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Chicago Pastor Charlie Dates Rebukes White Evangelical Leader’s Attack on MLK’s Faith

‘Keep Martin King’s Name Out of Your Mouth,’ Dates Tells John MacArthur

Pastor Charlie Dates of Progressive Baptist Church publicly refuted recent remarks by John MacArthur, criticizing MacArthur’s claim that renowned civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a true Christian.

MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in California, reportedly stated during a Q&A session that King “was not a Christian at all” and that his “life was immoral.” He went on to call King, an ordained Baptist preacher and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, “a nonbeliever who misrepresented everything about Christ and the gospel.”

MacArthur’s comments, shared on Twitter on February 19, sparked pushback from at least one prominent Black Christian leader.

martin luther king jr
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at a rally in Crawfordville, Georgia, October 11, 1965. (Photo: Library of Congress)

In a response video posted on Instagram on February 26, Dates strongly defended King’s faith. He asserted that King “was a Christian” and “he did go to heaven.”

The Chicago pastor further condemned “all of this foolishness from White evangelical pulpits” for “denying the integrity” of Black leaders.

“If you ain’t gonna raise a finger to help us get the right to vote, to live where we want to live, to go to school where we want to go, keep Martin King’s name out of your mouth,” the Progressive Baptist Church leader declared passionately.

Admitting that he was angry enough to cry, Dates defended King, saying, “The tree is known by the fruit it bears.”


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Dates, 43, credits King as among several Black leaders who have profoundly influenced his preaching and thoughts about the power of the Black Church. He was among a group of Christian leaders who honored King’s legacy on the 50th anniversary of his 1968 assassination. Dates preached on “The Most Segregated Hour in America,” an observation of Sunday worship made by King more than 60 years ago.

Related: 50 Years After King’s Murder, Christians Press’ Racial Unity’ as ‘a Gospel Issue’ reported that this was the first time MacArthur publicly spoke negatively about King. MacArthur, 84, previously claimed that he accompanied Black Christian leaders to the site of King’s 1968 assassination just hours after it happened. That claim was later refuted by one of MacArthur’s alleged companions to the site.

Despite MacAruthur’s personal view that King was not a Christian, the California pastor and author conceded that King did “some social good.”

“And I’ve always been glad that he was a pacifist, or he could have started a real revolution,” MacArthur said.

Related: Baptist Minister Howard Thurman Deeply Influenced Martin Luther King Jr.

King, a highly educated and eloquent speaker, consistently leaned on the Bible in his public addresses and writings, including his iconic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” highlighting his Christian motivations for challenging societal injustices like racism and economic exploitation.

Revelations over the years of King’s extramarital affairs have prompted some to reevaluate their views of his character. However, more than 80% of Americans maintain that he positively impacted the country, according to a survey published by the Pew Research Center last year.

Related: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Alleged ‘Obscene’ Acts and the FBI’s Motive to Destroy Him

Despite controversy over King’s personal life, his legacy as a civil rights leader continues to hold immense influence.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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