Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hoboken's Black & Gold Army

Here's more on the 'burgh diaspora celebrating the Steelers -- this time from across the Hudson River in Hoboken.

From nj.com:

Pittsburgh isn't the only place to find Steelers fans.

The biggest contingency of Terrible Towel devotees in the New York City area may just be in Hoboken. Over 200 members of the Steelers in Hoboken fan club meet at Hoboken bar Texas Arizona (they've actually renamed it "Texas Pennsylvania") every Sunday during football season.


As Super Bowl XLIII approaches, Hoboken Now spoke with two the club members this week. First, we asked them: Why so many Steelers fans in Hoboken?


"Pittsburgh is America's real team. Pittsburgh fans are everywhere - you'll see 10, 20 thousand Pittsburgh fans in places like Tennessee," said club president Ray Powers.


Webmaster and senior club board member Anthony Dunleavy has his own theory for the diaspora of the Steelers Nation.


"When the Pittsburgh economy bottomed out in the 70s, a lot of people were displaced from Pittsburgh. When the steel mills closed, people moved away. But you never lose your love for the Steelers," he said.

Purple Fingers

The Anchoress has posted a thorough write-up (with tons of links) on this weekend's provincial council elections in Iraq.

The success of democracy in Iraq is something for which we definitely need to pray.

I liked this comment by The Anchoress:

I’m starting to think the purple finger thing is a good idea for us, here in America, too. A nice strong purple ink that takes a few days to wash off…

Photo credit: Essam al-Sudani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

The Praying Kind

By this time tomorrow night, we likely will have a Superbowl victor.

A time for prayer? Maybe. Prayer for a good, sportsman-like game, that is. ;-)

The Steelers have long been the praying kind:


A Black & Gold Legacy

The New York Times sports page continued its week of background stories on the Steelers with a great article Friday on Myron Cope and the wonderful legacy of The Terrible Towel.

From reporter John Branch:

Myron Cope was treasured in Pittsburgh for his enthusiasm, nasally voice and quirky exclamations such as “Yoi!” and “Double yoi!” But he knew he would be most remembered for the towel. And he made sure that it would always be more than just something to cheer the Steelers to victory.

The NYT credits the image above to Chris McGrath of Getty Images.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sully: "Involuntary Pull, Voluntary Push"

Well-put thought on faith by Andrew Sullivan below. He posted it yesterday in response to a reader's e-mail (regarding a stream of thought begun by the SSPX controversy):

What has kept me believing is not, as I have experienced it, a conscious act of will. It is more an acceptance of God's grace. My experience of Jesus will not let go of me, however much I would like to let go of it. This element of faith - its involuntary pull as well as its voluntary push - is how I have found it.

... the internal wrestling never ends. The search for truth must always be first; and religion is nothing if it is not true. Which is why doubt can never be a danger. Banishing doubt is the danger.


"Even Milkshakes!"

Not nice! ... but kinda funny:

Fight Song for a Peaceful Weekend

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," in honor of Sunday's Superbowl XLIII, I humbly present the newest fight song of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don't know it's actual title. I usually call it "A Here We Go."

Note to anyone not from Western Pennsylvania: clicking on the clip below will provide an introduction to the Pittsburghese. (You've been warned.)

Pax:



Go Steelers!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blogging The 'Burgh Diaspora

Speaking of the 'burgh diaspora, turns out that there's a blog with that blogspot name.

"R2P: Return to Pittsburgh" looks to be mostly about economic development and channeling the energy and smarts of the 'burgh diaspora.

But, this week, the blog's author also is reporting on how Steeler Nation is preparing for Sunday. Today, there's even a post on the The Terrible Towel.

The Terrible Towel photo above is from
here.

Snow Day in PA

From the homesick for the 'burgh file:

Below is a photo posted today at Ambrose-a-rama, a blog written by "The only Catholic Expat Steelersfan Mommyblogger in China":

From Jen:

My dad sent over this picture of our street covered in snow. I just about cried. As long as the heat works, the coffee is brewing, and there are cookies to be made, I love the snowed-in days. I know it is easy for me to miss them as I am also not suffering the power-outages, the milk and diaper supplies running low, and having to dig out a car. However, I can still miss that one time that a snow day was that much fun.

Campbell Brown: "Obama's Hypocrisy"

Here, here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Small-c Conservative?

