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"The Danger of Mis Guided Goodness"

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
January 1, 1948 to December 31, 1954
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education


  1. Int.

    1. One of the basic functions of the Christian Church is to keep alive a certain degree of moral sensitivity. See the Church must of necessity urge men to be good, to be sincere, to be conscientious. There are basic moral principles. But they are not enough. To say of a man that he is conscientious and means well, important though that is, does not cover the ground. Not only must we be good, but we must be intelligent.1 Every man has a moral obligation to be intelligent. Quote Socrates2 One of the most dangerous forces in the world is misguided goodness

    2. Some of the most shameful tragedies of human history have been commtted, not by bad, people, but by good consciencious people who didn't know what they did

      1. those who made Scrates drink the hemlock

      2. The crusades3

      3. the people that threatned Galilio [Galileo Galilei]

      4. The trial of Joan of arc4

    3. The text.5 A profound passage comes out of one of Paul's experience Epistle to give something of a scriptural sanction to our theme.

    1. Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 223: “To say of a man there that he is conscientious and means well, important though that is, does not cover the ground. He must not be stupid.”

    2. King may be citing a paraphrase of a speech by Socrates found in Plato's Apology 38a: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

    3. The Crusades were military campaigns carried out by European Christians intermittently between 1096 and the late thirteenth century to conquer and convert non-Christians and recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

    4. Jeanne d'Arc (1412-1431) led French troops during the Hundred Years' War but was later tried and burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft. Fosdick, The Hope of the World, p. 223: “The Athenians who made Socrates drink the hemlock, far from being bad, were among the most earnest, conscientious, religious people of their day … So, in intention, the crusades were not so much wicked as stupid; the people who threatened Galileo with torture were not wicked but stupid; the judges at the trial of Joan of Arc were not bad but senseless, and over the most shameful tragedies of history, as over the cross of Christ, the judgment stands: ‘They know not what they do.’”

    5. King may refer to Romans 10:2 as he does in the sermon Sincerity Is Not Enough, 3 June 1951, pp. 119-120 in this volume.


CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 87, Why the Christian Must Oppose Segregation.