— Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement 1929 - 1968
1960s, Guidelines for a Constructive Church (1966), Context: When the church is true to its guidelines, it sets out to preach deliverance to them that are captive. This is the role of the church: to free people. This merely means to free those who are slaves. Now if you notice some churches, they never read this part. Some churches aren't concerned about freeing anybody. Some white churches face the fact Sunday after Sunday that their members are slaves to prejudice, slaves to fear. You got a third of them, or a half of them or more, slaves to their prejudices. And the preacher does nothing to free them from their prejudice so often. Then you have another group sitting up there who would really like to do something about racial injustice, but they are afraid of social, political, and economic reprisals, so they end up silent. And the preacher never says anything to lift their souls and free them from that fear. And so they end up captive. You know this often happens in the Negro church. You know, there are some Negro preachers that have never opened their mouths about the freedom movement. And not only have they not opened their mouths, they haven’t done anything about it. And every now and then you get a few members: "They talk too much about civil rights in that church." I was talking with a preacher the other day and he said a few of his members were saying that. I said, "Don't pay any attention to them. Because number one, the members didn't anoint you to preach. And any preacher who allows members to tell him what to preach isn't much of a preacher."
For the guidelines made it very clear that God anointed. No member of Ebenezer Baptist Church called me to the ministry. You called me to Ebenezer, and you may turn me out of here, but you can’t turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty. And anything I want to say, I'm going to say it from this pulpit. It may hurt somebody, I don’t know about that; somebody may not agree with it. But when God speaks, who can but prophesy? The word of God is upon me like fire shut up in my bones, and when God’s word gets upon me, I've got to say it, I’ve got to tell it all over everywhere. And God has called me to deliver those that are in captivity.
Some people are suffering. Some people are hungry this morning. Some people are still living with segregation and discrimination this morning. I'm going to preach about it. I’m going to fight for them. I’ll die for them if necessary, because I got my guidelines clear. And the God that I serve and the God that called me to preach told me that every now and then I'll have to go to jail for them. Every now and then I’ll have to agonize and suffer for the freedom of his children. I even may have to die for it. But if that’s necessary, I'd rather follow the guidelines of God than to follow the guidelines of men. The church is called to set free those that are captive, to set free those that are victims of the slavery of segregation and discrimination, those who are caught up in the slavery of fear and prejudice.