Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV ShowAndy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show by Daniel de Visé

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author of the book, Daniel de Vise’, is an author and journalist who has worked at The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and three other newspapers in a twenty-three-year career. Also he was Don Knotts's brother-in-law. This is a great book if you enjoy The Andy Griffith Show. Please be aware he tells both the good and bad about Andy and Don. Some fans may not want to read any thing that sheds light on a negative of these two stars, but to me that just makes them more human. They truly were good friends and some might say best friends. For sure they were great actors who brought laughs to millions. This book examines their lives from the beginning to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and can highly recommend it!

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Monday, August 15, 2016

All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?

All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do? by John Ortberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Ortberg was become one of my favorite authors. What he writes encourages me, challenges me, and makes me think. This book is about “Doors,” both open doors and closed doors. He describes and teaches what we should do when we encounter these doors. He uses many personal examples to show both the right way and wrong way to respond to open or closed doors. This is a great book for all believers to read. You may not agree with everything he says but you will be blessed. I trust the quotes below will give you a little taste of what he has to say on this topic.

Funny and ironic quotes (six-word memoirs) from the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning
“One tooth, one cavity, life’s cruel.”
“Savior complex makes for many disappointments.”
“Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.” (This one was written not by a wise, old grandmother, but by a nine-year-old boy with thyroid cancer.)
“The psychic said I’d be richer.” (Actually, this author might be richer if she stopped blowing money on psychics.)
“Tombstone won’t say: ‘Had health insurance.’”
“Not a good Christian, but trying.”
“Thought I would have more impact.”

… characters of Scripture might write their six-word memoirs
Abraham: “Left Ur. Had baby. Still laughing.”
Jonah: “No. Storm. Overboard. Whale. Regurgitated. Yes.”
Moses: Burning bush. Stone tablets. Charlton Heston.”
Adam: “Eyes opened, but can’t find home.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: “King was hot. Furnace was not.”
Noah: “Hated the rain, loved the rainbow.”
Esau: “At least the stew was good.”
Esther: “Eye candy. Mordecai handy. Israel dandy.”
Mary: “Manger. Pain. Joy. Cross. Pain. Joy.”
Prodigal Son: “Bad. Sad. Dad glad. Brother mad.”
Rich Young Ruler: “Jesus called. Left sad. Still rich.”
Zacchaeus: “Climbed sycamore tree. Short, poorer, happier.”
Woman caught in adultery: “Picked up man, put down stones.”
Good Samaritan: “I cam, I saw, I stopped.”
Paul: “Damascus. “Blind. Suffer. Write. Change world.”

In Revelation 3:7-8 an open door is symbolic of “boundless opportunities. Of unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; of grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; of heretofore unimagined chances to do good, to make our lives count for eternity. An open door is the great adventure of life because it means the possibility of being useful to God.

Often an open door to another room begins with a sense of discontent about the room you’re already in.

If proof is possible, faith is impossible.

… you must abandon your old life, believe God’s promises are trustworthy, and commit to a new journey. (ABC’s of faith)

“I know that your strength is small,” God says to the church at Philadelphia. People in the church may not have been hugely flattered when they read that line. But what a gift to know that open doors are not reserved for the specially talented or the extraordinarily strong. God can open a door for anyone.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~Viktor Frankl

Frankl discovered that doors are not just physical. A door is a choice.

Life is a sum of all of your choices.

Sometimes the opportunity doesn’t involve going to a new place; it means finding a new and previously unrecognized opportunity in the old place.

Open doors in the Bible never exist just for the sake of the people offered them. They involve opportunity, but it’s the opportunity to bless someone else. An open door may be thrilling to me, but it doesn’t exist solely for my benefit. An open door is not just a picture of something good. It involves a good that we do not yet fully know. An open door does not offer a complete view of the future. An open door means opportunity, mystery, possibility – but not a guarantee.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose. …
Oh, the places you’ll go! …
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t. ~Dr. Seuss

The staggering truth is that this very moment is alive with opportunity. What could you be doing right this moment that you aren’t? You could be learning Chinese. You could be training for a marathon. Etc.

