Martin Luther King Jr.

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Identify the Evangelical foundations of Martin Luther King's philosophy of civil disobedience.

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For Dr. King, the establishment of a nonviolent approach to social change was rooted in his commitment to Christianity.  Dr. King understood that the presence of a spiritual approach to social change was beneficial for a couple of reasons.  The first would be to broaden the appeal of the movement.  Dr. King recognized from the earliest of points that many saw the issue of Civil Rights in America as an issue that was more about "black people" as opposed to involving all of humanity.  Invoking Christianity and establishing evangelical foundations to his cause of social change brought more people into the movement.  Dr. King was able to transform the issue of civil rights from a political one to one of an ethical or moral imperative because of his invocation of evangelical tenets.  To argue that it is un- Christian to deny an individual their Civil Rights is one way in which the movement was able to fully integrate the efforts of White and Black Americans.  At the same time, I believe that Dr. King's evangelical commitment was seen in demanding that his followers refuse the embrace of violence.  Dr. King borrowed from the Gandhian playbook on this point in suggesting that the use of violence demeans the individual.  As an approach, violence removes the dignity of the individual.  At a time period where so much anger was evident and violence as self- defense was seen as a viable option, Dr. King made it clear that violence was antithetical to Christian ideals.  In stressing this point, one sees Dr. King's evangelism present in the assurance of seeking a higher moral imperative as well as ensuring that individuals act in a manner that is reflective of Christian idealism.  This helps to further enshrine the presence of Evangelicalism in the Dr. King approach to social change.

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