Our final community activity in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a reading of the “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” by Rev. Sarah Hubbell, Rev. Tony Lorenzen, and me. The letter is dated April 16, 1963. I was aware as we were reading how many of the issues of over 50 years ago are still pertinent today.
What particularly caught my attention was the role of the church at that time in the face of injustice and hate. Often times we as church remain silent and hold up the status quo. Dr. King writes:
“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… Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender 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.”
When I was a student I was always actively involved in non-violent demonstration for unjust situations that existed in the sixties and seventies. If and when arrested I was “just a student” with no major responsibilities, except for my studies. I now wonder how church leaders and church members can be a voice for those who may experience injustice and hate.
Shaheena and Mohamed are two wonderful Muslim friends that I have known for years. I hear their fear and concern and have encouraged them not to “stay under the radar” but to bond with their rest of their community and walk together with people of all religions in solidarity. My circle of friends is far and wide. I am praying for the courage to never be silent in the face of injustice and hate. I would never want to be reprimanded by the Lord for turning my back on women, Muslims, LGBTQ, immigrants, simply because it doesn’t affect my status. Hopefully I can be in solidarity with all my brothers and sisters. I am so happy we celebrate MLK Day each year. His words have lots to encourage and remind us about “the dream.”