"Anyone can have one kid. But going from one kid to two is like going from owning a dog to running a zoo." - P. J. O'Rourke

Monday, January 17, 2011

Letter From A Birmingham Jail

For the first time in my life, I read Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From A Birmingham Jail today.  In year's past I read his "I Have A Dream" speech to the kids, but this year I decided we would read something different.

So, what do I have to say after reading the "Letter From Birmingham Jail"?


If you have time to read it, I would HIGHLY encourage you to do so.  This letter is so powerful and so well-written, that I think everyone should read it!  Dr. King was an amazing orator and writer.  His grasp of the English language and his ability to communicate difficult truths is something to behold, but more than that, his courage and well-reasoned response to a horrendous problem is morally challenging to all of us.

I won't include the entire speech here, but I will include a few of the parts that had the most impact on me.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

 And I would daresay, that in this day and age, we are interrelated to people all over the world and the injustices they face should be seen as a threat to justice everywhere, as well.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Oh, may we never fear the label of extremist!  As long as our stand is morally defensible we should be proud to be considered extreme by those who would rather look the other way.

Okay, I'm not going to include any other excerpts, but I will say that his explanation of just and unjust laws is EXCELLENT and his condemnation of the "white moderate" and the Christian churches that would not stand up to end segregation is well-worth reading!

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