A Little-Known Fact About Martin Luther King, Jr.

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MLK_Speaking copyOr is it known but not talked about? After mentioning Reformation Leader Martin Luther in a page on Christianity, I decided to write on something I’ve wondered about for many years. I’ve often wondered how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s grandparents decided on that name for his father. So, prompted by next week’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I set about the task of writing on the circumstances behind his grandparents’ choice of names. Why did the Kings name his father after the noted German monk who sparked the Reformation movement?  Well, truth is . . . they didn’t — not at his birth.  I came across two articles about the origins of the MLK name. And neither of them say that the the grandparents named the father of the Civil Rights Activist after the monk.

The first report I came across was in an online issue of Forbes. What I found out there was that the elder King’s given name was Michael (some reports specify, “Michael Luther King”). Then after a 1934 missionary trip to Germany where he learned about Reformation Leader Martin Luther, he changed his name — and that of his 5-year old son — to Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr., respectively. This is the most likely, and most repeated, version of the truth. It’s harmless enough and carries a level of charm.

This fact is also addressed in question 7 of the NPS’s Frequently Asked Questions About Dr. King’s Birth Home. Nestled among other questions about the home is a question about Dr. King’s birth name.

As I sought to gather more writings on the same explanation, I came across another that claimed the physician misunderstood what the child’s name was to be and wrote “Michael” instead of “Martin” on the birth certificate. My genealogical experience confirms this type of error was possible during that era; but it’s just not very convincing.

This post focuses on the charm aspect of the story; and will not probe into whether the names were legally changed. I can only imagine how King detractors would process this fact about him. I suspect their obvious treatment would be to focus on the legality of the name and documents that bore its signature. I stumbled upon it while preparing to write about why his grandparents chose that name for his father. Instead I found a little-known fact, with a varied range of significance, that we can only smile and wonder about today. Yes the circumstances and dates vary. But isn’t that the mark of a true legend? What I found was an unexpected fact that I am even more inspired to share.

So my relating the 20th century “Martin Luther King, Sr.” to the 15th century “Martin Luther” was not far-fetched in the least. My thought has been that the Civil Rights Leader’s parents named his father after the German monk who sparked the Christian Reformation. Well, the source of the name is correct. The only difference is that it wasn’t his grandparents who decided on the name . . . but his father . . . five years after young Michael was born. In the end, both the namesake (a word for which there is no antonym) and the original made substantial contributions to effect change in their respective eras and for posterity.

Read more about Dr. King

Read more about theologian Martin Luther

♛ Keep Calm — ChristMass is Older Than ✞ Christ

Keep_Calm_Christmas copyWhat if you found out that Christmas predates the birth of Christ? Not the word — the celebration. The word has roots in Catholicism. Compounded from the words, “Christ” and “Mass,” the first recorded use of the English word for “Christmas” was in 1038 A.D. when a book from Saxon England used the words “Cristes Maesse” in the text. The celebration, however, is connected with the pagan holiday known as, “Saturnalia.” You will find many references that relate Christmas to Saturnalia, which was first observed in 150 B.C. Then, in the 4th century, the holiday was renamed Christmas to assure Christians that it was acceptable to celebrate it.

Considering the controversial nature of this topic, let me clarify that I believe:

There are many other objections to Christmas including familiar concepts regarding the birth of Christ, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, holly, garland, gift-giving, etc. Though relevant, these are secondary to my interest. And, rather than delve into the details surrounding Saturnalia (and other facts concerning the celebration of Christmas), my first order of business will be to study the Holy Bible to establish a firm foundation on which to base any further study.

I can tell you, though, that the renaming of the pagan holiday was the Catholic church’s way of enticing Christians to join in with the Druid’s celebration of Saturnalia.

Does Christ approve the celebration of Christmas? You decide after reading where Jesus speaks on teaching as doctrine ; and God warns against adopting pagan worship customs .

  • From The Real Truth: “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth [emphasis mine}. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. . . .”
  • From Christmas Before Christ: The Surprising Truth!” : The early Catholic theologian and writer Tertullian (A.D. 155-230) was a convert from paganism. He wrote numerous works defending Christianity as he understood it, combatting contrary teachers and giving exhortation to fellow believers. In one he described how the Christian converts of his day were already ignoring the biblical Sabbath day and festivals and flocking to the pagan Roman winter festivals, such as the Saturnalia, which honored the god Saturn: . . .

Considering the abundance of web references on this topic, I am confident that Christians are aware of these facts. But many continue to struggle with separating truth (God’s word) from — let’s face it — fiction (traditional practices). Think about it. Are you observing Christ’s birth or are you celebrating tradition?

I used to be highly offended by signs and greetings that replaced Christ’s name with an X. I recoiled at any variation of the word, “Xmas.” And did not hesitate to remind offenders that, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Since I learned about the true origin of Christmas, however, it is no longer an issue — because, contrary to popular belief, Jesus Christ was never in it to begin with.

So my position is if, after confirming the information presented here, you wish to continue celebrating a holiday of pagan origin — simply leave Christ’s name out of it. Truth mixed with error is still a lie. And we know who God calls, “the father of lies.” Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44 KJV)

To separate from the paganism associated with ChristMass, the Christian should (1) refrain from celebrating anything on December 25; and (2) focus his observance on the teaching ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus rather than His birth; and (3) ascribe a scriptural name to his observance.

Maya_Angelou_SpeakingI could never deny the wonderful memories of Christmases past. My family’s traditions of candle-light services, carols, and gift-giving — along with the merriment of meal preparation and social gathering with immediate and extended kin are forever etched in my memory. And the truths I’ve learned about Christmas can never erase them. But, the beloved Maya Angelou who departed us earlier this year, could not have said it more plainly — “. . . When you know better, do better.” And I guess being a non-conformist helps. I’ve never had a problem adapting to change — with the exception of driving in Texas, that is. There’s still something in me that wants to teach Texas drivers how to execute a proper left turn!

No doubt many have happened upon this information and chosen to look the other way. But the fact that church leaders have chosen to look the other way is what really bothers me. There are those among Christendom who order their lives according to what they hear from the pulpit. And Romans 10:14 (KJV) does tell us, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

But, there are those who will take the pastor’s word as gospel rather than read the Bible for themselves. We are to follow Christ and what He reveals to us in His Word and through the Holy Spirit. Instead, many are content to form their belief systems solely on the words of their respective Reverends, Pastors, and Bishops.

The Christmas You Don’t Know Includes a detailed timeline of events related to Christmas. For the purposes of this post, I’ve extracted entries from 150 B.C. to the 21st century. I found some interesting references among the 19th and 20th century entries. Most of these popular references are secular in nature:

21st Century: Christians and non-Christians celebrate Christmas

20th Century:
1957 – Little Drummer Boy published
1947 – Glass Christmas Balls mass-produced
1942 – White Christmas released
1939 – Rudolph debuts
1929 – First flight of flying Santa

19th Century:
1857 – We Three Kings published
1856 – First White House Christmas Tree
1843 – First Christmas Carol
1836 – Alabama First State to Observe Christmas
1823 – The First Noel published
1823 – Visit from St. Nick published

18th Century:
1773 – Santa mentioned in newspaper for first time

For the record, I am a Southern Baptist — with a Reformed Baptist mindset. My church’s negligence to address this topic (and another — freemasonry) is an issue for me.