While in prison, one of his many times, he wrote a letter to a group of white clergy who were generally supportive of the movement, but thought he was moving too fast. His response came to be known as the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. All over the Conference, today, there are readings of this letter, the bulk of which outlines a theological belief for not being incremental, but being insistent about injustice. And he is clear that while the church has at times been the vehicle for societal change, it has also too often been the vehicle for obstructing that same change.
It was in this letter that he wrote that “In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But oh! how we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being non-conformists.”
My prayer for us all this day is that we do not add any more scars to the body of Christ—that we help heal the ones that are there, and that we realize the vision of the Beloved Community, where all war is seen as simply and deeply evil, and the thirst for power and the exercise of one’s own beliefs to the detriment of one’s own community is seen for what it is, separate from the will of God. My prayer is that we learn to truly live by what the Prophet Micah teaches us:
He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.