After learning about Baldwin’s history with the church, we can see that he is heavily influenced by religion through his writings and even throughout his life as a queer man. One could say that he had a complicated history because of what the Bible says about homosexuality, and his complicated relationship with his Father who was a preacher. However, in “The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King,” we can clearly see the adoration of Baldwin towards Martin Luther King Jr. and we also see the way Baldwin’s view of the church changed being in King’s presence. It says a great deal about King’s influence on individuals, but his influence on the Black community, as well. In a way, if King could have Baldwin see churches in a new light, he surely could lead the community to a new future.
Reading Baldwin’s works, it is prominent that he writes about love: loving oneself, loving thy neighbor, and searching for loving relationships. It is clear in this essay that Baldwin is writing his love for King and the way he could garner hope and love from, and for, Black people. Baldwin writes that the newfound joy and power in the church was because King was not creating a space of protest and condemnation but of hope and love. The very thing that Baldwin, one might argue, was always looking for in the church, other people were looking for, as well, and they found it in King. He was a great speaker and a figure that people looked up to, but what distinguished him from others was that “he suffered with them and, thus, he helped them to suffer,” (Baldwin 643). Now, was Martin Luther King Jr. perfect, no, and Baldwin writes of this and we know of these things now. However, it cannot be disputed that King affected change in Baldwin as he did for the rest of the country. One question I ask is, although Baldwin saw the new change in the church and many others did, as well: would it have been the same if they were not looking for it? Baldwin was always searching for love, in everything, but what if he had already found it, would King have had the same effect on him. Would Baldwin be judging more of his actions instead of his words?
3 thoughts on “Clouded Adoration”
I really appreciated this post and the question you pose, and I think I lean towards thinking he would not see the change in the church had he no longer been searching for love. I think there was one line that said something along the lines of King being the only preacher Baldwin had met and liked. So, while King represents the potential for the church to provide a doctrine of love, the overwhelming majority of church officials did not do the same at the time.
Hi Faith! Thanks for your post, and for pointing out how Baldwin admired King for his preaching’s emphasis on love. Baldwin seemed to see King as a fellow witness/prophet, and I wonder how it made Baldwin see his own brief stint as a preacher. He talks a lot about King’s father, and based on what we know about Baldwin and his father, I wonder how much of himself Baldwin saw in King. If he had remained a preacher, how would that have shaped his role as a witness?
I really enjoyed reading your post for this week. I just wonder if it was MLK’s presence that changed Baldwin’s opinion of the church or if there were other factors involved? I wonder if Baldwin’s travels to France, where religious rules seem more relaxed than in the US, also had something to do with it?
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