Each January Americans commemorate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a charismatic black preacher who led the struggle against Jim Crow among other causes. An uncommon consensus surrounds the man and his holiday. Left, right, and center, everybody thinks MLK was pretty cool.
The consensus, I believe, arises from the fact that most people admire Martin Luther King for the man they wish he had been rather than the man he really was. King has become the embodiment of justice, an intangible element that is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Consequently, we create our own images of who he was, some of which are divorced from reality.
That the real flesh and blood Martin Luther King does not conform to the immaculate image that we have created for him should come as no surprise. He was a mortal man.
What’s not to like about Dr. King? He wasn’t a real doctor, for starters. His alma mater, Boston University, admitted in 1991 that his PhD was secured through academic fraud. But there are more reasons why conservatives and liberals alike should dispense with the hero worship.
For the purposes of this column, I’ll stick with the liberals. Martin Luther King was a mid-twentieth century Baptist minister who harbored many attitudes that present-day secular humanists would find distasteful, even bigoted. The excuse is often made that if King had lived beyond 1968 he would have “evolved” to more “enlightened” positions. But that’s conjecture based on a hypothetical. Who he really was when he walked this earth is far more important than who we think he would have become in some alternate universe.
Martin Luther King was sexist. There were actually fewer women in King’s inner circle (zero) than former members of the Communist Party (three that I have counted). Bernard Lee, a personal assistant to King, spoke candidly on the subject: “Martin…was absolutely a male chauvinist. He believed that the wife should stay home and take care of the babies while he’d be out there in the streets.”
Perhaps he believed that Coretta should stay home with the babies because he didn’t want her to discover his philandering? Sure, the fact that King was an adulterer is old news. Liberals don’t care about that stuff because they aren’t prudes like the rest of us; but would they be bothered to know that he was physically abusive to women he was cheating with? Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King’s second-in-command wrote in his autobiography “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down” that King got into a physical altercation with a girlfriend just hours before his assassination. After losing his temper with her, “he knocked her across the bed… She leapt up to fight back, and for a moment they were engaged in a full-blown fight, with [King] clearly winning.”
Of course he was winning. He was a man beating up a woman. When he talked about nonviolence what he really meant was that he avoided fights with policemen. Fisticuffs with an unarmed woman was another matter entirely.
King was also “homophobic,” which should come as no surprise to anyone. King spent his life studying a holy text, the Bible, that is unequivocal in its condemnation of homosexuality. These days there are some clergymen who preach the very unbiblical message that however your wiggle your worm is okay with The Man Upstairs, which is supposed to prove that there is a legitimate debate within Christianity concerning sexual morality. There isn’t. “Anything goes” clergymen merely demonstrate that some churches have given up preaching Christianity.
MLK, however, was not a twenty-first century, college town, rainbow-flag waiving, post-Christian kind of pastor. He made his beliefs clear in an advice column he wrote for Ebony magazine in 1958. A boy asked for advice on how to deal with same-sex attraction. King responded: “Your problem is not at all an uncommon one.” Problem? What problem? He continued, sounding much like the Michele Bachmann of his time: “…The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired… Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit.” What he’s saying is that the boy could change his sexuality if he tried hard enough. Barbaric! King suggested a remedy: “In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist…” For Pete’s sake, a psychiatrist? What he’s prescribing would be illegal in two US states today and would likely cost a psychiatrist his license in most other localities. King concludes by saying, “You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
To sum up King’s philosophy on homosexuality, he believed that it was a “problem” that needed to be “solved,” as well as a “habit” that could be ditched with the benefit of a little psychotherapy. He essentially held the traditional view that all Christians held for the first two millennia Anno Domini, that we should hate the sin and love the sinner.
Will the revelation that King held such “unenlightened” views on homosexuality change liberals’ attitude toward his marital infidelities? Perhaps. If we learned anything from the Monica Lewinsky thing, (and the Anthony Weiner thing, and the Gavin Newsome thing, and the John Edwards thing) it’s that liberals are pretty blasé about adultery. It’s hypocrisy they don’t like. Cheat on your wife if you’d like, just don’t oppose the homosexual agenda.
Which King did. Doesn’t that make him a Bible-thumping hypocrite? He was essentially the Jimmy Swaggart of his time, a self-righteous blowhard who presented himself as a model of moral rectitude, who preached to the rest of us about how we should be living, who even “hated” “gays” in the jargon of the Left, but who somehow succumbed to the sins of the flesh himself.
It’s different when Martin Luther King does it. He can hold beliefs about homosexuality that would make him virtually unemployable these days. He can cat around on his wife with numerous women, at least one of whom he tossed around like a rag doll. He can exclude women from the highest positions in his movement.
Because he’s Martin Luther effing King, that’s why!
MLK was a man with many flaws, some of which present-day liberals have no tolerance for. He wasn’t the man that they imagine him to have been.