What Muslims, Secularists, and Richard Sherman Can Learn from Dr. Martin Luther King

This week we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King whose words and actions helped tear down the final edifice of racial injustice in the United States.

MLK was not a perfect man.  Recently the possibility of exposing his sexual indiscretions prevented his estate (family) from allowing a movie to be made of his life.  That is a tragedy–because truth is both brutally honest and peace-loving.

In his struggle against racial injustice, MLK understood this. He was a man of honesty and a man of peace.

What can the Muslim world, secularists and Richard Sherman learn from Dr. Martin Luther King?

Dr. King founded his civil rights strategy on the words of Jesus who famously said:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48).

Love your enemies.

Most of us know from experience this is hard to do. We get angry, act vindictively, hold grudges, shoot off our mouths and sometimes our guns because we don’t like or agree with others. We need salvation in Christ and the fruit of self control, that only God provides, to reign in our baser nature.

When we “love our enemies” we show that we know God and have become “mature” (perfect).

In the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. Martin Luther King walked that walk. He refused to call names or resort to violence because the end didn’t justify the means. With elegant self control, he led a peaceful struggle against discrimination that altered the course of American history and brought healing and hope to millions.

Truthful people do not hurt or persecute others because truth requires humility and repentance due to its own failings. When we don’t accept the “truth” about our own condition and soften our hearts, then an evil heart can fester hatred, reaction, filth and violence.

Now let’s examine these principles of MLK’s life to two religions and one athlete.

The Muslim World

Raymond Ibrahim has written an insightful article called “The Existential Elephant in the Christian Persecution World” which exposes the main source Christian persecution in the world. Ibrahim is a widely published author, public speaker, and Middle East and Islam expert who serves as a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

He concludes that over 80% of ALL Christian persecution in the world comes not from jihadists but from Islam in general. It is the Muslim faith that leads the world in violent hateful persecution of its perceived enemies–not in line with the heart and methods of MLK.

Ibrahim reports:

Open Doors USA recently released its widely cited 2014 World Watch List—a report that highlights and ranks the 50 worst nations around the globe persecuting Christians.”

“The one glaring fact that emerges from this report is that the overwhelming majority of Christian persecution around the world today is being committed at the hands of Muslims of all races, languages, cultures, and socio-political circumstances: Muslims from among America’s allies (Saudi Arabia) and its enemies (Iran); Muslims from economically rich nations (Qatar) and from poor nations (Somalia and Yemen); Muslims from “Islamic republic” nations (Afghanistan) and from “moderate” nations (Malaysia and Indonesia); Muslims from nations rescued by America (Kuwait) and Muslims claiming “grievances” against America (fill in the blank __).”

“A common denominator, a pattern, exists, one that is even more extensive than Open Doors implies. According to that organization’s communications director, Emily Fuentes, ‘of the 50 worst nations for persecution, 37 of them are Muslim,’ or 74%. In fact, while this number suggests that the other 13 countries making the top 50 are not Muslim—for example Kenya and Ethiopia—those doing the persecution there are.”

“In other words, those persecuting Christians in 41 of 50 nations are Muslims; that is, a whopping 82% of all persecution around the globe is being committed by the adherents of Islam—sometimes in Christian majority nations; for example, the Central African Republic which, after the 2013 Islamic takeover, now ranks #16.”

“As for the top ten absolute worst nations, where, according to the 2014 World Watch List, Christians suffer “extreme persecution,” nine—that is, 90%—are Muslim.  (Indeed, Open Doors’ global map of Christian persecution can easily be confused with a global map of the Islamic world, with the exception of China (ranked 37, “moderate persecution”) and some sporadic countries dominated by crime and godless tyranny, Columbia, North Korea, etc.).”

“Similarly, a recent Morning Star News report listing 2013’s ten most horrific anecdotes of Christian persecution around the world finds that nine out of ten—again, 90%—were committed at the hands of those professing Islam.”

Ibrahim concludes, “Time is not on the side of Christians living amid Muslims; quite the opposite. Since the 7th century, when Islam came into being, Muslims have been invading and conquering Christian lands, so that more than half of the territory that was once Christian in the 7th century—including all of North Africa–are today the heart of the ‘Muslim world.’”

