• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
Thinking Out Loud

The Maladjusted Prophet

by Michael Jinkins | Jan 21, 2014

Most of us cannot now hear a particular passage from the Prophet Amos without thinking of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The passage reads: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” The prophet’s words are carved into stones memorializing Dr. King’s legacy, and, I suspect, will always be linked to the martyred leader’s ministry.

What may not be remembered, however, are Dr. King’s fascinating characterizations of the Prophet Amos, and some others, which appear in some of his greatest writings and sermons.  In Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (a text that should be considered essential to the “canon” of sacred documents in our national life), Dr. King speaks of the role of the extremist in our culture. “I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction,” he writes, from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love…. Was not Amos an extremist for justice…. Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ….” (James Washington, ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 297; all quotes from Dr. King in this blog are from this invaluable volume.)

Dr. King’s characterization of the Prophet Amos as an extremist reminds me of Abraham Heschel’s portrait of the prophets, as persons with a divinely gifted apprehension of evils among us to which we have become insulated to the point that we “may be dying without being aware of it.” “The prophet’s word,” Rabbi Heschel once wrote, “is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.” (The Prophets, New York, Harper & Row, 1962, Vol. 1: pp. xii, 16) Amos, like the other prophets, feels the world at a higher intensity than most of us. All of the prophets are as Dr. King observed, “extremists”: extreme in their sensitivity, extreme in their unwillingness to accept the harm done to others as “standard operating procedures.”

In several other writings, however, Dr. King uses another term to characterize the work of the Prophet Amos and others: “maladjusted.” Dr. King is being deliberately ironic in these writings, taking a term used to dismiss behaviors as odd or pathological and breathing into that term a new and deeper ethical understanding.  Dr. King observes that there is a technical sense in which the word “maladjusted” can be usefully employed. In psychological terms, none of us want to be thought “maladjusted,” he observes. “But there are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination,” he writes, “I never intend to adjust myself to the inequalities of an economic system which takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.”  (Washington ed./ King, “The Current Crisis in Race Relations” 1958, p. 89)

A prophet, like the Prophet Amos, according to Dr. King, is and ought to be “maladjusted” to the injustices of the age. Amos’ maladjustment led him to cry out, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

 In various sermons and addresses across the years, Dr. King included Lincoln and Jefferson in his list of the socially and ethically maladjusted, along with Jesus of Nazareth. But, in his last sermon, delivered in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, on the eve of his assassination, Dr. King does something very interesting as well as prophetic. He seems to assume that his audience has heard his previous comments about the maladjusted prophet, and he becomes even more personal, even more intimate in his invitation to those listening to his address. “We need all of you,” he says. “And you know what’s beautiful to me, is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel…. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and say, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Somehow, the preacher must say with Jesus, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.’” (Washington, ed./King, “I See the Promised Land” p. 282)

Abraham Heschel, in a fascinating chapter in Volume 2 of his study of The Prophets, reflects on “Prophecy and Psychosis.” Interestingly, he titled a section of this chapter, “The Prophets are Morally Maladjusted.” He writes: “The prophet is a person who suffers from a profound maladjustment to the spirit of society, with its conventional lies, with its concessions to man’s weakness…. The prophet’s maladaptation to his environment may be characterized as moral madness (as distinguished from madness in a psychological sense).” Rabbi Heschel’s analysis helps us understand the genius of Dr. King’s ethical insight, and, by extension, of Dr. King’s invitation to us all. Heschel writes: “The prophet claims to sense, to hear, and to see in a way totally removed from the normal perception, to pass from the actual world into a mysterious realm, and still be able to return properly oriented to reality and to apply the content of his perception to it. While his mode of perception may differ sharply from the perceptions of other human beings, the ideas he brings back to reality become a source of illumination of supreme significance to all other human beings.” (Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 2, 188)

Let us give thanks for the maladjusted prophets with whom God has blessed us. And let us pray that we may share in their spirit of maladjustment for the sake of the reign of God among us.


Leave a comment
  1. uali20 | Dec 08, 2016

    visit website

    very interesting post.this is my first time visit here.i found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post!   

  2. sdssd | Nov 30, 2016
    That appears to be excellent however i am still not too sure that I like it. At any rate will look far more into it and decide personally!  workbook
  3. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    check these guys out

    I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people.   

