(RNS) — On Monday (Jan. 20), scores of Americans will line up at shelters, soup kitchens and community centers for a day of service honoring Martin Luther King Jr., on the holiday celebrating his contributions to American civil rights.

King was, of course, one of the most important social reformers of the 20th century. His struggle against racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s led to changes in federal and state laws including the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

But he was first and foremost a Baptist preacher. And his mission to “redeem the soul of America” cannot be understood apart from his Christian convictions and his ability to eloquently articulate those convictions for a nation hobbled by segregation and structural racism.

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