Reprint: Essential Reading

The following is a repeat of a post I made in August 2004.

Were I a school teacher there would be two pieces of required reading material in my classroom. Well three including good poetry. Piece number one would be Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. The second would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” These two pieces are essential to a proper understanding of liberty and doing what is right regardless of cost. Both men spent time in jail for their beliefs, both were misunderstood by the people of their time. Both men, thru their lives, called us to live differently.

Dr. King writes “But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love… Was not Amos an extremist for justice…Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ… Was not Martin Luther an extremist- “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me G-d.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist- “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist… Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist… So the question is not wether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. … Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? … So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremist.”

King also writes in the same letter upon the state of the Church. “There was a time when the church was very powerful. … In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed… Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. … Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of G-d is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”


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