“Muslim persecution of Christians exists in 41 nations today as part of a continuum that started nearly 14 centuries ago.  The very same patterns of Christian persecution prevalent throughout the Muslim world today are often identical to those from centuries past.  The facts speak for themselves.”

You might want to take a quick look at the maps above. They show what missiologists call the 10/40 Window where Muslim nations are in the majority from North Africa to Indonesia. These are the nations where the greatest “hate” thrives It’s not just the jihadists. It is Muslims of all backgrounds and stripes.

This is because the Koran condones the hatred and conquest of those who do not submit (infidels). It has done so for centuries. During the Middle Ages, after the Muslims had pillaged the biblical lands and began to invade Europe, Christians made the mistake of responding in kind.

We call that era “The Crusades”–and it became violent, vindictive and evil. At least today we admit it. During that terrible time, Christians lost sight of the fact that truth is peaceful and self-controlled.

Muslims never learned. They are not relaxed in the truth and thus peaceful in its application. When you know the truth about God, life, sin, and the need for salvation, then you can “love your enemies.” You’re not motivated to persecute or hate.

Muslims need to find the “Prince of Peace”  and become established in the truth. Then they will be following the example of Dr. Martin Luther King.


Secular governments are second worse in persecuting or hating others. Secularism simply means “worldly,” and is a philosophy that denies God’s existence while elevating dictators into places of government authority. Tyranny and persecution follow.

Communist China is a large-country example–a nation that persecutes Christians and many others. North Korea is the poster-child in the 21st century of a hateful, persecuting nation due to its god-like worship of Kim Jong Un and total rejection of biblical values.

But secularism is also becoming stronger in Europe and America. As it rises, tolerance of Christians and others is falling. We see this today under the Obama administration where the Affordable Care Act is trying to force Christians (such as the “Little Sisters of the Poor”) to go against their God-given conscience in the name of the aims of the state. This is just the beginning of a rising tide of Christian persecution and suppression that bodes ill for the future.

Remember: Truth is peaceful, not forceful or hateful–and even works to “love its enemies.”

Dr. Martin Luther King would not be pleased with the current secular death spiral in the US.

Richard Sherman

For those who are non-football fans, Richard Sherman is the All-Pro cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks who are headed to the Super Bowl. He is considered the best at his position in the NFL.

Sherman was raised in Compton, California when drugs and gangs ruled the streets. His Christian parents kept him and many others away from those things but the hateful and violent environment left its imprint. Sherman went on to play football at Stanford (an elite academic college) and was drafted by the Seahawks in the 2011 NFL draft.

I like Richard Sherman. He’s smart, articulate, confident and playful. He does much good in the community and is an energetic, fun loving guy.

But at the end of the NFC Championship Game, won by his Seahawks (in which he made the final game-winning play), Sherman ripped into his opponent in an explosion of emotion and boldly declared himself the best at what he does. You can see the rant here (viewed by 60 million Americans).

Some commentators and athletes defended his action. They say “trash talk” is normal in sports and people should be “authentic” in what they say and do.

Nonsense. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were “authentic” and so were the Ku Klux KLan and the leaders of the Inquisition. So what. They did what wrong. They expressed hate, condescension, anger and even violence toward their enemies.

Yes, football is a violent sport. But it can still be played with classiness, verbal self-control, and even graciousness (outside of the tackling and physical punishment). We all know many superb athletes who do just that (like Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson–opposing QBs in Super Bowl 48).

Sherman made a mistake. In an adrenaline-charged moment he snapped and came across as an arrogant hater (which is not his real persona). He also went against another wise truth:

“Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth–a stranger, not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

I’m glad he apologized. He would be wise now to elevate the “content of his character” to that of the late Dr. Martin Luther King and let his play (and conduct) speak for itself.

We should do the same in the game of life. Ditto Muslims and secularists.

Loving your enemies is the greatest mark of strength. Thanks Dr. King. It only comes through the power of Jesus Christ enshrined in the human heart.


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