I’ve mentioned before on this blog that every year my church, Southeast Baptist, has a combined evening service with our sister church, New Pilgrim Baptist, the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day. The two churches take turns hosting the service, with whichever Pastor is visiting providing the sermon. In addition to special music and preaching, they always have someone prepare a 10-15 minute tribute to Reverend King. This year’s tribute made mention of King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which was interesting to me, since the Desiring God Blog also quoted a section from that letter earlier this week.
Each year on Martin Luther King Day I try to choose one of King’s speeches or writings to read and study. Two mentions of the same letter prompted me to choose that as the thing I would read this year. Here’s possibly the most important section of the letter (the same section quoted on the Desiring God Blog):
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart 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-country 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.
Powerful stuff. I’ve included a link below so you can read the whole thing. I highly recommend you do.
* Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
* Desiring God Blog › Don’t Waste Martin Luther King Weekend
* Salt Lake Tribune › Hodges: Congregations unite to worship in the spirit of King’s dream