  4. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    best site

    Thanks a lot for one’s intriguing write-up. It’s actually exceptional. Searching ahead for this sort of revisions.   

  5. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    Click Here

    This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!   

  6. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    jobdirumah review

    Great Information sharing .. I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.   

  7. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    forex sebenar

    Always so interesting to visit your site.What a great info, thank you for sharing. this will help me so much in my learning.

  8. uali20 | Nov 30, 2016

    pengalaman bercuti

    Thanks for such a great post and the review, I am totally impressed! Keep stuff like this coming.   

  9. NATURE HERB MEDICINE | Nov 29, 2016
    Obat Herbal Kanker ServiksAmazon Plus adalah kabar baik untuk para kaum perempuan dalam memerangi penyakit tumor rahim yang diidap dalam waktu yang cepat dan ampuh untuk menghambat sel kanker serviks tumbuh kembali. Amazon Plus benar benar adalah Obat Herbal Kanker Leher Rahim yang Mujarab Tanpa Operasi.Obat Herbal Kanker Darah atau LeukemiaObat Tradisional Jus Kulit Manggis Penyakit Leukimia / Kanker DarahKanker Darah dalam bahasa Yunani leukos artinya putih;  serta  aima artinya darah. Lebih dikenal sebagai sakit leukimia. Leukimia merupakan jenis penyakit dalam klasifikasi neoplasma dalam sumsum tulang yang ditandai dengan perbanyakan dengan cara tak stabil dari sel-sel pembentuk darah di sumsum tulang  serta  jaringan limfoid, umumnypada umumnya terjadi pada leukosit. Sel-sel normal pada sumsum tulang digantikan oleh sel tak normal. Sel abnormal ini berasal dari sumsum serta dapat ditemukan dalam darah perifer. Sel leukemia bisa memengaruhi hematopoiesis maupun proses pembentukan sel darah normal dan imun tubuh penderita.Obat Herbal Stroke Yang Ampuh.Minuman herbal Amazon Plus Yaitu sekumpulan ekstrak buah dari berbagai di Amerika Selatan. Obat Herbal Amazon Plus  memiliki anti oksidan superserta zaitun yang kaya akan senyawa Hydroxytyrosol Obat tradisional Amazon Plus ternyata juga memiliki berbagai jenis manfaat pada tubuh manusia, diantaranya adalah: berfungsi untuk menetralisir radikal-radikal bebas pada tubuh, memperbaharui sel dalam tubuh kita,Obat Tradisional Stroke ini akan membantu menyembuhkan dan menyempurnakan fungsi otak seperti semula.
  10. teenu john | Nov 29, 2016
    Stunning post. I liked the way of presentation of the stuff than the main points highlight in it. Variety presenting style will always attract the reader and i need more details about the presentation to applicable in my research works completed with help of top rated essay writing service
  11. Al | Nov 28, 2016
  12. sdsds | Nov 24, 2016
    it was a wonderful chance to visit this kind of site and I am happy to know. thank you so much for giving us a chance to have this opportunity..  Patent drawing experts
  13. jackman10 | Nov 22, 2016
    I truly like your interpretation of the issue. I now have an unmistakable thought on what this matter is about..  ios icon pack
  14. calvin alex | Nov 22, 2016
    The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing... ייעוץ שיווקי
  15. jhon khan | Nov 17, 2016
    I appreciate everything you have added to my knowledge base.Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.Thanks. קורס מכירות
  16. Nolan | Nov 17, 2016

    Your article is very exciting and informational. I am trying to decide on a career move and this has helped me with one aspect. Thank you so much! 3kw solar system - vicsolar

