Content thumbnail Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr.
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2 “The Gospel I Will Preach” Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a broth- erhood that transcends race or color. This is the gospel that I will preach to the world. —Martin Luther King Jr., July 18, 1952 Before Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday, he had already devoted several years to preparing for the pastorate. Although he was the son and grandson of black Baptist preachers, he was not inter- ested in simply following in their footsteps. King was unwilling to pastor in a tradition that, as he saw it, had all too often valued the heart above the head, the future above the present, and the spiritual above the physi- cal. He was determined to chart a new course by creatively appropriating the thoughts, methods, and language of the leading preachers and theo- logians of the day. He sought out role models, such as Morehouse Col- lege president Benjamin Mays, who embodied aspects of an intellectually engaged ministry. This is not to suggest that King somehow eschewed his religious heritage. Only because he was so thoroughly grounded and well versed in the black Baptist tradition did he have the freedom to refashion his role and objectives as a pastor. Knowing the terrain so well, he was able to blaze new trails while remaining familiar to his congregation and community. In a letter composed while in graduate school, King laid out a vision for his ministry, which he called “the gospel I will preach to the world”: “Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color.” King came to Montgomery with a heartfelt hope that, with his diligent and faithful effort, God could use his church to assist in racial uplift while he and his congregation labored for social 35

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