It is a blunt, stinging attack, linking one of the most popular voices in the contemporary black church with the ultimate symbol of black courage and sacrifice. The story by CNN's John Blake opens this way:
In a stinging passage from a "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned white churches for rejecting his pleas for support.
"In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies," King wrote from jail during the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, demonstrations.
The contemporary white church has largely accepted King as a religious hero. Yet some observers say there is one religious community that continues to shun King -- the black church.
Forty years after his death, King remains a prophet without honor in the institution that nurtured him, some black preachers and scholars say. They also say King's "prophetic" model of ministry -- one that confronted political and economic institutions of power -- has been sidelined by the prosperity gospel.
The key word, of course, is "some" -- as in "some black preachers and scholars say." It's a story built on the oh-so-familiar divisions in the contemporary church, yet framed to look like a battle over the legacy of King.
The key is that headline -- "Modern black church shuns King's message" -- is printed right above a photo of Pentecostal superstar T.D. Jakes. The story draws a line between "self help" and "political activism," but it is also hard not to notice that it is also a divide between the world of black churches that tend to align with mainline Protestants and a liberal political agenda and those that tend to lean to the cultural right, which may mean limited or overt cooperation with moral and cultural conservatives.
Read the CNN piece, please. Then read the response that CNN -- to the network's credit -- allowed Jakes to write in response.
This gets rather blunt, but read it all.
The Jakes commentary opens with this quote:
"Bishop Jakes has always been a strong supporter of my father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the King family. Bishop Jakes, along with many other ministries of his ilk, all continue to convey the dream and the message of my father in the services they provide to oppressed people around the world. Some may say that the ministers of today have different techniques, but the core of the message and the goal remain the same."
-- Martin Luther King III
Read both pieces and then answer me this: Is this division, between Jakes and the CNN sources so critical of him, primarily political or theological? Or did the folks at CNN simply go with a half-finished story, rather than truly listen to what the right side of the black-church spectrum has to say about the work of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and those who back his approach to prophecy?
It also helps to remember that the King family also contains some controversial voices. Why? I bet you can guess. CNN really needed to talk to people on both sides of this divide in the black pulpits and pews.