Catholic Classroom: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Question: What lessons can Catholics learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Today, we celebrate an extraordinary American who followed Jesus by being a living example of peace and equality: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a Baptist minister whose faith heavily informed his commitment to social justice and antiracism. There is much that everyone can learn from Dr. King’s philosophy and methods, especially in our present tumultuous times. But there are some parts of Dr. King’s message that can especially speak to Catholics:
1. The dignity of every human life
As Catholics, we are committed to the Church’s pro-life teachings. The Church emphasizes the inherent dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death. Dr. King’s work reminds us that being pro-life is more than opposing abortion and euthanasia: it is creating a world in which the dignity of every human life is upheld. Racism is necessarily part of the pro-life conversation, because we cannot be pro-life if we value some lives over others. In imitation of Jesus, Dr. King calls us to lift up those who are most oppressed.
2. Interfaith cooperation
During his life, Dr. King worked with many Catholics, including priests and religious sisters. He was propelled forward by his love of Jesus, and he recognized that this was common ground he shared with other Christians. Instead of focusing on the beliefs that made him different from Christians of other denominations, Dr. King sought out that shared love and used it as a foundation for activism.
3. How to hold up the light
In his book Strength to Love, Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” This is a beautiful Christian message that we should take to heart, remembering that Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). As we take action in our communities, may we be witnesses to the Light, letting Jesus dispel the darkness of injustice.