I have my students read “Letter from Birmingham Jail” every semester. Once, a student compared it to Joseph Smith’s letter from Liberty Jail–rather compellingly. I see in Dr. King’s statement, quoted below, a transcendent invitation to anyone who takes Christ’s name upon them–or anyone who believes in causes greater than themselves.
The LDS Church will have at least two official representatives at Pres. Elect Obama’s inauguration: Elders Uchtdorf and Ballard. I will be watching the inauguration at Calvary Baptist Church, after a multi-denominational prayer service. Pastor France Davis, who leads Calvary Baptist–and who participated in Freedom marches as a younger man–will be in Washington DC, watching a good portion of Dr. King’s dream be fulfilled in the person of Barack Obama. I was thrilled to learn this morning that a 28′ monument to Dr. King will be built between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.
This declaration and invitation from Dr. King’s letter continues to be relevant, and will be for generations:
“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”