Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Ira Chernus

Second Advisor

Greg Johnson

Third Advisor

Deborah Whitehead


In August 2011, after more than two decades of planning, fund-raising and construction, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial— a four-acre tract south of the Mall featuring a granite statue of King — has opened to the public. King is officially enshrined in granite in the National Mall. A black preacher became a monument, a monument represents America. King is the prophet of American Civil Religion. This paper examines Martin Luther King, Jr. as the prophet of America and in the context of American Civil Religion. To begin, I will explore the concepts and definitions of the prophet, the civil religion, and the American Creed by analyzing Max Weber, Robert Bellah, Martin Marty, and Richard Hughes’s works. King’s thoughts, words and acts in the light of prophetic traditions and the Civil Religion will be further discussed. The concept of the Beloved Community will be the main clue in order to interpret King’s commitment to his social actions. King’s outlook on American Civil Religion will be sketched by analyzing the center concept of Civil Rights Movement, Anti-Vietnam War Campaign, as well as Poor People Campaign. Lastly, I will explore how King is recognized in the United States today by examining the establishment of King National Memorial in Washington D.C. and the speech of the president delivered at the dedication ceremony. Further, the link between King’s idea/actions and the Occupy movement in 2011, which is referred even by the president, will be discussed.