An open door is an opportunity provided by God, to act with God and for God.

God Can Use a “Wrong Door” to Shape a Right Heart

God’s primary will for your life is not the achievements you accrue; it’s the person you become.

God’s primary will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus.

God is primarily in the character-forming business, not the circumstance-shaping business.

God can use even what looks like the “wrong door” if I go through it with the right heart.

Those with an open mind-set believe that what matters is not raw ability; what matters is growth. Growth is always possible. A commitment to growth means they embrace challenge, so the goal is not trying to look smarter or more competent than other people. The goal is to grow beyond where they are today. Therefore, failure is indispensable and something to be learned from.

Ultimately, faith provides the greatest foundation for an open mind-set. The reason I don’t have to prove my worth is that I am loved by God no matter what. The reason I can be open to tomorrow is that God is already there.

Closed-door thinking looks safe, but it’s the most dangerous thinking of all because it leaves God on the other side of the door.

To be an open-door person means to embrace an open mind-set – along with a set of disciplines and practices to help us regularly embrace and walk through open doors.

Open-Door People Are Ready, “Ready or Not”

… a lot of times if we knew what we were getting into, we wouldn’t get into it in the first place.

The truth about being ready is you’ll never be ready.

Faith grows when God says to somebody, “Go,” and that person says yes.

Jesus chooses to change the world. He doesn’t say, “First, let’s get enough numbers” or “First, let’s get enough faith.” He just says, “You go. We’ll work on the faith thing and the numbers thing while you’re doing the obedience thing. I’m sending you out. Ready or not …”

In the Bible, when God calls someone to do something, no one responds by saying, “I’m ready”:
Moses: “I have never been eloquent. … I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10.
Gideon: “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
Abraham: “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17).
Jeremiah: “Alas, Sovereign Lord, … I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6).
Isaiah: “Woe to me … for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
Esther: “For any man or woman who approaches the king … without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death” (Esther 4:11).
Rich Young Ruler: “He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:22).
Ruth: “There was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1).
Saul: (Samuel was going to anoint Saul king; the people couldn’t find him and asked if he was present.) “The LORD said, ‘See, he has hidden himself among the baggage’” (1 Samuel 10:22 NRSV).

The truth is you don’t know what you can do until you actually do it. “Ready” comes faster if you’re already moving.

Jesus takes his friends up a mountain. Not enough of them. Not enough faith. Doesn’t matter. What matters isn’t whether they’re ready. What matters is that He’s ready. And you and I never know when He’s ready. He’s in charge of that.

Open-Door People Are Unhindered by Uncertainty

As a general rule, with God, information is given on a need-to-know basis, and God decides who needs to know what, when.

Open-door people are comfortable with ambiguity and risk. Or, if not comfortable with it, at least they decide not to allow it to paralyze them.

Going through open doors means I will have to be able to trust God with my future when the path I’m called to take does not look like the obvious one.

The God of the open door invites His friends to give up on the project of making their name great, because worth can only be given, never earned.

Open-Door People Are Blessed to Bless

Blessing, for Abram, was an opportunity to know and experience God, and that included being used by God to enhance others. Abram is called to build his life on this offer: that he can receive a gift from God, but only if he allows his life to become a gift to others.

Going through an open door always requires a spirit of generosity. And generosity flows out of an attitude of abundance, not an attitude of scarcity.

The connection between abundance and blessing rests in God, who combines them both.

mission Dei, the mission of God.

God’s mission, God’s project, is to bless. Open doors are an invitation to be part of the mission Dei.

… it is impossible to be blessed in the highest sense apart from becoming a blessing. One of the deepest needs of the human soul is that others should be blessed through our lives.

Open-Door People Resist and Persist

Open-door people resist discouragement in the face of obstacles and persist in faithfulness and despite long periods of waiting.

