Dr. King — The world is in dire need of a society of the creative maladjusted.

“Be not conformed…

Originally titled, “Mental and Spiritual Slavery” the sermon was became the Transformed Nonconformist:

King realized that to solve the problems of human life, especially the deepest problems—like racism, poverty, and war—we have to become, in a sense, abnormal. We have to stop going along; we have to stop accepting what everyone else believes. We have to become maladjusted if we are at all to become creative, and find that insoluble dilemmas often are the masks for other previously unrecognized problems with simple solutions.

Martin Luther King: Depressed and Creatively Maladjusted, Psychology Today

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideals hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different.”

“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

“The world is in dire need of a society of the creative maladjusted. It may well be that the salvation of our world lies in the hands of such a creative minority. We need men today as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Originally titled “Mental and Spiritual Slavery,” this sermon was composed during King’s early years assisting his father at Ebenezer.1He later revised the sermon and gave it this title.2 King maintains that the church’s sanction of social evils such as race discrimination and economic exploitation demonstrates that it has “more often conformed to the authority of the world than to the authority of God.” He chastises the church’s tendency to retreat “behind the isolated security of stained glass windows” and rebukes ministers who have “joined the enticing cult of conformity.” In contrast, King praises “The early Christians” as “nonconformists in the truest sense” but warns that “nonconformity is always costly” and “may mean losing a job. It may mean having to answer to your six-year old daughter when she asks, ‘Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much.’”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

Works Cited

“‘Transformed Nonconformist.’” Birmingham Campaign | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 1 Nov. 1954, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/transformed-nonconformist.

“Draft of Chapter II, ‘Transformed Nonconformist.’” Birmingham Campaign | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 1 July 1962, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-ii-transformed-nonconformist.

“Martin Luther King: Depressed and Creatively Maladjusted.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mood-swings/201201/martin-luther-king-depressed-and-creatively-maladjusted.

Miller, Keith D. Voice of Deliverance: the Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources. University of Georgia Press, 1998.

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