Monday, January 19, 2015

Study Questions On Speeches By Martin Luther King Jr

1) We Shall Overcome:

Discussion Questions:
What are some of the sorrows that Martin Luther King Jr. says his people are facing in their struggle?

King says that physical death can be redemptive if it frees children from psychological death…what does this mean?

How does King’s Christian outlook relate to his views on suffering and death?

What does it mean when King says “The Arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”?

How does this attitude compare to King’s other speeches?

Why does King seem filled with so much hope, in spite of the difficulties?

Are you a patient person?

How can one learn patience?

What are some of the consequences of impatience?

2) The Drum Major Instinct:

Discussion Questions:

What is ‘The Drum Major Instinct’?

Why do you think so much is made of the evils of pride in the Bible and by  theologians?

How does this relate to King’s comments on the race issue?

In what places do you seek to be first in your own life?

Do you think Freud was correct, or was Adler, or was Frankl, as to the main driving impulse of human life?

Do you think children are really ‘little bundles of ego’?

In what way does the Drum Major instinct help and hurt you personally? What has it done for you 
and where has it caused you problems?

Does Jesus think that pride and ego is altogether evil?

What is the new priority Jesus gives for the ego?

Compare your list to King’s, what are the similarities, what are the differences?


Discussion Questions:

What is King talking about when he talks about ‘building creative temples’?
(Discussion:  He’s talking about the meaning of life, the quest to build a meaningful life or to do something meaningful and the difficulties in doing that. David’s dream was to build a Temple Of God, but he wasn’t able to (or  rather God didn’t let him) achieve it. In a sense every attempt to do something meaningful is to try to ‘create’ a moment, or an event, or an object, in which God can dwell. Like David, we face the fact that many of those temples may not be built by us.)

Look at your list, what creative temples are you trying to build with your life?

Is it hard to accept that many of your dreams won’t come true?

What dreams of MLK weren’t fulfilled?
(Discussion:  King’s life is a perfect example, ironically, of the very point he’s trying to make. He was unable to achieve racial harmony in his own lifetime, and even a generation later that work isn’t done. King died without seeing his children grow up and ended up leaving much of the black community without a leader when they most needed one. One suspects that King already senses his life will be like Gandhi’s, like David’s…at least in this respect. He’s explaining why this doesn’t leave him hopeless.)

What does God say to David that gives King hope and why?
(Discussion: He tells David that David is blessed for his desire to build the Temple. It is a sign of God’s love in spite of our failings and His willingness to complete for us what we must leave incomplete. God fills the holes in the tapestry of the human life, He sees the attempt at making the tapestry as important in spite of the holes.)

What is this ‘fulfillment’ and ‘completion’ of human life, which is enacted by God, called?
(Discussion: King is talking about grace here. He says it explicitly at one point. Grace is God responding to the ‘incompleteness’ of human life with undeserved love and favor. God chooses to freely make us complete in spite of our own weakness.)

Do you spend much time wondering about what the purpose of your life is?

What do you think it might be?

What does King think is the main cause of the non-fulfillment of human life?
(Discussion:  King thinks that sin makes it impossible for us to live a complete life. He talks about a ‘struggle’ in the heart of the universe, a counterweight to the Will of God making it impossible for human life to be complete on it’s own.)

King lists several possible sources of this ‘struggle’: a god of light and a god of dark, God and Satan, the id and the superego, illusion and reality, and God and man. Which of these makes the most sense to you? Are some of them mutually exclusive?

What part of your own human nature do you see as a problem for you, what is your consistent sin?

What does King say is the real danger in life?
(Discussion: King thinks that the real danger is to ‘be on the wrong road’, that is, to have the total bent of your life to be in the wrong direction, to stop trying to do the right thing. As long as you struggle to be a good person, you are on ‘the right road’ when that struggle ends, you have truly failed.)

What difference does King thinks belief in God makes?
(Discussion: Belief in God does not prevent us from having hard and trying times, it doesn’t make it possible to no longer have to struggle to do the right thing, but it provides us with a foundation even when things aren’t going well. King believes God will be with us and give us strength and hope and that this makes the struggle worth it, in spite of our many failures.)

Do you think that God’s grace and forgiveness makes a difference in your life?

What does King mean when he says we ‘can’t escape God’?
(Discussion: If you believe in God, you know God is everywhere. To know God is also with you in your struggles means you can confidently carry on the struggle to build a meaningful and righteous life. It means that you can’t have your hope and ultimate ground of meaning taken from you. It’s about confidence in the moral life, a theme some of you dealt with in Sunday School.)

Discussion Questions

Do you think you live in times as important as Dr. King’s

What issues do we face that are monumentally important today?

In what way does King’s religion inform his view of history?
(Discussion: It is dominated by the Bible. King views the great moments of history in primarily Biblical terms. He also sees the struggle that he is involved in as a part of that same history, King sees the civil rights struggle in biblical and Christian terms. It is, to him, like the exodus, and like Jesus struggle against the evils of His day.)

Why does King say he’d rather live in his day than any other?
(Discussion: The problems that he faces are as exciting and important as any other faced in history. The evil in the world have reached a tempo where temporary solutions won’t work, they must be dealt with head on. The potential for good is also higher than ever.)

Martin Luther King Jr. has what some call a ‘historical’ view of the world, what might that mean?
(Discussion: King looks at the big picture, and sees himself as a part of the unfolding of history in all it’s grandiosity. He feels the magnitude and importance of what he’s doing but knows that big changes take time. He has a vision that includes the Biblical past and the far future.)

Why does King talk about the dangers that the people in the story of the GOOD SAMARITAN faced?
(Discussion: King recognizes the dangers that everyone who is struggling for civil rights faces, he knows the difficulties and doesn’t sugar coat them. He shows how a purely rational ethic always leaves out something important…there are good reasons not to help the man on the road, and a reasonable and rational person would ask the question ‘what might happen to me if I help’.

What response does King say we should give to those in need?
(Discussion: He suggests we put the concerns and fate of others first. He wants us not to think about the danger to ourselves, but the dangers that face others if we don’t act. He seeks to encourage us to put others first and grounds that message in his religion. It’s a religious and not a rational response to the needs of others.)

What do you think the real dangers in your personal life are?

How do you avoid those dangers?

What are some reasons King is happy to be alive?

How does that contrast with the overall tone of the speech?

Do you ever take life for granted?

How do we keep from doing this?

What people in need do you encounter in your own life?

Do you usually calculate the personal costs of any action you undertake?

Is this the life Christ called you to?

Why does King reference Moses’ situation at the end of his speech?
(Discussion: King feels that there is some great danger around the corner for him. He’s decided to ignore the danger and put those in need first, but he’s not letting that deter him. He’s accepted that he may die soon but continues on in order to inspire people. King feels like Moses, because he’s worked so hard and his people have come so far that he knows that if he lives he may see a lot more of his hopes come to fruition. King feels the tragedy of his own situation. However, he’s decided accept that tragedy and do the work anyways.)

How does this speech compare to past speeches we’ve studied of King’s?
(Discussion: It’s almost a continuation of ‘Unfulfilled Dreams’ though in some ways it’s more hopeful. King has accepted he will pass with his dreams unfulfilled but confident that God has vouchsafed his reward and his people’s. King is looking at his struggle in a historical context and in that context he has hope, because he can see the hand of God there.)


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