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  • Martin Luther King's Conservative Principles

    Martin Luther King Day has arrived once again, and like clockwork, liberals are invoking King’s name to support their causes.

    In an e-mail to activists, Obama’s former “green czar,” Van Jones, calls King the “original Occupier.” He urges activists to use MLK day meet-ups to energize left-wing campaigning for 2012.

    Despite these efforts, conservatives should not surrender King’s legacy to the left.

    Conservatives, of course, have reservations about certain aspects of King’s legacy. For one, he became too close, later in his career, to the welfare state. He was enamored of the theology of the Social Gospel, the movement that undermined much of mainstream Protestantism in the 20th century. Later in life, he was a vocal opponent of American involvement in the Vietnam. And we now know that in his scholarship and personal life King was far from perfect.

    Nevertheless, there are three ways in which King’s message is profoundly conservative and relevant.

    First, of course, concerns the question of race. King dreamed of a nation for his children where they would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He dreamed of a color-blind society based on the equality of all Americans and their sharing of equal unalienable rights.

    The American dream, King said at Lincoln University in 1961, “says that each individual has certain basic rights that are neither conferred by nor derived from the state. To discover where they came from it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity, for they are God-given.… The American dream reminds us that every man is heir to the legacy of worthiness.”

    An agenda that advocates quotas, counting by race and set-asides, takes us away from King’s vision.

    Second, King believed in the critical importance of faith and moral character. He spoke of self-improvement and self-help in both moral and practical terms. He believed in work ethic and thrift and spoke against crime and disorderly conduct. In stark contrast to modern liberalism’s militant secularism, King explicitly ground his efforts in the Christian tradition. King believed that churches and other faith-based associations were necessary for a grassroots revival of American culture.

    He also stressed the importance of the family. Indeed, King’s fears about black family breakdown led him to become one of the few civil-rights leaders not to reject Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s controversial 1965 report that warned of rising illegitimacy rates among blacks.

    This forgotten aspect of King’s thought is told expertly in an article entitled “Where Dr. King Went Wrong.” Joel Schwartz suggests that King turned to the welfare state when he became disheartened by the emergence of the black underclass.

    Third, King firmly embraced the core principles of America’s founding. Unlike so many modern liberals beset with nihilistic multiculturalism, King did not talk about remaking America. His dream was one “deeply rooted in the American dream,” as he said, and one that hearkened back to America’s founding principles

    “When these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters,” King wrote in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” “they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr.’s understanding of these things—equality, the importance of faith and morality, and America’s founding principles—has great implications for our politics and policies today. While all Americans recall his ringing words, honest liberals and discerning conservatives ought to remind us of King’s real legacy.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    19 Responses to Martin Luther King's Conservative Principles

    1. T R Funcheon says:

      Very well stated, Matt. Thank you!

    2. rick lively says:

      Very intelligent man died too early.

    3. Bob Pierce says:

      MLK was NOT a conservative! Not even close!

    4. kmacdoula says:

      We tend to forget also that MLK was a Repulican. He did believe in the values of our Founding Fathers and an America that he embraced with his faith, believing we could accomplish great things if we got back to our core values…God, family, and country.

    5. Mark Waggoner says:

      It makes me sick how Socialists & Marxists (in the Obama administration) re-write history to suit their own agenda!

    6. Dom says:

      Well stated. It helps to illustrate why MLK was a Republican.

    7. Rhonda says:

      In todays society, MLK would have been treated just like Cain was. Ostracized because he was a black Republican.

    8. Bryan says:

      This is rubbish!

      "Third, King firmly embraced the core principles of America’s founding. Unlike so many modern liberals beset with nihilistic multiculturalism, King did not talk about remaking America. His dream was one “deeply rooted in the American dream,” as he said, and one that hearkened back to America’s founding principles"

      What is this?
      How is multiculturalism nihilistic exactly?
      How is multiculturalism not rooted in the founding principles?

      King appealed to the state, which you automatically for some reason deem "welfare", because it is the only venue for changing the status quo, ie gaining voting rights. Was that wrong? Is that not a useful welfare for the state to provide?

      Ironically, I don't hear you say that he was a conservative because he wanted equal rights for all.
      This is disingenous. Any religous man should hate war as King did and Vietnam was a disaster and yet that is a negative point?

    9. Angry Geometer says:

      re "He was enamored of the theology of the Social Gospel, the movement that undermined much of mainstream Protestantism in the 20th century", there's this great book called the New Testament you might want to check out sometime:

      “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

      25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

      27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

      Maybe that's why he was enamored of the social gospel — he actually read it.

    10. Planty McBristle says:

      Really, "Joel Schwartz suggests that King turned to the welfare state when he became disheartened by the emergence of the black underclass" is the dumbest thing I've read on the internet today. Seriously, this is flabbergasting, monumental ignorance of history, in a forum claiming to be discussing MLK's legacy.

    11. Planty McBristle says:

      Unlike so many modern liberals beset with nihilistic multiculturalism, King did not talk about remaking America.

      Did you even read any of his speeches? "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

    12. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Why has the other side of MLk been erased from our history? I came of age in the 60's. I remember the real MLK. He was certainly not a "conservative". Yet because of todays's "political correctness" history has been revised to keep the truth away from this generation.

    13. Ian Northon says:

      Does Planty McBristle really think the good Reverend would have been proud of the worsening dependence of African Americans?

      See, e.g., http://nyc41percent.com. No fewer than 60% of black pregnancies are aborted American's largest city. Ask MLK's niece, Dr. Alevda King http://www.priestsforlife.org/africanamerican/ind… or watch this expose http://www.maafa21.com

      The author is spot on that MLK was pro-family (and pro-life), bedrock values for authentic "conservatives" everywhere. I'm sorry that killing babies and undermining families doesn't fit the critic's modern, liberal agenda.

    14. DLG says:

      Spalding said:

      An agenda that advocates quotas, counting by race and set-asides, takes us away from King’s vision.

      King said:

      If a city has a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.

    15. beejeez says:

      I get a little frustrated at the level of bad faith it takes to claim MLK's legacy for conservative causes. It's beyond dispute he was a consistent advocate of activist government to achieve more widespread opportunity and rights. There's no conclusive evidence of his being Republican at any point, and since the early- to mid-'60s, Democrats have been the party more associated the rights of the lower and middle classes, and particularly African-Americans. It's absurd to suggest MLK would be more aligned with Republicans today. If you would like to claim MLK for conservatism, consider changing conservatism and not the historical record.

      Also in bad faith is your description of liberals as moral relativists and anti-family. Disagree on policies if you must, but any evidence that Republicans are more "pro-family" than Democrats has equally compelling evidence of the opposite conclusion. As for "moral relativism," there's nothing amoral about doing one's best to be appropriately considerate, knowledgeable and respectful of the standards of one's neighbor, whether he lives next door, across town or overseas.

    16. Bobbie says:

      DLG Writes:

      Spalding said:

      An agenda that advocates quotas, counting by race and set-asides, takes us away from King’s vision.

      King said:

      If a city has a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.

      An understanding that MLK was speaking to the conscience to motivate personal/individual growth to find potential through personal abilities and human endurance patronized by the racist democratic party that has manipulated self reliance into entitlements eliminating human initiative to provide for ones own. People have to want to do for themselves in order TO DO for themselves. why would anyone want to make the effort if democrats are going to do it for them by belittlement and condescension? Attitudes like Juan Williams who think beginning jobs that establish personal responsibility and independence are insulting?

    17. Jack says:

      MLK was NOT a republican……

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