2016: MLK Birmingham jail letter anew with prophetic power

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail stirred Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd to write last fall:

“When Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter From a Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963, he noted he had never written such a long letter. Reading this letter recently, the words in his final paragraph penetrated my heart. Dr. King wrote, ‘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.’” (www.bpnews.net/45804)

I was prompted by Ronnie Floyd’s reflection to read MLK’s letter. I regret that I got no further, in the press of life, than printing it out. This morning, I took about 15 minutes to read it. You can read it as well at http://stanford.io/1OrT1J0. Certainly it is an apt activity for Martin Luther King Day, especially for those of us who have the day off in his honor.

It remains a soul-shaking document.

And now, in 2016, it retains its prophetic power, both in the ongoing yearning for racial reconciliation and, now, in the erosion of religious freedom at the hands of our new culture-shapers. We Christians may find ourselves compelled to engage in peaceful protest, in nonviolent action, perhaps within a few short years, as we’re increasingly told to keep our faith to ourselves.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from the Birmingham jail will be a gripping primer, theologically, philosophically, for the days ahead. Hopefully, too, our culture-shapers will be enlightened by King’s masterpiece of human rights.


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