MLK: Liberal Theologian
A few quotes by Martin Luther King which indicate to me a feature of his thought and life that rarely receives comment: he drew from and maintained commitments coming out of the liberal protestant tradition.
"The universe is on the side of justice. One knows that in the struggle for justice he has cosmic companionship. Some creative force that works for togetherness, a creative force in the universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole."
The description of God as a creative force that seeks to bring greater levels of relatedness can be taken from a number of liberal sources: process philosophy, personalism, and the Chicago school represented by Wieman (who King covered in his dissertation)
"All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality."
We are who we are because of our relations with others. Sociality precedes individuality. Racism is a a rejection of the very make up of the world and the forces that make us. MLK writes "He who works against community is working against the whole of creation."
And this "If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community." This makes for an interesting account of natural law, which King would utilize to some extent in his writings.
"When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life." King's writings support pluralism even as he begins with his faith to do so.
"The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God's triumph over all forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality.."
A take on the trinity as a symbol, an ethical one at that, which refers to those realities that seek to build community (and therefore individuals) is a bit different than the gatekeepers of "orthodoxy" would propose, but it's suggestive enough to end this post with.