Sully penned an intriguing post today titled "The Presider" on the differences in style between our 43rd and 44th POTUS:

... Now look at Obama. What the critics misread in his Inaugural was its classical structure. He was not running any more. He was presiding. His job was not to rally vast crowds, but to set the scene for the broader constitutional tableau to come to life. Hence the obvious shock of some Republican Congressman at debating with a president who seemed interested in actual conversation, aas opposed to pure politics. Last Tuesday, there were none of the bold declarative predictions of the Second Bush Inaugural - and none of the slightly creepy Decider idolatry. Yes, Obama set some very clear directional goals, but the key difference is what came next: a window of invitation. The invitation is to the other co-equal branches of government to play their part; and for the citizenry to play its. This is an understanding of the president as one node in a constitutional order - not a near-dictator outside and superior to other branches of government. It is a return to traditional constitutional order. And it is rooted in a traditional, small-c conservative understanding of the presidency.

If Bush was about the presidency as power, Obama is about the presidency as authority. It's fascinating to watch this deep difference in understanding slowly but unmistakably realize itself in public actions. Somewhere the Founders are smiling. The system is correcting itself after one of the most unbalanced periods in American history. But it took the self-restraint of one man to do it.

Bringing On the Shackles

MoDo was in rare form today in a column on the shameful spending of Merrill Lynch and Citigroup:

In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, Thain used the specious, contemptible reasoning that other executives use to rationalize why they’re keeping their bonuses as profits are plunging.

“If you don’t pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise” and they’ll go elsewhere, he said.

Hello? They destroyed the franchise. Let’s call their bluff. Let’s see what a great job market it is for the geniuses of capitalism who lost $15 billion in three months and helped usher in socialism.

Bartiromo also asked Thain to explain, when jobs and salaries were being cut at his firm, how he could justify spending $1 million to renovate his office. As The Daily Beast and CNBC reported, big-ticket items included curtains for $28,000, a pair of chairs for $87,000, fabric for a “Roman Shade” for $11,000, Regency chairs for $24,000, six wall sconces for $2,700, a $13,000 chandelier in the private dining room and six dining chairs for $37,000, a “custom coffee table” for $16,000, an antique commode “on legs” for $35,000, and a $1,400 “parchment waste can.”

Does that mean you can only throw used parchment in it or is it made of parchment? It’s psychopathic to spend a million redoing your office when the folks outside it are losing jobs, homes, pensions and savings.

Thain should never rise above the level of stocking the money in A.T.M.’s again. Just think: This guy could well have been Treasury secretary if John McCain had won.

Bartiromo pressed: What was wrong with the office of his predecessor, Stanley O’Neal?

“Well — his office was very different — than — the — the general d├ęcor of — Merrill’s offices,” Thain replied. “It really would have been — very difficult — for — me to use it in the form that it was in.”

Did it have a desk and a phone?

How are these ruthless, careless ghouls who murdered the economy still walking around (not to mention that sociopathic sadist Bernie Madoff?) — and not as perps?

Bring on the shackles. Let the show trials begin.

Point / Counterpoint on Superbowl XLIII

The New York Times has a point/counterpoint video feature with two views on which team will prevail this Sunday in SuperBowl XLIII. After hearing from both sides, you can cast a vote for your pick.

As of this writing, 57 percent of respondents think the Pittsburgh Steelers will be victorious.

The Observer-Reporter, one-time employer of yours truly, also has a page dedicated to the Black & Gold.

Image hat-tip: Cousin Casey

Controversy

For several days, many media outlets and bloggers have been commenting on the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to lift the excommunications of four men from a group called the Society of St. Pius X.

Commenting on this serious and controversial issue would require a good deal of background information and thoughtful analysis -- requiring more discernment and time than I would be able to provide this week.

For good coverage, check out Charlotte was Both where Amy has a series of posts looking at the various aspects involved. Ross recommends Amy on this one, too.

Deacon Greg and A Concord Pastor and John Allen and Rocco and Mike also have been following the story. They also can be trusted for fair coverage and analysis.

Sully has been weighing in, too. And, reading Fr. Z. could be helpful now in understanding matters related to SSPX.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ross & The Spaghetti Monster

Ross Douthat made this wise observation in a post today that addresses The Teapot Analogy and what he calls "its modern descendant," the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

... just as the Christian who has never entertained doubts about his faith probably hasn't thought hard enough about the matter, the atheist who perceives the Christian God and the flying spaghetti monster as equally ridiculous hypotheses really needs to get out more often.

A Man Who Shakes Hands

From coach to owner:

Today's New York Times includes a beautiful profile of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Headline: "Steelers Owner Dan Rooney Turns His Business Into a Family."

The profile shows Mr. Rooney's great humility and the Christ-like way he lives his life. It's the story of a true Pittsburgher -- and it made me a little homesick.

