path for racial reconciliation and healing.

    For all these reasons, I remain firm in my conviction that MLK Day is not just a black holiday.

    • volfan007 says

      Todd, Bart, Dwight, and others,

      And, for the reasons you mention, I do celebrate the work that MLK did in improving race relations in our country.


      • Todd Benkert says

        And my point is that MLK Day is about the celebration of that work particularly.

        Anyway, thanks for your contributions to the discussion, David. Your points are worthy of thoughtful consideration, even if I disagree with you in the final assessment.

      • Bart Barber says

        Hey, let me get on the record quickly and definitively: David Worley is a godly man and is not a racist.

  12. volfan007 says


    I just want you to know a few things about me….and, I know that you don’t think of me as a racist…..but still, I’d like for you to know a few things.

    For Race Relations Sunday…in the past….I have invited the Black Pastor in the town I was living in, to preach in my pulpit, one Sunday, and I preached in his pulpit the next Sunday. There were a few, who weren’t real happy with me.
    When I was Pastoring in MS, I invited a choir to come to my Church to sing for us, and it was a racially mixed choir, which was led by a Black man. Again, a few weren’t very happy about it. We had them back more than a few times.
    In my sermons, I have talked about treating everyone the same, and not showing partiality due being rich or poor, or due to a person having a different skin color, more than a few times.
    I have reached out to Black people with the Gospel, and I have invited them to my Church many, many, many times. And, I will continue to do so.

    Brother, I just wanted to share a few things with you to show that I’m not a racist, and I try to love all people… and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.


    • Todd Benkert says

      We don’t think you’re a racist, David. Sorry if we’ve somehow communicated that. We just disagree with you about the celebration of this particular holiday and what it is we celebrate when we do so.

    • says

      David, no one has said that you are a racist and disagreeing with you on this point does not mean that anyone is implying that you are a racist.

      I am disagreeing with you on the merits of your argument, not because I think disparagingly of you.

      God works prophetically through all kinds of people. For example, He appoints leaders over us who are not all godly men. But, we should honor them as the leaders that God has appointed. He does things for His own reasons.

      The parts of Dr. King’s life that meshed with God’s truth should be celebrated.

      An interesting thing: I went to the birthday celebration for Dr. King at his old church, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist, on Monday. The place was packed and I was one of a few white people there. But, there was little said about Dr. King himself and much was made of Jesus and His salvation. Also, there was a great call for all people to come together. The old pastor who preached told us that we all need each other and we ALL need Jesus. Jesus was clearly held out as the only way of salvation. No social gospel was uttered.

      I am saying that because even in Dr. King’s old church in Montgomery from which he led the Bus Boycott and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, they did not make much of the man other than certain references. But, they did make much of Jesus. Dr. King had power when he pointed to God’s truth about how we should value one another. He would have had more power, I believe, if his specific declarations about Jesus would have been more clear, but that is past.

      And also, I continue to be affected by the fact that Southern Baptists in the state of Alabama could have made Dr. King’s movement unnecessary if they would have lived out the truth that they proclaimed, especially since they constituted the large majority of white church goers in a state that was majority Christian in name.

      Perhaps it would do us some good to remember not just Dr. King but the complicity of our own ancestors in the tragedy so that we can learn from their mistakes and apply those lessons to our own lives because we also make mistakes in our own generation. That is what I spent time thinking about on Monday. How do I miss the good that I could do right in front of me each day because I am going with the status quo?

    • Dwight McKissic says


      You are a man of convictions, character, and kindness. There is a side if me that marvel and admire the high value that you place on moral and doctrinal purity, and why it should trump all other concerns.

      The challenge that I have with your posture is two-fold: (1) Consistency (2) Casualties. I simply don’t believe that you would object to Ergun Caner being celebrated or heading a Baptist College because of his deception, dishonesty, and chauvinistic/insensitive and racially insensitive views. Caner said that it’s alright for a woman to be behind the pulpit, as long as she is vacuuming. Caner described practices in the Black Church that I know for a fact aren’t generally true. He racially profiled and stereotyped the Black Church in a condescending manner. Yet, you wouldn’t object to him being President of a college; neither would I, because I grace him. Can’t you do the same thing for MLK. I find Caner’s record on all of the above named issues as offensive as you find MLK’s moral and doctrinal defects. Why are you forgiving of Criswell’s unrepentant curse of Ham teaching, but not MLK’s foibles. Why are you forgiving of Mohler’s Calvinisn, but not King’s liberalism. I find Calvinism as offensive as liberalism, and even a form of liberalism. But I grace those who are, and seldom discuss my views in the subject, for fear of offense. You get my point. Let’s find common ground on the King celebration. I respect your point of view. I in no way, shape form or fashion view you, Lamprecht, or Smuscany(sp)–who have all expressed objections to King and I believe without sufficient documentation lacked him a liberal–as racist. I do belive that your positions lead to casualties. By that I mean that it feeds into the narrative that the SBC dislike and devalue MLK and the CRM. Therefore, it runs the risk of alieanating existing Blacj SBC churches and individual congregants, and keeping others at bay. You are my brother & I love you. If it’s any consolation to you, I am familiar with one very large Black Baptist Church, who gave never observed MLK Day, for a slightly different reason. The pastor belives that Sunday’s are reserved for the worship of God and Gon only. He views any observance of MLK day as borderline worship of King, therefore inappropriate.

