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Wed, June 29

Letter | Martin Luther King Jr.: A wise man with wisdom for our time

Martin Luther King Jr. is usually seen as a black civil rights leader who stood up against racisim. He certainly was that. But he was also a clear thinking wise man whose ideas could help guide us through our own difficult time.

I have made it an annual habit this time of year to read through King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” written in April 1963 while he was a prisoner in that jail. I am a retired Lutheran Pastor and retired Army Chaplain of twenty years. King’s letter was written in response to criticism of him by local ministers for his leadership of and advocacy for protests against unjust laws allowing whites to discriminate against Blacks. His letter is a stinging rebuke to the mostly white ministers who criticized him for disrupting public order. I’m white. The letter has been a healthy reminder to me that it is wise to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you judge what they do.

King was in addition to being a civil rights leader also a preacher. And one of the best of his day. I must admit that I used some of his sermon ideas during my working life. His sermon on the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” in St. Luke’s Gospel is one of the best on that subject I have ever seen.

But my main point in this letter is: take some time to read this clear, thoughtful letter by Dr. King. You can easily find it with an internet search of “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” April 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. He addresses issues of current interest like: the importance of free, fair, and fraud-free voting; how to evaluate whether or not government laws or policies are just or unjust. You could read through it in a half-hour. It is well worth your time.

Stephen Christopher Molnar


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