One section of Holly Brubach's superb piece:

Rooney goes to Mass every morning, then commutes to the Steelers’ training facility on the South Side. He drives a Buick. In the office by 8:15, he checks in with the coaches, the players and his son Art II, the oldest of his nine children and the team’s president. He watches practice. He eats lunch in the cafeteria with the players and the staff.

“Some owners treat you like a rental property,” said defensive end Nick Eason, who has played in Denver and in Cleveland. “They have some maintenance guy to take care of it, they just come by to check on it, they look and they leave. Mr. Rooney comes around, he always sticks his hand out to you. ‘Hey, Nick’— and I’m like, he knows my name?”

Nose tackle Casey Hampton said: “A lot of owners, this is a hobby, but for him, this is his business, what he does. He’s here, shakes your hand, talks to you every day. Every day.”

With defensive end Aaron Smith, Rooney talks about flying. With Batch, a Pittsburgh native, the subject is high school football. “With me, it’s usually my hair,” the platinum-blond kicker Jeff Reed said. Rooney asks about their wives, their girlfriends, their children. He asks about punter Mitch Berger’s dad, who grew up a Steelers fan and came to opening day. Strong safety Troy Polamalu said he treats all the players as his equal, “from Hines Ward to a free-agent rookie.” Some players have his cellphone number. One day a couple of years ago, cornerback Ike Taylor was exhausted and, at Rooney’s invitation, took a two-hour nap on the couch in his office while Rooney worked elsewhere.

Ward, a receiver, said it was Rooney’s example that taught him the importance of a handshake. “I never used to shake hands. It was always just, ‘Hi, how ya doing?’ But something about him made me realize it’s all in the handshake, and every time I meet somebody now, I shake their hand.”


NYT Photo credits: top, Reuters; bottom, Associated Press.

Caption: Dan Rooney, top, after the Steelers won the A.F.C. championship. At 76, he walks to work. Rooney, above left in 1966 with his father, Art, who founded the team.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tomlin in The Times

The lead story in today's New York Times sports section is on Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Headline: "Secret to Steelers Coach Tomlin's Success: Take Notes."

Good quote from Judy Battista's piece:

“I like the head-scratching,” Tomlin said. “I go out of my way to not put them at ease. There’s nothing wrong with being in a permanent state of arousal and not finding a comfort zone.”

Governor Goofball?

MoDo's column in Sunday's NYT was rambling and snarky but might get a few things right, including this:

... Governor Paterson is simply a goofball. ...

The governor who began his accidental tenure, thanks to Client 9, by confessing his infidelities and drug use had so little class that he trashed Kennedy while letting her hang out to dry, then let aides trash her even after she dropped out.

Kennedy friends said that, as Caroline was pulling out for family reasons, the governor made a crude attempt to control the spin — a childish “You can’t quit, I’m firing you” power play.

Carolyn McCarthy, who ran for Congress on an antigun platform after her husband was killed and her son wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993, said she may challenge the “N.R.A. poster child” in 2010.


She had the best line Friday, wondering about the chuckle-headed governor: “Who’s in control up there?”


Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Proclaim the Gospel"

This Sunday, Catholic parishes have the option of marking a Sunday in Ordinary Time or celebrating the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. At those parishes marking the Sunday in O.T., Mass-goers will hear about Jonah as well as the calling of the first disciples in the Gospel of Mark.

Since my parish is the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, we'll be celebrating that great conversion on the road to Damascus. The feast is particularly important during this Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul. The jubilee is being celebrated from June, 2008, to July, 2009, in honor of the bimillennium of St. Paul's birth.

The first reading at Mass tells the conversion story.

In the Gospel, Jesus (appearing after the Resurrection) tells his apostles to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel -- a teaching lived explicitly by St. Paul.

From the "longer ending" of Mark Chapter 16:

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

The image above is by Parmigianino (1503 - 1540). The painting lives at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. (Many paintings of St. Paul's conversion show him falling from a horse even though no equine are actually mentioned in that scripture passage.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Happy" Diane Sawyer

Um, yeah ... you decide ... before ABC's lawyers get this removed from YouTube:



Anderson, too?:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Bartlett? ... or maybe Jed Obama?

I guess it was only a matter of time:



Wait ... there's one with Hillary, too.

Reversal

Disappointing news that will lead to U.S. tax dollars paying for overseas abortions:

President Obama late this afternoon, through an executive order, reversed an eight year Bush Administration policy, allowing the movement of tens of millions of U.S. foreign aid dollars to flow into family planning organizations abroad which advocate abortion or provide abortion services. ...


