Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 397
January 15, 2001


Martin Luther King, Jr.
1929 - 1968

Tears of Love

Today we remember Martin Luther King's birthday. This is the only national holiday that still has a person's name attached to it, and I can only wish that more holidays were less generic.

Because it fits so well the brief clip TV producers need for their programs, King's "I Have a Dream" speech, repeatedly shown, becomes the defining moment of King's life. It was spoken on the Washington, D.C., Mall, in August 1963.

Less dramatic and little noted today-because of its length and because it was written far away from TV cameras-and yet creating a far more lasting impact on me was a long letter he wrote while in jail in Birmingham, Alabama. A number of ministers and rabbis of the community had taken out a full-page newspaper ad raising questions about King's motives and methods. They wrote that, as an outside extremist, he had no right to come to Birmingham to condemn the city, and cause so much disturbance and economic chaos. They also wrote that the city needed time to make progress. King had time to write a reply-a long reply-countering each point made by the ministers and rabbis.

King responded:

The Negro's great stumbling block is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice, who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom.

King responded:

Was not Jesus an extremist in love -"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice -"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ -"I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist -"Here I stand: I can do none other, so help me God."

King responded:

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 of their scintillating beauty.

King responded with much, much more.

Then in an interview, he said with a verbal twist, "the laxity of the white church collectively has caused me to weep tears of love."

There is a reason we celebrate King's birthday.

--Robert H. Tucker
15 January 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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