The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

January 17 2005, 10:54 PM

What often gets overlooked in our remembrances of Martin Luther King, Jr. is that fact that he was, first and foremost, a Christian minister. And while much has changed for the better in this country since Dr. King's death in 1968, the same can hardly be said for the role of Christian ministers in today's American society. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of fine Christian ministers here in Denver and across the United States. But when you think about clergy in the public eye, the names that come first to mind are buffoons like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, or intolerant charlatans like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Colorado's James Dobson. Contrast that with Martin Luther King, the most visible American Christian leader of his day. King's theology and politics were both based firmly on the examples set by Jesus and spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount -- namely love, equality, tolerance, and justice. On the day we celebrate what would have been King's 76th birthday, it's worth considering the void we now find in this country's religious life. If you want to talk about "values" -- be they American or Christian -- the discussion ought to start with the principals espoused by Martin Luther King.