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  • Norman Young

An American Saint and Evangelical Idolatry

An American Saint and His Disciples

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only American figure (other than a founder) who has a day set apart by the federal government for his remembrance. He is surely the closest thing America has to a saint-figure. He was saintly not only because he was a preacher and a martyr, but because he stood against a culture that was blind—often willfully blind—to the blatant injustice of segregation laws which forced second-class status upon black Americans. King’s own generation assassinated him. But the generations that followed have been converted by him. As G. K. Chesterton said,

“The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what people want, but rather what the people need… Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.”