Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reverend or Doctor?

I saw this mentioned over at The Corner, and it's a question I've struggled with before as well. Should one preface the name Martin Luther King Jr. with the title "Doctor" or "Reverend"? To me, being a pastor is a much more noble and prestigious achievement than merely earning a PhD. Also, the general rule of thumb in the case of a person with multiple titles is that the most appropriate one for the situation is used. For example, in the case of Condoleeza Rice, a Cabinet Secretary and a PhD, in an academic setting it would be more appropriate to call her "Doctor Rice" whereas in a political setting you might call her "Secretary Rice". This would seem to back calling MLK "reverend" as it was his position as a pastor that lead to his involvement in the civil rights struggle, not any work as an academic. However, given the controversy surrounding the awarding of his PhD, I've always worried that breaking with convention and calling him "Reverend" might be misinterpreted as some sort of slight. The compromise that I've heard before, "The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King" sounds far too unwieldy. Multiple titles and three names is just too much to squeeze in to any one's name in casual use.