MLK Day:A Civil Solution

Should the Church Celebrate Celebrate MLK Day?

President Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican, signed into law an official Martin Luther King, Jr, Day in 1983. In 1986 Martin Luther King Day, as a Federal Holiday, began to be observed on the third Monday of every January. MLK Day has largely supplanted in the South Lee-Jackson Day intended to honor the two great generals of the Confederate States.

Let it be said that Martin Luther King is a hero. He is not a man of the moral caliber of Lee and Jackson, but he is an American hero because the the role he played in the too long delayed attainment of the civil rights of all American citizens, black and white. He deserves a day to honor his memory and accomplishments.

MLK Day seems to have become a carefully, if unofficial, religiously observed day. I have noted for several years that bulletin services have offered a special Martin Luther King, Jr., bulletin cover. I assumed that these special covers appealed primarily to Black congregations. But perhaps I was wrong.

If I counted correctly, on MLK Day there were five articles at The Gospel Coalition, in one way or another, in praise of Dr. King. There was also an article exposing and condemning the racial views of Robert L. Dabney, Southern Presbyterian theologian who for a time served as chief of staff to Gen. Jackson. On the same Day, Dr. Russell Moore, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, published an article that can be described only as a grounding of Dr. King's positions in Scripture. 

But there are realities, doctrinal and moral, that tell against the treatment of Dr. King as a theological hero or a man to be honored by an unofficial ecclesial calendar. The truth is that Dr. King was theological heretic (Is Martin Luther King in Heaven?) and a moral philanderer (a subject I deliberately avoided but which is acknowledged by Ralph Abernathy).

So my question is very simple: why observe MLK Day as though it were a religious observance when there is every reason to observe his day as a civil holiday as we do with Washington's, Lincoln's. and Columbus' Days? 

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