Martin Luther King, Jr. was many things, a civil rights activist, nonviolent protestor, organizer, teacher, son, husband, father, and a black man. Many forget that he was first, a Christian Southern Baptist minister and preacher. His religious faith informed his ethical actions. After reading selections from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Letters from the Birmingham Jail, explore the role of Christian ethics in King’s actions during the turbulent times in the South in the 1960s. Consider the following:
- King was in Birmingham to address the issue of injustice by organizing a protest. Define the injustice and the protest and explain how Judeo-Christian ethics were applied to allow for civil disobedience. How was the injustice in Birmingham tied to all communities in the south?
- King lists four steps to nonviolent campaigns. Name them. How did these flow from King’s Christian ethical principles? How did King reconcile the “eye for an eye” Jewish ethical principle with the Christian “love one another” ethical principle of nonviolence?
- How do King’s ethical principles help him defend against the charges that his protests and law breaking were “untimely” considering the political situation in Birmingham at the time?
- Consider areas of conflict in the world today. Pick one and discuss how King’s actions and his ethical principles might resolve the issue.