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Sunday, April 21, 2013

White Clergy BELATEDLY Respond To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, Morally Superior "Letter From Birmingham Jail".

The Rev. Martin Luther King's letter from Birmingham jail gets formal pastoral response

After 50 years, church group acknowledges wisdom of civil rights leader's criticism


The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., above right, and the
Rev. Ralph Abernathy are released in 1963 after
spending eight days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. 
Fifty years ago this week — this awful week of violence and terror — a nonviolent campaign for civil rights was building toward crisis in Birmingham, Ala.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was in jail for demonstrating without a parade permit in a bid to desegregate the city’s stores and other institutions.

King was indignant over an open letter by local white clergy — including Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist bishops, a rabbi and Presbyterian and Baptist pastors — urging King to cease the protests and instead use patient negotiation and legal action.

King replied with a handwritten letter that became a classic articulation of the philosophy and theology of civil disobedience.
“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” King wrote. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who … prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
No one can “paternistically set the timetable for another man’s freedom,” King wrote. “… 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.”

King’s letter went viral — by 1963 standards — which means it spread in the coming weeks through publications such as the Christian Century magazine.
Meanwhile, the nation was horrified to watch images of child protesters assaulted with police dogs and firehoses. Birmingham was ultimately desegregated, and the movement’s momentum helped lead to passage of the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.
The group Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. — representing three dozen Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations — gathered in Birmingham this past Sunday and Monday to mark the letter’s 50th anniversary.

And since it was a letter from pastors that prompted King’s letter, the group decided it needed to issue a formal pastoral response to it.
Louisville Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz took part in the ceremony, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as its vice president.
“Letters deserve a response, and in fact, some demand one,” Kurtz said. “… This letter, which is rich in foundations of scripture and human philosophy, direct, and prophetic, gave a rationale for strong action as well as marching orders for the steps we must follow.”

Kurtz said King correctly “uncovered the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that the unjust law is ‘the human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law’ and so is, as Dr. King says, ‘out of harmony with the moral law.’ ”
Kurtz, recalling that he was 16 years old and taking his seminary entrance exam in his native Pennsylvania at the time of the protests, said he sees King’s “response as true wisdom, whose time had long since come.”

Christian Churches Together issued a statement saying that while much has changed since 1963, including the dismantling of segregationist laws, racial disparities persist in such things as rates of poverty, illness and incarceration.

“Segregation is no longer the law, but a form of it is experienced as a fact of life for many Americans, as we reside, are educated, work, and worship in largely homogenous settings,” it says. “While African Americans seldom now face the open expressions of vicious racism endured by Dr. King’s generation, they feel the downward tug of persistent undercurrents of racial prejudice and misunderstanding. ...
“As church leaders, we confess we have tended to emphasize our responsibility to obey the law while neglecting our equal moral obligation to change laws that are unjust in their substance or application. … We confess that we often prefer stability to upheaval, even when upheaval is the necessary precondition for the establishment of justice.”

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