Review: THE CONCISE KING (Selected Sermons and Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

January 18, 2010


A Review of

The Concise King:
(Selected Sermons and Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

2 cd’s : Hachette Audio, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

[ Listen to clips from THE CONCISE KING ]

[ Watch MLK’s infamous “I have a Dream” speech ]

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THE CONCISE KING - Hachette Audio 2010I was excited to learn recently that Hachette Audio was going to be releasing two new collections of audio recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermons and speeches.  I will eventually be reviewing the gem of these two releases, Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Essential Box Set, but at 15 cd’s in length, it is going to take awhile to work my way through that.  The other new release, The Concise King, is actually an abridged edition of the box set, with eight selected talks representing the finest of Dr. King’s oratory.

As we remember Dr. King, on this holiday set aside for honoring his legacy, there are two essential things about him that we must bear in mind.  First, he was primarily an orator.  We can read his speeches or his sermons, but in doing so we lose the vibrant richness of the experience of hearing or seeing him speak.  Secondly, as Andrew Young emphasizes in the introduction to The Concise King: “Martin was first of all a man of faith, a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus, which had as its symbol of triumph his death on the cross and hope in a resurrection.”

The selection of two sermons and six speeches on The Concise King gives us a superb introduction to both the oratory and the faith of Dr. Martin Luther King.  King’s faith was a public one, engaging injustice at every turn and we see this prophetic faith embodied in the selection of talks offered here: challenging the racism manifested on city busses in Montgomery, bolding standing for black voting rights, denouncing the war in Vietnam and challenging churches to nurture a life rooted in a deep and holistic theology.  There are the familiar speeches (including “I have a Dream” and ‘I’ve been to the Mountaintop”) but there are other excellent selections that are less familiar (“Loving your Enemies” or “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”).  Each talk is fronted by an introduction given by a relevant figure from politics or the civil rights movement (e.g., Rosa Parks’ comments – read by Coretta Scott King – introduce “Address to the First Montgomery Improvement Association Mass Meeting” and George McGovern introduces “Beyond Vietnam”).  These introductions serve very well to set the talks in their appropriate contexts and also highlight their historical significance.  My only complaint about The Concise King (and it is a minor one) is that the track listings in the cd package do not match the tracks on the cd’s themselves, so it becomes a bit cumbersome to navigate to specific tracks.

As we celebrate today the faithfulness of Dr, King and his bold witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to seek out The Concise King.  You will not find a better introduction to his legacy, one centered on utterly compelling oratory (a lost skill in the present age of the sound-bite) and on faithfulness to the truth of the reconciling Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.