You never know where you’re going if you’re going by faith.

If you’re going by faith, you’re always a stranger in this world, because your home is God.

When you get the divine “go,” you resist and persist.

If you’re not dead, you’re not done. ~Craig Groeschel

In the Bible, age is never a reason for someone to say no when God says go.

Moses is eighty years old when God calls him to go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The Exodus starts when he’s eighty. Caleb is eighty when he asks God to give him one more mountain to take in the Promised Land.

Timothy tried to say no because he was too young. Esther tried to say no because she was the wrong gender. Moses tried to say no because he had the wrong gifts. Gideon tried to say no because he was from the wrong tribe. Elijah tried to say no because he had the wrong enemy. Jonah tried to say no because he was sent to the wrong city. Paul tried to say no because he had the wrong background. God kept saying, “Go, go. You go.” Sometimes it takes a while for God’s promises to be fulfilled. But if you’re not dead, that’s the clue you’re not done.

Open-Door People Have Fewer Regrets

The divine “go” comes into every life, but we must be willing to leave before we’re willing to go.

Into your life will come a divine “go,” but you live in Ur of the Chaldeans, and you’ll have to decide between comfort and calling.

God is doing something magnificent in this world. When a door is opened, count the costs, weigh the pros and cons, get wise counsel, look as far down the road as you can. But in your deepest heart, in its most secret place, have a tiny bias in the direction of yes. Cultivate a willingness to charge through open doors even if it’s not this particular door.

Open-Door People Learn about Themselves

When I go through open doors, I will often discover that my faith is really weaker than I thought it was before I went through. If I am to go through open doors, I will have to be humble enough to accept failure.

Open-Door People Are Not Paralyzed by Their Imperfection

Perhaps God will keep the door of opportunity open for us as we keep the door of our heart open to Him.

The hero of this story [baby born to Abraham & Sarah in old age] isn’t Abraham. It’s God.

It’s not the quality of our faith that saves us. It’s the object of our faith.

Perfectionism is the great enemy of spiritual growth. ~Ernest Kurtz

If all we did was make progress, we would become conceited, and conceit is the ultimate downfall of Christians. ~Macarius

God is able to do what we ask.
God is able to do what we ask and what we imagine.
God is able to do all we ask and imagine.
God is able to do more than all we ask and imagine.
God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
That’s God. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Biblically speaking, open doors are divine invitations to make our lives count, with God’s help, for the sake of others.

To journey for the sake of saving our own lives is little by little to cease to live in any sense that really matters, even to ourselves, because it is only by journeying for the world’s sake – even when the world bores and sickens and scares you half to death – that little by little we start to come alive. ~Frederick Buechner

Love Finds Doors That Ambition Never Could

We were made for “more”; not to have more out of love for self, but to do more out of love for God.

Actually Noticing People Leads to Doors

Doors open when I actually notice and care about people I might otherwise overlook.

When I look for God’s open doors, I begin to see even the mundane circumstances of my life as an opportunity to serve others.

Open Doors Lead to Relational Intimacy

Love opens doors.

Anytime you step through the open door, your story and Jesus’ story begin to get mixed together, and you become part of the work of God in this world.

The whole idea of God closing a door runs along the lines of “Don’t go there.”

… closed doors can be just as much a gift as open doors.

The doors God opens are like this: “unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; heretofore unimagined chances to do good, to make our lives count for eternity.”

God’s primary will for me is the person I become and not the circumstances I inhabit.

Do not despise the day of small things. For we do not know what is small in God’s eyes. Spiritual size is not measured in the same way that physical size is. What unit shall we use to measure love? And yet love is real, more real than anything else. When Jesus said that the widow gave more, it wasn’t just a pretty saying; it was a spiritually accurate measurement. We just don’t have that yardstick yet.

No project is so great it doesn’t need God. No project is so small that it doesn’t interest God.

