There are lots of themes here. Overall, it is about Martin Luther King, but also there are elements of Jesus one man betrayed with a kiss. Originally, the song was going to be about Ronald Reagan.
Crow crowglobalserve.net (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
The previous entry said that there were "elements of Jesus" in these lyrics. Now, I cannot say that the song is not about Martin Luther King because I know as well as anybody that that's what it's about; still, the lyrics match up with Christ as well. Christ came in the name of love, He came and went, He came to justify, He came to overthrow. One man washed on an empty beach is Christ being baptized. Christ resisted Satan (when Satan tempted Jesus). One man caught on a barbed wire fence could be the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he was crucified. And, of course, Christ was betrayed with a kiss. The last verse is obviously about MLK.
Andrew Clark andrewclark35hotmail.com (31:st of August 2001)
I'd just like to explain why I think the song is called Pride. In the Bible it says that Christians are to boast in or have pride in nothing but Jesus Christ. By calling this song pride U2 (or Bono) are saying that their Pride is in Jesus and what he accomplised on the cross and at the ressurection. This also makes sense of the last verse which is about Martin Luther King and says Free at last, they took your life they could not take your pride. ie they may have killed Martin Luther King but they could not seperate him from Jesus (who was his pride). As such U2 (or Bono) also makes the link that even when they die they cannot be seperated from Jesus in whom they have Pride.
Joel Davies mungo_snikkethotmail.com (25th of June 2005)
I heard one of the members of U2 (most likely Bono) say that originally the song was supposed to be about the pride of the governments of Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher, but they thought it would be better to write about some one who had real pride and not arrogance: Martin Luther King Jr. (P.S. I couldn't find the actual quote, so if anyone else has it, please post it!)
Chris Taguchi chris.taguchigmail.com (24th of October 2008)
The song Pride was, at least partly, inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr, Peacemaker exhibit at the Peace Museum in Chicago. The museum contacted U2 for a donation of a manuscript for one of the songs on the War album and a white flag used during the tour. The museum was first met with disinterest but succeeded in getting attention and sent some catalogues from two previous exhibits, The unforgettable fire and Martin Luther King Jr, Peacemaker. U2 later donated some memorabilia to the museums new exhibit, Give Peace a Chance.
Thanks to "Matt" for directing me to Giving Peace A Chance.
Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) (24th January 2011)