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From J. Pius Barbour

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Author: Barbour, J. Pius (National Baptist Voice)

Date: July 21, 1955

Location: Chester, Pa.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


King had invited Barbour to participate in Dexter’s Spring Lecture Series on 27–29 April 1956. Barbour accepts the invitation for a different Sunday, 15 April; he gave a sermon and three lectures on 15–17 April 1956. Barbour reports on the progress of his building campaign at Calvary Baptist Church in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Dear Mike:

April 29th is my Women’s Day and I am in the midst of a building programme and I have to stick around on these financial days. I can come of the Third Sunday In April if you can arrange it. Then too I wonder if I am your man. I am distinctly a “preacher’s preacher” and a college lecture man. I can preach “Mob-sermons” but I cant lecture to mobs. I am filled up with three lectures:

  1. Should we open the Canon? . this deals with adding to the Bible and Revelation.
  2. Has Marx outmoded the Christian Ethic? . this deals with the historical process.
  3. Is the Baptist Church Doomed? . this deals with the New concept of the Church.

Now I cant make any more preparation as I am filled with the above and I have always stuck to one rule: Fill yourself up with some deep stuff and stick to it until it is out of your system. I heard Proctor on “success”. Trite! Trite! Trite! for a “TH.D.”1 (See my article on the New England Convention in the “Voice” I am sending you.) Now think on these things and write me your conclusions.

My annex is finished … the hottest thing on the Eastern seaboard. Paid sixty-two thousand CASH, have’nt borrowed one penny. Now I will turn the Church into a Catholic Sanctuary. This will cost fortyfive {thosa} thousand and the furnishings twenty five thousand. I will sweat the Spooks and then BORROW to finish. I have it all planned and it is working as a clock.

I put a colonial front on and The white folks are eating me {up} as you know the Church is on the high way and they see it. The Banks are calling me to LEND me money! How is that? I raised $,4,024.00 Sunday July 17th, the hottest day of the year and the “Spooks” were standing around the wall. Besides I have taken in 114 members since December and raised $16,000. {EXTRA} in special efforts in FIVE MONTHS. PREACHED IT UP!

Yet all of this leaves me cold as I am no Caiaphas. I am a Paul. Buildings dont impress me. I went to sleep in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Not impressed. Harkness is right.2 Emphasis on buildings and ritual is a sign of religious and spiritual decadence. Nobody said much when I baptized NINETY TWO at one time EASTER, but every body is talking about the building. SAD! SAD! SAD! Although I am the deepest theologian in the Baptist Church nobody paid me any attention. Even you had it in the back of your head that I was a loafer. Now that I have turned “My Father’s House into a den of thieves” even you say: “Doc I did not know it was in you.” SAD! SAD! SAD!

Littlejohn is Pastor of the Bethesda Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minn.3 I just got a letter from him and he wants to leave because the “Niggers” have up hell about the Choir and Gospel chorus singing. Poor boy . . he does not know that Hell is the natural habitat of the average Baptist member.

Copy this article and send me your cut AIR MAIL SPECIAL and I will put you in the Convention issue of the VOICE. I warn you. Dont get stuck there. Move on to a big metropolitan center in THE NORTH, or some town as ATLANTA. You will dry rot there. I feel sorry for you with all that learning. I wrote a two hundred page thesis on RELIGION AND PHYSIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY and with the exception of lectures to colleges have been unable to use ONE SINGLE IDEA in the Baptist Church. The coutry Negroes have swept into town and REDUCED the intellectual level of RELIGION. This is the day of Mass preachers except in certain spots. Hurry and get one. Curry is trying to put the heat on me to come to Bishop but I am satisfied where I am.4 I have my house air-conditioned and I have not been out of this “hole” up on the second floor in a month. I just read and sleep and look out the window at the men working on my Church! “All this and Heaven too”! Hurry up and reply. You are {and} Coretta are going to rue the day you have children. The Catholics are right. Preachers should be celibates.

Your Old Friend
[signed] JPB

P.S. Be sure and show Coretta the article in the Voice. I like her and this is a compliment as I do not like preachers wives . . most of them are empty headed and butt in their husbands business too much.

Tillich is all wet. There is no “being-itself. “Das Ding im Sich” is Non-Being! Kant proved that. Being-Itself is a meaningless abstraction. As Marx said. Read Tillich “The Courage To Be.”5 He has a good section “Existentialism”—The Latest Philosophical “Fad”. Can man hurry up the historical process? This occupies my mind at present.

I am killing the church on “Job.” Eliphaz made 3 indictments against Job.

  1. You have no right to complain
  2. You have a secret sin
  3. You question the justice of God

Job answers

   July 10 (1) “Freedom Implies Freedom to Question God”—Subject: “Boundless Freedom” Results: “Hari-Kari”
   July 17 (2) “Worried Minds”—Text—“The Almighty Troubles Me—Job 23:16
   Thesis: Unexplained Suffering Worries Us—Attack on Norman Vincent Peale
   I have no sin, said Job—Your doctrine is outmoded
   (2). Can Christianity Handle Worried Minds?—(Double “Hari-Kari” The old approach has failed! So what?
   July 24 (3) “The Justice of God”—Working on this now.

All of these
Deep! Deep! Deep!

1. Samuel D. Proctor received his Th.D. from Boston University in 1950.

2. Barbour may be referring to R. E. E. Harkness, who was a professor at Crozer Theological Seminary.

3. Worth Littlejohn Barbour was Barbour’s son.

4. Barbour refers to M. K. Curry, Jr., president of Bishop College in Marshall, Texas.

5. Barbour refers to Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952).

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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