History and Historiography

The Complicated Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Right’s Revisionism and Deceitful Appropriation of His Message


On this Martin Luther King Jr. day we are once more reminded of the massive revisionism taking place within Right-wing circles. I’ve written about this repeatedly and focused deliberately on these points back in 2012 and 2014. This revisionism is something I noticed years ago and was left somewhat stunned to hear figures like Glenn Beck and Charles Colson attempt to appropriate the King legacy and argue that somehow his ideas were resonant and representative of their own. It was a re-writing of the history and yet few seemed to notice.

King was opposed by Evangelical figures in his day. Identified as a theological liberal (which he was), a communist (which he wasn’t), he was denounced and decried as being divisive and harmful to American society. The Church leaders who supported him were not Evangelicals, Confessionalists, and conservatives, but liberals and progressives.

He was also criticised for his personal immorality. Rumours and stories floated about regarding his marital infidelities and perversion – and many of these stories were true. In many respects King was not a person to be admired by the Christian community. In terms of Christian ethics, he was in many ways a rank hypocrite and deserves condemnation for his shameful conduct.


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