Don’t try to do great things for God. Do small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa

I will never go through a “big” door if I do not humble myself to the task of discerning and entering all the small ones.

The apostle Paul says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Ephesians 1:4). In other words, God’s basic will for your life is not what you do or where you live or whether you marry or how much you make; it’s who you become. God’s primary will for your life is that you become a person of excellent character, wholesome liveliness, and divine love. That’s what words like godly and holy (which too often become religious clichés) point to.

God knew I would grow more from having to make a decision than I would if I got a memo from heaven that would prevent me from growing.

When God calls people to go through open doors, what generally happens is life gets much harder. Abraham leaves home and faces uncertainty and danger. Moses has to confront Pharaoh and endure endless whining from his own people. Elijah runs away from a power-crazed queen. Esther has to risk her life to prevent genocide. The entire book of Nehemiah is arranged around resistance to Nehemiah’s work that is both external and internal.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth “a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9 NRSV). Not just a door – a wide door.

Spiritual maturity is being able to face troubles without being troubled.

He [Jesus] did not say, “I’ll give you an easy life.” He said, “I’ll give you an easy yoke.” Taking on a rabbi’s yoke was a metaphor for taking on his way of life. Jesus said that taking his yoke – arranging our lives to be constantly receiving power and transforming grace from the Father – would lead to a new internal experience of peace and well-being with God. In other words, easy doesn’t come from outside. It comes from the inside. “Easy” doesn’t describe my problems. It describes the strength from beyond myself with which I can carry my problems.

Open doors are mostly small, quiet invitations to do something humble for God and with God in a surprising moment.
Open doors to serve.
Open doors to give.
Open doors to repent.
Open doors to be honest.

If you ever think your life is too small or your work too unglamorous to warrant door-opening attention from God, you might want to read about the Rechabites.

It’s not the task we do that makes us great in God’s eyes; it’s the attitude in which we do it.

Often an open door is as simple as a second thought: Do the right thing, no matter how small. Do what any decent human being would do in this situation. Honor a commitment when it would be easier to let it slide. Sometimes going through an open door means just not being a jerk. If the door is not marked “glamorous” just settle for “obedient.”

He says there s a “godly sorrow [that] brings repentance” and a “worldly sorrow [that] brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The right kind of sorrow over a wrong decision always creates energy rather than despair. It enables us to learn from past mistakes and grow into great wisdom. Godly sorrow is filled with hope.

Worldly sorrow is energy depleting. In worldly sorrow we look at our wrong choices as though the world – rather than God – is our only hope. We live in self-pity and regret. We obsess over how much better our lives might have been had we chosen Door #1.

God has given to every human being the door to their own heart, and God Himself will not force His way in (Revelation 3:20).

That means no human being has ever faced the pain of rejection as much as God has. God is not just the one who opens doors; He is the one who stands knocking at closed doors.

The biggest difference between people who flourish in life and those who don’t is not money, health, talent, connections, or looks. It’s wisdom – the ability to make good decisions.

Don’t wait for passion to lead you somewhere you’re not. Start by bringing passion to the place where you are.

It turns out that choosing drains us. It takes energy.

This is why wise people never make important decisions in a wrong emotional state.

… decide on the basis of your faith and not on your fear.

Wisdom may well have you wait to make a big decision until you’re rested. An anxious mind and an exhausted body will lead to a terrible decision nine times out of ten.

The standard word for the condition of being truly problem-free is dead.

… His guidance was not so much about what He wanted to do through me as what He wanted to do in me.

In other words, often what matters most is not the decision I make but how I throw myself into executing it well. It’s better to go through the wrong door with your best self than the best door with your wrong self. Sometimes the way in which I go through the door matters more than which door I actually go through.

Having second thoughts about going through a door is not unusual. It’s not an automatic sign that I’ve made the wrong choice. It’s not even a good predictor of the future.

