Many people think they know everything there is to know about Martin Luther King Jr. Most Americans have heard his famous “I have a dream” speech. It is also widely known that he was sent to jail 29 times during his work as a civil rights leader. His work on the issue won him a Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful protests to end racial inequality in October 1964.
What many people do mot know is how he got his name. For that, Time Magazine took a look at what his father did. In 1964, Martin Luther King, Sr. took a trip to Israel. Seeing the locations where Jesus worked had a profound impact and after he left Jerusalem, he travelled to Germany to attend the World Baptist Alliance conference. The elder King was also a Baptist Minister.
When he arrived in Germany, Martin Luther King, Sr.’s name was Michael King. When he was at the conference, he took the time to learn about the great, Protestant reformer named, Martin Luther. He was the man who started the reformation of the Christian church. When he returned from his trip, he legally changed his first name from “Michael” to “Martin Luther.” His son, who was five years old at the time, also made the decision to change his name as well. Despite this official change, many of the people who were close to the younger King, called him “Mike” for the rest of his life.
Both Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished many amazing things in their lives. You need not look further than Martin Luther King Jr speeches to see how influential his words were. It is clear that his actions and speeches helped move the United States forward on issues of civil rights.
By an even greater measure, Martin Luther made changes to the largest religion on the planet. His words and deeds so altered the word of religion that many of the changes are now taken for granted. At the time they were started, few people could predict what would happen to such an important institution as the Church.
Prior to Martin Luther’s work, Christians looked to their religious institutions to offer absolutions from sin. Under Luther, the real responsibility for absolution was shifted from the church to the individual. He did not believe that people could be separated from their actions. He argued that people are responsible for their own behavior and actions. This meant that people could ask God to be forgiven for the wrongs they had committed without going to a middle man to ask for them.
In 1517, Luther tacked a list of 95 issues he had with the church on the Wittenberg Castle Church. One issue that bothered him above all others was the popular policy on indulgence. In 1521, Luther appeared before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Thomas Cajetan (the pope’s representative) and several prominent German nobles. He shocked everyone in attendance when he announced that he was more worried about God’s views of his behavior than of any person on the planet. While this idea makes a lot of sense in 2017, in 1521, it was considered to be blasphemy. His arguments for his position were not well received and people accused him of being overly arrogant. He did not relent in the face of powerful opposition. Rather, he stuck to his guns and changed the way millions of people began to view their relationship with God.
No one, not even Martin Luther himself, could see the vast impact he would have on the Church and the world. His speeches blew up what most people considered to be “normal.” Never again would many people view God as someone they needed a church official to reach.
This is very similar to the changes Martin Luther King, Jr. made to the status quo in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement changed the way African Americans were seen in the country and it did even more to change how the viewed themselves. While the country has not gone all the way to full and real equality, it has come a long way.