Dr. King’s Christianity and Economics

Very short blog post.

What can Christianity do in a society? Or perhaps, what does it look like when Christianity fuels a movement for change?

50 years ago today, a 34-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King III gave the very familiar ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in Washington.

The language will be familiar to any christian. The use of biblical metaphors he used to pepper every sentence are no different from the ‘rev’ that gets Pentecostals to whoop across various churches every Sunday. The man was simply on a pulpit delivering a powerful moral sermon. Which Christian is not familiar with ‘justice rolling down like the waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’?

But there was something else.

Dr King and company also had a list of 10 demands they came with


Of those 10 points, at least 7 are clearly and explicitly economic demands. Perhaps you might demand different things today with hindsight (indeed Dr King himself later somewhat backed away from point 8) but Dr. King understood that a life of poverty is a life of NO…everything you need or want, the answer is NO.

Like many people, I used to be a better Christian than I am these days.

Lately there has been a lot of online chatter about the senior Pastor of COZA, Abuja and his dalliance with Miss Ese Walter. You get the sense that even when Nigerians are unable to articulate what they think the church should be doing, there is a larger consensus on what it should not be doing. Here are a couple of articles by Tolu Ogunlesi and Wole Olabanji that state the case for what the church should not be doing.

No doubt the problems we face today in Nigeria are different from the raw segregation and dehumanizing conditions that blacks faced in Dr. King’s 1963. But do we no longer need jobs? Or houses? Whereas Dr. King led hundreds of thousands of people to speak truth to power, these days people line up to go and listen to superstar preachers sedate them with platitudes and promises of divine riches that somehow bypass the reality of the economics in which they live their daily lives i.e. the economy might be very bad but your job is to divinely rise above it or in some cases have another person’s wealth divinely transferred to you.

Where the bible is studied, too often it is used as something to separate those who ‘understand’ from those who don’t comprehend the mysteries therein creating a client class of adherents who will always need something to be ‘explained’ to them, often for a fee.

Dr. King used biblical metaphors to ask for jobs and housing. He used his Christianity to prick America’s conscience into action. In other words, there is nothing in Christianity that is incompatible with economic development for Christians and everyone in general.

This blog post is rather pointless I suppose but it is useful to know, 50 years later, that Christianity is not simply a pain reliever or anesthetic to numb adherents from the pain that is all too real around them.

You can powerfully use biblical metaphors and verses to prick the conscience of our leaders in a way that will hasten them to provide stable electricity and accommodation for Christians and Muslims alike, not forgetting the Ifa Massive too.


7 thoughts on “Dr. King’s Christianity and Economics

  1. The idea of a Christian as social change agent runs deeply through the pages of scripture.

    In this sampling the scripture speaks for itself.

    Isaiah 58:4-7 NLT
    What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the L ord ? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

    Matthew 5:13-14 NLT
    “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

    Matthew 23:23 NLT
    “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

    James 1:27 NLT
    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

  2. Until we understand that there is a big difference between Christianity and religion, we will always make baseless arguments and trading blames between our spiritual leaders and political leaders. Let me suppose that we understand Christianity as the very life of God domicile in a human being, that means we think like God, since the bible let us know we are instructed by the spirit of God that live in us, it also means we love like God, for he so loved the world that He gave, this means relating with our neighbours with love(the God kind), that means being selfless, letting go of egos, not wanting to be first always . It also means we have His creative ability, using words and speaking our desired future into being, that means we don’t have to be envious or covetous, each having the ability to dream, speak and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit work it all out all in humility, kindness, piety and selflessness. This is what my Pastor has thought me through the bible all these years and as I learn to put this to work everyday, I find that I am becoming a better person, just like the bible said the church is for perfecting the saints, I guess that means the saints (Christians) though changed need to be thought using the word to become the great, wonderful and glorious people God has planned that they become. Now let us also just imagine that we as Christians are all thriving towards this ideals how our Nigeria will be. So dear friends it not ythe church, its actually us, the problem is not we are being thought but how we are listening and even though we hear what have we done with it. The Pastor may not be able to go to a million homes to monitor or supervise what they do with the word or instruction they got, what if he could, can you actually say people will obey, maybe a few still. That my brother is the real issue, the one we really should be addressing.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment.
      Church leaders throughout history have pushed for social justice and societal change – from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King II. Most Nigerian pentecostal church leaders either ignore the social injustice in the country and preach a “Goshen” message or declare that their work is on men’s souls and turn a blind eye to the issues that plague their society. We need another type: the ones that stop acting as “spiritual consultants” for corrupt leaders and start speaking the truth to power.

      One last thing. There are 2 types of “wrong” Christians in Nigeria – the one who sees nothing wrong in what most church leaders do; and the one who quickly rises to the defence of their “own” pastor when Feyi’s point is raised.

  3. Pingback: Dr. King’s Christianity and Economics | YNaija OPINION

  4. “You get the sense that even when Nigerians are unable to articulate what they think the church should be doing, there is a larger consensus on what it should not be doing.”
    I can’t shake the feeling that that consensus would apply to Dr. King, too, in terms of what he shouldn’t have done.
    Dr. King’s advocacy was in spite of his “sexcapades.”
    The challenge to pastors as I see it, is one framed in terms of a social commitment in spite or even because of their dalliances.

  5. There is a trend that I have noticed in Nigeria. We fail to do accept our responsibilities and commit to our obligations. Then keep on fasting, praying and hoping that the Almighty God does a miracle. This is why anybody can come under the aegis of religion to swindle us into terrorism, into their personal political/ethno-religion passions, to swindle us into donating our hard earned money for their personal goals and projects, to swindle us into accepting our leaders’ (in all aspects) failures and and irresponsible ways of life
    Like my good teacher, Dr Alebiowu would always say “never let anybody use religion to enshackle you”.

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