6 Thoughts While Reading the Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Unlike the hundreds of Philadelphians who took to the streets protesting yesterday, I didn’t do anything particularly special to commemorate MLK day. I did, however, conclude my three day weekend by re-reading Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I hadn’t read this essay in its entirety since high school. Since then, I’ve read some more stuff, thought a little bit about things like justice, and generally spent more time being alive – thus, my perspective on this text is a little bit different than it was five years ago (though that’s the beauty/point of re-reading great texts, isn’t it?). Here’s what stood out to me this time around:

He’s writing to pastors. I didn’t realize this before today, or at least, it didn’t stand out to me as notable before. But that’s jarring – one of the single most important documents in recent history is a polite yet fierce argument about why white Christian leaders should care about things like justice and human dignity. This gem particularly stood out to me: “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.” Here’s hoping that the church as a whole has made steps in the right direction on this one. Continue reading →