Jesus says, “I’m sending you out like sheep.” He doesn’t stop there. “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Question: How does a sheep go among wolves? Answer: Very carefully. Very humbly. The sheep doesn’t go out and say, “Hey, wolves, I’m here to straighten you out! Hey, wolves, I’m going to get you to shape up!”  This assignment doesn’t sound very glamorous. But when you think about it, it takes some courage for a sheep to be sent to the wolves.  To be sent as a sheep means I don’t lead with how smart or strong or impressive I am. But it’s a funny thing. Doors get open to sheep that would never be opened to wolves.

If I go through the door with all my heart, I am vulnerable to disappointment and failure. I am vulnerable because I am not strong enough. The paradox of Jesus is that vulnerability is stronger then invulnerability.

Somebody said that what the world needs is not more geniuses but more genius makers, people who enhance and don’t diminish the gifts of those around them.

Jesus wants His followers to know that following Him is not a promise to be successful. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and be covered with glory the way our world thinks of glory. Sheep are not heroic animals. Part of what Jesus is calling His friends to do is to die to the world’s standards of heroism, success, and glory.  “You’re going to have to die to that. There’s going to be resistance. There’s going to be a cost. It’s going to take a different kind of hero.

The church is always at its best when it goes into the world humbly, like a sheep among wolves.

Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer. … But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep.  ~John Chrysostom

Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance uou. Serve others.

Jesus wanted people who were not just devoted to Him “spiritually” but who were awake and willing to face up to reality and actually thought about strategy and tactics and being effective. They would take failure seriously and try to learn from it and seek to get better. They would roll up their sleeves.

Jesus wants to put His movement into the hands of people who are as realistic and serious about actually prevailing, actually being effective (with God’s help, which is the only way it happens) – to try it, to evaluate it, to learn, to be wise – as serpents were thought to be in that day. Be as crafty and clever and smart and shrewd as you can. That may not look impressive – I’m not sure all the disciples were as strategically brilliant as Paul. But God doesn’t ask me to be Paul. He’s already got Paul. He just asks me to be as “wise as serpents” as I can be.

“Be … as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Doves are for the bird world of what sheep are for the animal world. They are thought of as quite innocent creatures. The main thing Jesus sends into the world is not what we do; it’s who we are.

May your expectations all be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and
Poverty of a child and can sing and dance in the love
Of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  ~Brennan Manning was offered this blessing when he was ordained

Here’s one of the dangerous things about money: having money makes it easier for us to think we can run away from God, because we’ve got options. Sometimes it’s hard for a prophet and a profit to coexist.

One of the numerous ways that Jonah is unique among prophets is this: his lack of empathy. Every other prophet not only pleads with people on behalf of God, they plead with God on behalf of the people.

Lack of love makes it easy for me to say no to the door.

God doesn’t look at categories the way I do and think. People in this category, they’re my kind of people. I like these kinds of people. But people in that category over there, I can let go of them without much pain. People matter to God. Depressed people. Educated people. Divorced people. People with different politics from yours. They mater to God. Conservative people and liberal people. Muslims. Atheists. New Age people. Every color of skin. Asian people. Hispanic people. Caucasian people. African American people. Gay people. Old people. People matter to God. Every one of them.

Many doors that look large to us are small to God, and many doors that look small to us are very large to Him. This is part of the great inversion of the Kingdom: the first will be last, the greatest will be the servant, the lowest will be exalted.

Think of something big. A mountain? A tree? Get a mental picture of something you call big. Now, consider that it is made up of tiny, tiny atoms. Atoms are made up of even tinier neutrons and protons. Neutrons and protons are made up of elements so small that they can’t be seen with the strongest microscope.
No such thing as big. Everything we call “big” is just a whole lot of “small.”
Small upon small upon small, finally equals big. There is no “big” without lots and lots of small.
Nature as God created it, is the image of the invisible Kingdom of Heaven. … In Kingdom living, small matters. Small is the key to big.  ~Jennifer Dean

In God’s Kingdom, small is the new big. In God’s Kingdom, the way up is down, and the way to living is dying. Mother Teresa used to advise people not to try to do great things for God, but to do small things with great love.

