M.L. King, Jr.’s Message: Mission and Money

Written by: Dr. Katie G. Cannon

Although the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ethical strategy in relation to nonviolence is known in some circles, the full range of his pragmatic, economic class solidarity in relation the Poor People’s Campaign is neither widely recognized by church folks nor generally taught in theological seminaries. In varying degrees, King’s ethical decisions arose from cautiously weighing the consequences of direct action and the general welfare of oppressed people with the hope of invoking love as the goal and justice as the means. King believed in bringing all classes, races, nations and religions together so that we can create situations of tension which are so crisis-packed that doors of negotiation will inevitably open.

Unequivocally embedded throughout King’s preaching repertoire is his challenge to people of faith to actualize our moral selves by realizing the indivisibility of human existence, because we are divinely connected through an inescapable network of mutuality.  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In mapping the moral trajectory of King’s money message, we find that a working assumption explicit in his writings is the cosmic interdependence of rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots.

King was always in search of the emergent truth between the usefulness, workability and practicality of doing justice in direct correlation with religious doctrines and moral criteria that inform a thoroughly integrated beloved community. What I am suggesting here is that in varying degrees, King’s most important ethical decisions arose from cautiously weighing the consequences of direct action with the general welfare of poor people.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Discuss a statement above regarding poor people and poverty that causes you to rethink, stumble, struggle, or resist.
  2. What contribution does Dr. M.L. King, Jr. make to spark new consideration about mission and money?