Letter from a Birmingham Jail 

512px-Recreation_of_Martin_Luther_King's_Cell_in_Birmingham_Jail_-_National_Civil_Rights_Museum_-_Downtown_Memphis_-_Tennessee_-_USATo observe Martin Luther King Day, read his classic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  It was written to fellow pastors who were concerned that a man of the cloth would engage in protests that would get him arrested.

The letter is interesting in itself for the case that it makes for civil disobedience, under certain very restrictive conditions.  Some of what he says will resonate with pro-lifers and religious freedom advocates.

The letter also shows how it was possible back then in 1963 to continually quote and allude to Scripture and to appeal to moral absolutes.  I don’t know if a person could do that today.  I don’t know if the Civil Rights Movement, with its moral appeal to the nation, could happen today.

Read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” after the jump. [Read more…]

PC police go after Martin Luther King

The University of Oregon has a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., in its student union, along with a quotation from his “I have a dream” speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Some students are personally offended by that quotation and tried to get it removed. [Read more…]

An actor speaks of faith & calling

Whether or not Selma is fair to LBJ, it’s supposed to be a powerful movie.  (I haven’t seen it yet.  Can anyone comment on that?)  And I’m told that the actor playing Dr. King, the Nigerian/British actor David Oyelowo turns in an amazingly good performance.  It turns out, Mr. Oyelowo is a zealous, committed Christian who is not afraid to talk about his faith.

After the jump, I have an excerpt and a link to an interview with Mr. Oyelowo that first appeared on Patheos and was picked up by Time (which also has a link to our discussion of the LBJ controversy).  I don’t vouch for the theology–for example, that God spoke to him directly–but he is also talking about vocation (a.k.a. “calling”), and we hear a perspective that is kind of refreshing coming from Hollywood. [Read more…]

‘Selma’ movie slanders LBJ?

The movie Selma will be released next weekend and is already receiving great acclaim and Oscar buzz for its portrayal of Martin Luther King’s crusade for Civil Rights, centering in the demonstration he organized in Selma, Alabama.

But narratives, even apparently factual movies, like to have a villain, so Selma turns President Lyndon Baines Johnson into King’s nemesis.  But historians are disputing that characterization, pointing out that LBJ was the president who proposed, pushed through, and implemented the Civil Rights laws.  In fact, he even proposed the tactics to sway public opinion that King used in Selma!

[Read more…]

Prayer and Protest

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the civil rights protest that featured Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech.  The Washington Post printed a number of accounts from people who were there.

Raymond S. Blanks tells about meeting at his Baptist congregation and holding a prayer service before getting on the bus to Washington.  He describes marchers singing hymns and listening to sermons. “Before noon,” he recalls, “the Mall was transformed into a place of prayer, protest and pride.” [Read more…]

“The content of their character”

Today honors Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who said this:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That seems clear, doesn’t it?  But actually the statement is interpreted in all kinds of ways.  See Debate swirls over Martin Luther King’s monumental ‘content of their character’ quote – The Washington Post.

How does the debate over the meaning of that speech parallel other disputes over interpretation, such as the interpretation of the Bible?