You and I do not know which doors God will open so that our little lives can have an impact beyond ourselves. We do not know up to the moment of our death – or even beyond – who might be affected by our actions. So we are called to never despair, no matter how small our lives look or how many doors that we desperately wanted to go through appear to have closed. We are invited to live as though God is opening doors that mean that our smallest acts of goodness will somehow, through God’s grace, count for all eternity.

There’s an old saying for travelers. A car’s headlights only shine for fifteen feet, but that fifteen feet will get you all the way home. God knows just how much clarity will be good for us – not too much, and not too little. We don’t follow clarity. We follow God.

“Look ! I [Christ] don’t give you opened doors without supplying you with the courage and the strength and the power to go through them. When you have used up your little strength, draw on mine. So stop worrying about your ability. Stop making weakness an excuse for drawing back and turning away from this opportunity. Remember, it is the weak who can become strong. Remember that my strength is made perfect in your weakness!”

I have seen flowers come in stony places;
And kindness done by men with ugly faces;
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races;
So I trust, too.  ~John Masefield

From the mint two bright, new pennies came,
The value and beauty of both the same;
One slipped from the hand and fell to the ground,
Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.

The other was passed by many a hand,
Through many a change in many a land;
For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,
Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.
At length it so happened, as years went round,
That the long lost, unused coin was found.
Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed,
Through rusting peacefully unemployed.

Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear
Through active service year after year;
For the brightest are those who live for duty –

Rust, more than rubbing, will tarnish beauty.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Annotations on a Letter That Changed the World from a Birmingham Jail

Annotations on a Letter That Changed the World from a Birmingham JailAnnotations on a Letter That Changed the World from a Birmingham Jail by Peter A. Lillback

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a scholarly work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The author, Dr. Peter A. Lillback, is also the author of the great book about the Christianity of George Washington, Sacred Fire. This is not an easy book to read . It has small print and lots of notes. I thought it was interesting to see all of the resources Dr. King used to put his letter together. He quoted or paraphrased many different people including many portions of God’s Word. Dr. King, as you know, is a very controversial man. He did many good things to promote racial equality in our nation through peaceful means but also was involved in many affairs (this was not mentioned in the book, as the book only covered the letter). The letter is written to some black pastors in Birmingham that were apposed to his involvement to their city. The letter is brilliant! Dr. King was truly a remarkable man that God use despite his weaknesses. I trust you will enjoy and be challenged by the quotes below:

Dr. King outlines six principles of nonviolent confrontation:
(1) Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage;
(2) Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary;
(3) Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer;
(4) A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary; but never to inflict it;
(5) A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence; and
(6) Faith that justice will prevail.

Religion is like a nail, the harder you hit it, the deeper it goes into the wood. ~Anatolii Lunarchskii

There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. 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 and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

… the Roman Empire was well acquainted with the practice of infanticide. A father made the decision whether an infant would live or die after birth. Deformed infants were usually left outside at an exposure wall to succumb to the elements. Christians not only did not practice infanticide, but in many instances, they took the infants abandoned to death and raised them in their homes. Accordingly, over time, the early Christians pro-life commitment led to the death of infanticide.

Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. 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. ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” This optimism in justice even when its efforts are unsuccessful flows from the commitment of love to overcome evil with good, and the recognition that the discouraging defeat of the cross leads to the triumphant joy of the resurrection. A historic Christian saying declares, there is no crown without the cross. Romans 12:9-21 teaches, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If our enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 reflects this resurrection optimism, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Dr. King’s sense of optimism seen in the white supporters who joined the civil rights cause often at great personal risk and cost to themselves practiced a form of optimism that he describes in the memorable line, “They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.”

Here is the Letter as written:

"Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]"

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

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.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. 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. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. 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.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. 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. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. 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 even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

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?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
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King, Martin Luther Jr.

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