Martin Luther and Dr. King

Today we celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It should be pretty hard to avoid a religion angle when discussing this holiday. The Washington Post covered President Obama's visit to a local church for services yesterday. I noticed the earlier blog write-up a bit better than the article that eventually developed, although there was strong overlap between the two. Here's a snippet from the earlier blog item:

President Obama and his family are worshipping at the 147-year-old Zion Baptist Church in Northwest D.C. on Sunday morning, keeping up a tradition of going to church the day before the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.

While the Obamas have gone to church a few times a year since they moved into the White House, the King holiday has been an occasion for them to participate in the African American church tradition, complete with spirited choirs and gospel preaching.

Zion quickly filled up with members and visitors Sunday morning, and when asked about the Presidential visit, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Keith W. Byrd, said: “It’s a wonderful day. We came to worship and the first family did too.”

I actually wondered if gospel should be capitalized or not. I believe the Associated Press style is that Gospel should be capitalized if it's referring to the Gospels of the Bible and lower-case if it's just referring to a style, such as gospel music. And for a moment I wondered if the author was referring to preaching from the Gospels or a particular style of preaching. I guess we can assume he's referring to the style.

On that note, I was left wanting more from the article when I got to this passage:

Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said the White House staff selected Zion, a church that dates to the 1860s, because it is “a pillar” in the District. On Sept 25, 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited the church to introduce the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., who preached that Sunday.

When the first family arrived Sunday, people rose to their feet, ushers snapped into place and the choir launched into a storm of music that was unabated until Byrd got up to preach. Byrd mixed Shakespeare with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

“I am so glad that Dr. King answered the question, ‘To be, or not to be?’?” Byrd said. “Be a source of hope. You can live without a lot of things, but no human can exist without hope.”

I know I've argued before that I'd rather not even have reporters try to summarize sermons, since they might be liable to struggle with it or cherry pick particular lines, but don't you kind of want to know how Byrd "mixed" Shakespeare with the Sermon on the Mount? We get Hamlet's line but where is Jesus? Certainly the Washington Post write-up was much more thorough than this Reuters depiction of the same event.

Whenever it comes to annual events, I like to see the ways that reporters can offer fresh coverage. (I'd love it if someone could tell me if Izola Ware Curry, a mentally disturbed woman who stabbed Dr. King in 1958 is still alive and, if so, where.)

Here's a new take from a Forbes travel blog, of all things, about how Martin Luther King, Jr. was named:

Both Dr. King and his father are celebrated figures in the United States, but most people do not know the connection between the two Baptist ministers from the American South and the medieval German monk whose name they bear.

As an adult, Martin Luther King Sr., whose given name was Michael King, chose the name Martin Luther for himself and for his young son after visiting the region of eastern Germany where Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, was born, lived and worked, according to LutherCountry, an umbrella title for two neighboring German states, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

The region is celebrating the LutherDecade, the 10-year count-down to 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Back in the 1934, Martin Luther King Sr. was one of 10 Baptist ministers who traveled first to the Holy Land and then to Germany. It was on this trip that the senior King “discovered” Martin Luther, and upon returning, gradually changed both his name and his then five-year old son’s, the group said.

A few years ago I reviewed a couple of books for the Wall Street Journal and one of them included a discussion of this and I was shocked. I'd never known that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been born with a different name, much less why it had been changed. I will note that this PBS write-up is all wrong about the issue.

In any case, as we celebrate this federal holiday honoring the great Baptist pastor, let us know if you see any particularly good or bad stories.

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