Strength to Love

This semester, the grad student group I help out with read Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr. together. Each week we read a chapter and then looked at the biblical passage from which Dr. King drew his sermons. The book was good to read in many ways. It’s a reminder of a different time; a time most of us are glad has to a large extent disappeared. A few general observations:

1) These sermons are rarely expositions. Some of them capture the idea of the surrounding text reasonably well. A few just are plucked out of nowhere. That doesn’t mean that the sermon may not have truth, but as I tell my students we ought to model good interpretation because those who hear us preach will take our bad habits and run with them!

2) The sermons are so much more literary and rhetorically polished (in the classic sense) than sermons today. It says something about our changed world and education, I think.

3) Whatever else one might say about Dr. King’s views on various topics (e.g., his sermon on communism or his approach to nonviolence), there is a deep and abiding supernaturalism in his sermons that I don’t see among as often among people on either side of the political spectrum today. King is certainly not an advocate of passivity, but he insisted on the necessity of a supernatural power if his crusade for justice and racial reconciliation was to succeed. I think we could use some voices like that today.

The sermons are fairly short, filled with interesting thoughts and ideas, and worth a read.


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