  13. volfan007 says

    One other thing, and then, I’ll do something that a whole lot of people would be overjoyed that I do….I’ll shut up…lol. But, I wonder if everyone will give the same glowing respect to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton after they die? I mean, they were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement. I don’t celebrate the ministries of these men, either…..nor do I believe that I’ll ever celebrate the lives of these men, unless some mighty big changes take place in their lives and ministries before they die.

    I do celebrate the lives and ministries of men such as EV Hill, and Bartholomew Orr of Brown Baptist Church in Southaven, MS, and James Herron, who used to work at the Illinois Baptist Convention, but I believe he moved on to something else here lately, and Ken Weathersby of the TN Baptist Convention, and others, who preach the Gospel.

    Okay, I’ll shut up now! :)


    • says

      David, there is no comparison between Jackson, Sharpton, and King just on the basis of their conviction and intellectual weight alone. I would really encourage you to read a King biography. Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters” is a great place to start.

    • Bart Barber says

      This will be hard to read, but James Earl Ray may have done a tremendous favor to the legacy of MLK. Sometimes an exit at the right time does a lot for someone’s legacy. By the way, since Dwight already brought up Phil Robertson, let me say it here first: I think the Robertson clan would actually have been better off in the long run if A&E had kicked them off the air. Now they’ll just make the long, slow slide into obscurity, where they could’ve gone out in a blaze of glory and transitioned into other things with that momentum.

      But to get back to MLK, Jackson, and Sharpton. Having died when he did and in the way that he did, MLK’s life ended in its prime and in a blaze of glory. Also, his actions are associated exclusively with the most clear-cut moments of the Civil Rights Movement. He’s not associated with Tawana Brawley. What do you do with a protest movement after it wins? King didn’t face that VERY difficult challenge. Perhaps he would’ve handled it perfectly, but he never faced that risk.

      History will not be as kind to Jackson and Sharpton.

      • says

        I think that King would have been eventually rejected by the majority of his own movement if he would have continued to stand by his convictions. He was already being opposed by a good number of former allies as Black Power was emerging as a viable alternative to nonviolent resistance. King always had his critics within the Movement from those who wanted to move faster or take up arms or be separatists. Even those who lionize him today don’t actually agree with all that he said.

        For example, King was adamantely against abortion. What would have happened on this day in 1973 if King had been alive. I think he would have been an opponent of abortion and that he and Falwell would have worked together on the issue by the late 1970’s. Wrap your brain around that one! But, would others have followed him or vilified him because he would have been seen as an enemy of progress? Or, would he have changed his views?

        When you read King’s writings about the failure of the white Evangelical church to join him in Montgomery for the Bus Boycott, you see profound disappointment expressed. Rev. Robert Graetz, a Lutheran pastor and a theological liberal, was one of the only white clergy to join King and had his house bombed for it. What if Southern Baptist pastors had joined him and show him love, support, and prayed with him and then exhibited Christ to him? What if, based on their devotion to Christ, if they had had been his biggest allies? Would King have been more clearly affected by the Gospel? We do not know, but the power of God can do anything. But, that witness was not there. I think that we need to examine why before we throw stones.

        I have often imagined how the events of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s would have gone if King had continued to be with us. He would be 85 today. Could you imagine an interview with King after the Trayvon Martin trial? What would he say to our nation today? It is worth considering. But, I agree with Bart that his legacy was sealed with his assassination and those who opposed him and agreed with him could then use him as a symbol for their own projections, hopes, and fears, instead of dealing with the complexities of both the man and his message.

  14. Dwight McKissic says


    “James Earl Ray may have done a tremendous favor to the legacy of MLK”

    You are the second person that I’ve known to make such a remark. I was the first. I believe that you are right. Had King not been killed when he was, and if he had to admit to just a smidgeon of truth to any of the allegations that have been hurled at him since his death, the lionizing of King would have been more of a cubby bear sizing, and those who give him the benefit of the doubt would be forced to acknowledge the flaws, weaknesses, and sins of the man. He escaped all of that because of martyrdom. And that could have been providential. We’ve needed a hero. We’ve needed an inspirational role model. Black people especially needed a historical figure to celebrate. James Earl Ray secured King’s status in history in a way that longevity would have worked against his legacy. Great observation Bart.

  15. James Ellis says

    What a wonderful example of godly exchange!

    I celebrate Dr. King in much the same way I celebrate Samson. Did he make mistakes? Most certainly! Was he God’s instrument to bring down a house of evil? Most assuredly!

    Thanks be to God for endowing him with courage and fortitude and a willingness to sacrifice his own life to pave a way for the rights and freedoms enjoyed by his progeny!

    James Ellis