The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was behind the pulpit in Atlanta in 1967, the year before he was killed, when he told churchgoers at Ebenezer Baptist Church that sometimes there is an “obligation” to break certain man-made laws.
“It is important to see that there are times when a man-made law is out of harmony with the moral law of the universe, there are times when human law is out of harmony with eternal and divine laws,” the civil rights leader said at the time. “And when that happens, you have an obligation to break it.”
More than 50 years after his death, King’s words still carry visceral power, and they’ve taken on renewed significance throughout the demonstrations across the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. On Sunday, King’s successor at Ebenezer Baptist, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, delivered his own sermon with a similar message.
“For folk who claim to be godly, for church folk, for preachers who darken somebody’s pulpit every weekend to be silent while this is happening, it is not only to be on the wrong side of history,” Warnock said from the pulpit. “It is not only to be on the wrong side of the issue. I submit it is to be on the wrong side of God.”
On Wednesday, Warnock sat down with NPR to reflect on King’s legacy, Floyd’s death and the civil unrest gripping his city and the nation.