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The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word That Moved America

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Today it seems extraordinary that a nation the size of the United States could have been so profoundly affected by the minister of a little Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. But at a turning point in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr., had an incalculable effect on the fabric of daily life and the laws of the nation. As no other preacher in living memory and no politician since Lincoln, he transposed the themes of love, suffering, deliverance, and justice from the sacred shelter of the pulpit into ...
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The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word that Moved America : Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word that Moved America

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Overview


Today it seems extraordinary that a nation the size of the United States could have been so profoundly affected by the minister of a little Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. But at a turning point in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr., had an incalculable effect on the fabric of daily life and the laws of the nation. As no other preacher in living memory and no politician since Lincoln, he transposed the themes of love, suffering, deliverance, and justice from the sacred shelter of the pulpit into the arena of public policy. He was the last great religious reformer in America. How the man who always saw himself as "fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher" crafted his strategic vision and moved a nation to renewal is the subject of this remarkable new book.
The Preacher King investigates Martin Luther King Jr.'s, religious development from a precocious "PK" ("preacher's kid") in segregated Atlanta to the most influential American preacher and orator of the twentieth century. To give the most accurate and intimate portrait possible, author Richard Lischer draws almost exclusively on King's unpublished sermons and speeches, as well as tape recordings, personal interviews, and even police surveillance reports. In King's published works, Lischer shows, King and his editors modified and polished his sermons in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. By returning to the raw sources, Lischer recaptures King's real, African-American, preaching voice and, consequently, something of the real King himself. He shows how as the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers, King early on absorbed the poetic cadences, the traditions, and the power of the pulpit. He traces King's coming of age from his rebellious teenage years (King once wrote that at thirteen he shocked his Sunday School class by "denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus") to his arrival in Montgomery, where he took on the role of "Brother Pastor" to his flock during the year of ministry before he burst into national prominence. Lischer shows that King was as profoundly influenced by his fellow African-American preachers as he was by Gandhi and the philosophers, and tracks King's themes of brotherhood and justice from the set pieces of his weekly sermons to his electrifying mass meeting speeches, demonstrations, and civil addresses. Lischer also reveals a later phase of King's development that few of his biographers or critics have addressed: the prophetic rage with which he condemned American religious and political hypocrisy. During the last three years of his life, Lischer shows, King accused his country of genocide, warned of long hot summers in the ghettos, and called for a radical redistribution of wealth.
More than any other book, The Preacher King captures the crucial aspect of the identity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Human, complex, and passionate, here is a preacher who never gave up trying to shape a congregation of people that would be capable of redeeming the moral and political character of the nation.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
How did a preacher from a small black church in Montgomery engage a nation's conscience? King's Baptist roots are explored in this energetic look at the man, his message, and his inspirations. Offering fresh commentary are several noted observers, including Henry Mitchell and Gardner Taylor.
From the Publisher

"This helpful book adds a new dimension to our understanding of Martin Luther King Jr."--Choice

"An excellent study of Martin Luther King Jr.'s rhetoric."--American Heritage

"A thorough, textured analysis of the sources and strategies of Martin Luther King's preaching and rhetoric."--Kirkus Reviews

"With The Preacher King, Richard Lischer has made all who love liberty and its language his debtors. Lischer has captured the spirit of Martin Luther King out of which came an oratory blazing in intensity and clothed in a logic so compelling that it left a nation 'defenseless utterly'."--Gardner Taylor, Pastor Emeritus, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, and author of Chariots Aflame

"This careful, illuminating study shows how King transposed the Judeo-Christian themes of love, suffering, deliverance, and justice into the civil rights arena."--Publishers Weekly

"Lischer's analysis is sparkling and addresses not only King's sermons but also preaching history."--Booklist

Library Journal
Lischer (Duke Univ. Divinity Sch.) explores King's use of language to show his many preaching influences and the political tactics and church-tradition antecedents behind his rhapsodic flourisheshow, for instance, refrains from several speeches he'd given on different stumps around the country came together into the "I Have a Dream" address one inspired day by the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195087796
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/20/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Richard Lischer is Professor of Homiletics, the Divinity School, Duke University. He is the author of Theories of Preaching and co-editor of the Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching.

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Table of Contents

I Preparation
1 Surrounded 15
2 Apprenticed to the Word 38
3 Dexter Avenue and "The Daybreak of Freedom" 72
II Performance
4 What He Received: Units of Tradition 93
5 The Strategies of Style 119
6 From Identification to Rage 142
7 The Masks of Character 163
III Theology and Beyond
8 In the Mirror of the Bible 197
9 The Ebenezer Gospel 221
10 Bearing "The Gospel of Freedom": The Mass Meeting 243
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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