Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

“so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town”

Today is both the holiday for celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the ceremonial inauguration of President Barack Obama.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

So it’s as good a day as any to review Dr. King’s great “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

“Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.”

In between the inauguration festivities and the parade of parties tonight, I present to you a collection of materials about what is arguably the greatest-ever articulation of civil rights.

” Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.”

Here’s a link to the fascinating story behind the letter, which was smuggled out piecemeal to King’s colleagues and re-assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.

“when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

I can’t embed the 15-minute video, so I encourage you to click through and listen to the story behind this incredible document.

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Here is a nearly hour-long video that contains a dramatic reenactment of King in the jail cell, first as he reads the letter from the white clergy of Birmingham and then as he composes his response.

“Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?”

I encourage you to spend an hour listening to the actor bringing this 7,000 word letter to life.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Sit still. Listen. Don’t multi-task.  Let it land on your ears and wind its way into your heart. Devote yourself to this message.

“Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?”


9 responses to “Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

  1. Thank you, Joy, for reminding us of these words.

  2. I am so thrilled that MLD, Jr., is celebrated so widely and well across the land. This is the most significant of all our national holidays, in my view.

  3. So far along the road / so distant the goal.
    I upbraid myself for the biases that are unexpectedly uncovered within myself. I am better than that and, when slanderous lies invade my thoughts, I’m horrified and I worry for the cause of justice & peace. But there, also, are the threads of my hope…. Peace & justice are won incrementally sometimes. I join with you, Joy, in yearning for better world and in wrestling my thoughts and actions toward the Light. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

  4. Well worth the hour, Joy. Thank you for challenging us to sit down and listen. A good day for America today. I heard the faint flutter of wings of “the angels of our better nature.”

  5. Thank you, Joy.

  6. Saw the film “Lincoln” the night before the inauguration — an amazing combo. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommie Lee Jones) is my current hero. In a swirl of fact and fiction, but the coincidence of MLK Day and Inauguration Day is a lovely, lovely thing. Thanks for forwarding the letter from this amazing man.

  7. Someone once asked Malcolm X if he was an extremist. He answered “Yes, because black people in America are in an extremely bad condition.” When the house is on fire, you don’t look for a glass of water. These last two weeks I have found myself meditating on all the goals that the civil rights movement tried to achieve, and how in many ways most of them remain unrealized for the majority of people. Stagnant wages, rising cost of living, armed intolerance and vigilantism, discrimination based on economic status, personal appearance, religion, culture, and sexual orientation remain like ugly dinosaurs on the landscape. Even with legislative changes, these attitudes persist because of fear, and as the disciple in whose care Christ trusted his own mother wrote, “Perfect love casts out fear.” We are all given the perfect fearless love of the sunrise each day, invoking within us the uncreated shekinah of Divine Love. We are all given 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to manifest this Love. This is a testimony to the absolute equality of all, yet most of us suffer from being seen by others as somehow unequal, unworthy, or unimportant. As an Orthodox Christian who sees His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I as the third person of the Trinity, I experience complete disconnect from much of the mainstream Christian discourse, which seems too often to revolve around Western concepts that have little or nothing to do with Christ and His mission. I am completely misunderstood by most people I know, be they Christian, Rasta, or whatever else they claim to be. This is actually an advantage in many ways, as it forces me to continually reiterate my position, allowing for refinement and added insights. No one but the Creator has the monopoly on all truth, and we all have our portion of The Big Picture to contribute to the whole. My prayer for the human race is that people begin to see our differences as opportunities for learning rather than pretexts for war and conflict. In a nuclear age brimming with drones and assault weapons, it just may be our only hope of survival.

  8. You make good points, Kip, and with eloquence and feeling.

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