  17. Rokual | Nov 15, 2016
    damn, it's so clean here, i'm amazed! <a href="http://klinikutamagracia.net/">konsultasi suster online - KlinkUtamaGracia.Net</a>
  18. calvin alex | Nov 13, 2016
    Great articles and great layout. Your blog post deserves all of the positive feedback it’s been getting. visit this link
  19. sdasd | Nov 08, 2016
    Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic.  This has really made me think and I hope to read more. siti web roma
  20. coie | Nov 07, 2016
     Software mxf converter free download to convert HD camcorder files. avchd converter convert avchd video files to avi, mp4, wmv, mov mts to avi mp4 mov mkv iMovie, FCP/FCE with mts converter, so to convert mts files for your PC and mobiles. mod converter and convert tod files just free
  21. calvin alex | Nov 07, 2016
    Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually realize what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my site =). We could have a hyperlink change contract between us! Teenage Genocide
  22. calvin alex | Nov 06, 2016
    i love reading this article so beautiful!!great job! anthony wile
  23. jackman10 | Nov 05, 2016
    I as of late ran over your website and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don't realize what to say aside from that I have delighted in perusing. Decent blog. I will continue going to this online journal frequently.  best adjustable dumbbells and weights
  24. calvin alex | Nov 03, 2016
    I really like your writing style,  great   information,  thankyou  for posting. sod installation
  25. sdssd | Oct 30, 2016
    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.  wedding-photographers-MD
  26. VIJAY | Oct 29, 2016
    I'm glad I found this web site.I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work and Happy Diwali to you all.DIWALI 2016
  27. john | Oct 28, 2016
    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2016: Now before Canada and America binge upon Turkey and grab their seats to watch football, all people diverge their attention to the most sought after Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan 2016.<a href="http://www.thanksgivingquotes2016.com/">thanksgiving 2016 india</a>
  28. hd | Oct 27, 2016
    As i invested in onto your websites still placement of completely focus rigorously a little bit submits. Comforting strategy for foreseeable future, I will be bookmarking eachtime are given families down happens set. thesis for college
  29. calvin alex | Oct 27, 2016
    Great articles and great layout. Your blog post deserves all of the positive feedback it’s been getting. lowest solar panel prices
  30. calvin alex | Oct 26, 2016
    I really like your writing style,  great   information,  thankyou  for posting. MyHealth Centre
  31. anonym | Oct 24, 2016
  32. Divya | Oct 19, 2016
    I am visiting your blog for the first time.This article is very useful for me. Thanx,if anyone is interested in Karwachauth Vrat Katha in Hindi, please check thisKarwachauth Vrat Katha in Hindi
  33. jack san | Oct 18, 2016
    Love to read it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks. dr paul lubitz
  34. calvin alex | Oct 17, 2016
    Really a great addition. I have read this marvelous post. Thanks for sharing information about it. I really like that. Thanks so lot for your convene. Bondage Supplies
  35. jhon khan | Oct 16, 2016
    I know your expertise on this. I must say we should have an online discussion on this. Writing only comments will close the discussion straight away! And will restrict the benefits from this information. visit this link
  36. moet36 | Oct 13, 2016
    chứng hạ bộ không căng do một vài dây tâm thần , huyết mạch bắt gặp nguy hại gây súng ống rất khó có nguy cơ thể căng  thuốc kéo dài thời gian quan hệ
  37. calvin alex | Oct 13, 2016
    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Click here to visit
  38. Alex | Oct 11, 2016
    Good blog along with the excellent quality stuff and I’m sure this will be greatly helpful. Rebel Mouse
  39. calvin alex | Oct 10, 2016
    Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. Click to visit
  40. jhon khan | Oct 09, 2016
    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. visit this link
  41. jhon khan | Oct 08, 2016
    Very nice article, I enjoyed reading your post, very nice share, I want to twit this to my followers. Thanks!.  visit this link
  42. jhon khan | Oct 06, 2016
    This is actually the kind of information I have been trying to find. Thank you for writing this information. visit this link
  43. jhon khan | Oct 05, 2016
    Thanks for your information, it was really very helpfull.. visit this link
  44. Carter | Oct 05, 2016

    Things are very open and intensely clear explanation of issues. was truly information. Your website is very beneficial.

    Case Study Homework Help

  45. MARCO | Oct 03, 2016
  46. calvin alex | Oct 03, 2016
    Great post, and great website. Thanks for the information! visit this link
  47. jhon khan | Oct 02, 2016
    Really a great addition. I have read this marvelous post. Thanks for sharing information about it. I really like that. Thanks so lot for your convene. footyref
  48. jhon khan | Oct 02, 2016
    I have been checking out a few of your stories and i can state pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog "http://compactanalysis.com"
  49. jhon khan | Oct 01, 2016
    I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing. visit this link
  50. sdfsdf | Sep 30, 2016
    Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post!  samsonite

    Leave a comment

    • 1044 Alta Vista Road |
    • Louisville, KY 40205 |
    • 800.264.1839 |
    • Fax: 502.895.1096 |
    • Site Map
    © Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary