This morning, I read the entirety of the letter Dr. King wrote to several of his fellow clergymen while he was jailed in Alabama. I’ve read it several times over the years, but this time I felt it more deeply than I remember. Some of his words don’t sound so much like April, 1963 as they do like January, 2017. Some of the accusations and the protestations feel every bit as valid today as they did 54 years ago.
As I read, I began highlighting some of the phrases that stood out to me as particularly relevant. I assumed I’d pick two or three gems out of the very long, impassioned letter, but it seems every other line, in nearly every paragraph rings as true now as it was then.
Certainly, many of the legal ends Dr. King and other activists worked toward have been met. There are no longer white or colored water fountains, busses, and diners. Legally, our black brothers & sisters have the same rights I do. Though, I’m not sure all of those “dark clouds of prejudice” have dissipated over our beloved nation. I think white people, white Christians -myself included- are still “more cautious than courageous” when it comes to the moral, spiritual, and physical defense of our fellow Image-bearers.
Today our country celebrates the birth and legacy of Dr. King, but how can we claim to be celebrants when far too many of us are, often willfully, emotionally and cognitively disengaged from the reality of racial disharmony? It is so easy for us to applaud the work of others in the past, yet remain silent in the face of injustice in the present. But when has the easy path ever been the right one?
If you have time today, sit down and read the full Letter from a Birmingham Jail. If you don’t have time- make time. If you find yourself bristling at the idea of reading it because it doesn’t apply to you, give yourself the gift of prayerful introspection, and figure out why you’ve come to believe you have no reason to heed Dr. King’s words.
(I’m hoping, if I did that right, that link will lead to a doc of the letter including the highlights I was moved to make. If not, find the whole Letter here.)