Home Christian News As America Celebrates the Legacy of MLK, Evangelicals Remain Divided on Race

As America Celebrates the Legacy of MLK, Evangelicals Remain Divided on Race

Nevertheless, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center held a commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA on Monday. The event’s organization is overseen by King’s daughter Bernice King, and featured speakers at the event included Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church; Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock; 2021 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Maria Ressa; and Russell Moore, director of the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today.

New national voter legislation has yet to be passed.

For many evangelicals, gridlock in conversations about racial justice often occurs along the same lines as the broader political movements in America. Author and pastor Rich Villodas argues that this is the result of “bad theology.”

“The deep trouble the church (in many respects, the white church) finds itself in related to race stems from a bad theology that sees racial justice and reconciliation as optional to the gospel,” Villodas wrote in an article for Missio Alliance.

“This fundamental theological perspective has often been ‘outsourced’ to people of color,” Villodas continued. “But we are at a point where a theology of the ‘new family of Jesus,’ or in Dr. King’s words, ‘The Beloved Community,’ can’t be seen as a specialization of theology for people interested in that kind of ‘secondary’ content. The gospel’s application to race must be seen as part of the core content for every Christian.”

On a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we reflect on the impact of the civil rights leader and how his legacy might be carried on. And as we survey the warring ideologies, all of which invoke his name and quote his speeches, it is clear that King has become a deeply important cultural symbol. The question is: a symbol for whom and for what? 

“When we celebrate Dr. King we must remember his entire body of work. We need to remember the ‘I have a dream’ King, as well as the ‘Birmingham Jail’ King and the ‘Beyond Vietnam’ King,” Villodas said on Monday. “Dr. King’s legacy must never be reduced to sentimentality.”