Jackson, WY: I'm not usually considered a heretic. I tend to speak in churches that occupy the middle ground between handling snakes, on the one hand, and holding Indian dances to the Earth Mother, on the other. Even the most hard-core Darwinists have had to stretch to find traces of scientific blasphemy in the cautious questions I raised about pure materialistic evolution, in The Truth Behind the New Atheism.
I also try to write mostly on topics I know something about.
But today, of all days, in admitted ignorance and uncertainty, let me pose what may be the ultimate heretical question in modern America: did Martin Luther King really do America good? Or did he harm the country more than he helped it?
I hear the cries of protest already. King lived out the Gospel more clearly and persuasively than ten thousand brill-creamed Baptist preachers! He faced police dogs and water hoses, without raising his hands in violence! He channeled a movement that could easily have descended into brutality and violence, with a rod like Moses, a papyrus scroll with the Sermon on the Mount written in hot red ink upon it.
No wonder Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday, when "Presidents Day" is almost forgotten! No wonder my own home county, King, one of the nation's largest, is now renamed in honor of Martin Luther King, rather than for an obscure vice president, even as vice presidents go.
But I am wondering: does it do a child more harm, to be raised as a minority in a society that discriminates against him or her? Or to be raised without knowing his or her Daddy?
Bill O'Reilly was on the tube Monday, yacking about how terrible it is that most black children now are born out of wedlock. He went on and on about how horrified Martin Luther King would be, and asked if black leaders would have the guts to bring this crisis up at the 50th anniversary of King's famous speech.
Are you kidding?
King stayed with his wife and children, more or less, true. But how many other children did he sire? Whom did they call "Daddy?"
And what are the effects of that example?
For my money, even if he was an infidel and a rabble-rouser, I have to say I think I like Malcolm X better. I am not even sure, for all his phenomenal virtues, that Martin Luther King's impact on modern America is more for good than for ill.
OK, bring out the tar and feathers.