Your Rights…Civil or Inalienable?

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

What government gives, government can take away.

The term Civil Rights is something that most of us have grown up with in America and is most commonly associated with the movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s. Civil means having to do with a citizen, such as a law. Rights are defined as the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled.

The trouble here is that Dr. King was not simply fighting for our government to get the laws right…hence Civil Rights. He was standing up for Inalienable Rights just as much as those who founded our country. This man helped America to actually come closer to the truth that the Founding Fathers expressed when they explained why the colonies needed to be free of England.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident [clear to all], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed [blessed with a gift] by their Creator with certain inalienable [impossible to take away or give up] rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Where did Martin Luther King get the idea that African-Americans should be treated with dignity and honor? Where did he get the idea that African-Americans should have all the rights and privileges that any other American enjoyed? Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who knew and loved God. He was more than a minister by vocation, he was a man who believed that he was following God’s will for his life and, like Moses, was telling the people of America who were opposed to equality, “Let my people go!”

There are many proofs of the biblical worldview held by Dr. King which are evident in his speeches and writings. His wife, Coretta Scott King, tells of Dr. King’s reliance upon God in prayer. “For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.

“I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.

“After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul.

“With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: ‘Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’

“Later he told me, ‘At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.'” When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

“I believe that this prayer was a critical turning point for the African-American freedom struggle, because from that point forward, we had a leader who was divinely inspired and could not be turned back by threats or any form of violence. This kind of courage and conviction is truly contagious, and I know his example inspired me to carry on through the difficult days of my journey.”

Was Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for Civil Rights, equality under “the law of men” that could change according to the whims of those in government, or was he standing up for God-given Inalienable Rights that no man can revoke? I think it was the latter.  Thanks to his leadership, America began to move forward in the fight for equality of all her citizens regardless of skin color or ancestry, and took a step closer to protecting those Inalienable Rights that come from God.

Sources:
How We Open Our Hearts to God – Coretta Scott King
Letter From a Birmingham Jail – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.