It is one thing to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. It is another to claim him as one of your own. That distinction seems to be lost on the left and right of U.S. Roman Catholics. First, from Catholic Vote an attempt to turn King into a social conservative:
I too have a dream, that across this land, every one of us will feel the marks of God’s infinite and unselfish love in our hearts and recognize that we are not flesh-bound automatons, but as St. Paul tells us, created spiritual beings made for a higher purpose than mere selfishness and self-gratification. I have a dream today, that we will at last fulfill the promise of our founders and of Lincoln and of Dr. King, and that all God’s children, black babies and white babies, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will all be allowed to live and to grow and to know the love of a mother and father, and that even the least among us will be finally be treated with dignity as human persons in both body and soul.
But only Michael Sean Winters can up the ante:
“Always faithful to the Gospel.” Another part of Rev. King’s legacy that is too often overlooked is that he was a preacher of the Gospel. He was not simply a civil rights activist. He was not a social commentator per se. His vision sprang from his Bible. His doctorate was not in political science or engineering. He was most at home behind a pulpit not a lectern, and he tended to turn most lecterns into a pulpit. King was not afraid of the fact, certainly obvious to him, that preaching the Gospel would be divisive but he did not indulge the kind of culture warrior tactics that characterized subsequent generations of politically active clergy. His commitment to non-violence affected his tactics: He did not demonize or degrade others, even while he condemned their actions and confronted their attitudes.
What likely makes up for the difference between Dr. King’s Protestantism and these bloggers membership in the Roman Catholic Church is race. If you can claim an African-American for your “side,” especially one of King’s stature, you move your set of convictions closer to the mainstream while beefing up your reputation for not harboring unacceptable prejudices (which strikes me as a form of microaggression — seeing King’s skin color but not paying attention to his ideas). But shouldn’t the authority of the Pope (which King didn’t recognize) or doctrinal truth (which King may have fudged) count for more than this?
In today’s ideological struggle between religion and secularism, though, Team Religion doesn’t ask too many questions (except when it comes to Islam).