At issue is the Mexico City policy, which bars the U.S. Agency for International Development from granting any of its foreign aid funds for family planning and reproductive health to overseas non-governmental organizations that offer or advocate abortion as a form of family planning.The USAID family planning and reproductive health budget for the fiscal year ending in September 2008 was just under $392 million. In the current fiscal year it is $461 million, said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. ...

Amy has been following this unfortunate move by the new Obama administration.

To my mind, this is President Obama's first major policy error.

E-Sanctuary

Deacon Greg has a penned a very good reflection for America about his experiences as a blogger.

He concludes:

It just might be that of all the forms of communication, the Internet is the most catholic; the Web is truly universal. Blogs, chat rooms and online forums have be-come our confessionals, our pulpits, our sanctuaries. My friend the Anchoress has even experimented with posting morning and evening prayer on her site, complete with chants, creating something like a monastic cyber-choir for countless anonymous souls seeking spiritual refreshment. (Behold: you can now sanctify the day with a keyboard and mouse.)

Of course, no computer screen or comment box can replace the sense of community found in a gathering of like-minded souls, huddled in a hushed and darkened temple, surrounded by lit candles and smoldering incense, raising their hearts and voices to God. To be church, you need more than a screen name and an e-mail address. Yet I cannot help but think this technology offers wondrous possibilities. Here is a new way to evangelize, to learn, to teach, to build community. Who knows? Maybe the era of fish fries and soup suppers and pancake breakfasts will eventually give way to online chats every Friday during Lent.

In the meantime, I go on blogging. At last count, “The Deacon’s Bench” was averaging about 50,000 visitors a month. Whenever I start to feel cocky about that, I just check my site meter for what they were searching for, and I am quickly brought back to earth.

A lot of them are still looking for advice about furniture.

"Good Feeling, Good Humor"

Peggy Noonan has a wonderful, descriptive column in today's Wall Street Journal titled "What I Saw at the Inauguration."

One section:

The whole experience the next few days was marked for me by a new or refreshed knowledge that those who had not felt included or invited in the past were now for the first time truly here, and part of it all, in great numbers. And I suppose the fact that this would never have come about without the support, the votes, of the traditionally invited and included gave a special air of inclusiveness to the event. There was great kindness between people and true friendliness. No one was different. Everyone, whatever their views or votes, was happy.

This is what you saw. Knit caps, parkas, plaid scarves, face warmers, hoods up, braced against the wet cold, flags on light posts, security tents, motorcades, police vans, checkpoints, flashing lights, people hopping from foot to foot when crowds slowed and they had to stand still. Stately African-American women in sweeping mink coats. A friend, a canny social observer, said, "The antifur people aren't going to take them on!" I laughed and realized yes, PETA just took one on the chin. Mink wearing will be safe in the new era. A former GOP ambassador told a friend, after walking the streets, "There is a feeling of good." Not happiness or gaiety, he said, but good—good feeling, good humor.

The traffic was so bad, and so chaotically handled, that everyone had a story. Mine: Stuck for more than an hour near the Mall one night and late for an appointment, I jumped out of a car and hailed an open-air bicycle with a backseat. The driver threw a blanket on me and began to pump the peddles. "What is this called?" I shouted as we raced around limos and town cars. I expected some politically correct name like Energy Saving Mobile Apparatus. He looked back at me quizzically. "A rickshaw!" We got there on time, 15 blocks in four minutes, and like a happy capitalist, the driver, gauging the moment, the need and the competition, opened bidding at $25. I was grateful to pay.

"Shining my way, pure timing ... "

For this weekend's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is "The Shining" by Badly Drawn Boy. First introduced to this tune several years ago on a mixed CD by my friend Heidi, I recently was reminded of it by commercials for the new movie "Last Chance Harvey."

Peace:



Here's a live version:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grammatical Fetish

Today's New York Times has a good op-ed column on the slip-up Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts in administering the oath of office to President Obama.

Professor Steven Pinker thinks it all came down to the placement of an adverb:

... Among these fetishes is the prohibition against “split verbs,” in which an adverb comes between an infinitive marker like “to,” or an auxiliary like “will,” and the main verb of the sentence. According to this superstition, Captain Kirk made a grammatical error when he declared that the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”; it should have been “to go boldly.” Likewise, Dolly Parton should not have declared that “I will always love you” but “I always will love you” or “I will love you always.”

Any speaker who has not been brainwashed by the split-verb myth can sense that these corrections go against the rhythm and logic of English phrasing. The myth originated centuries ago in a thick-witted analogy to Latin, in which it is impossible to split an infinitive because it consists of a single word, like dicere, “to say.” But in English, infinitives like “to go” and future-tense forms like “will go” are two words, not one, and there is not the slightest reason to interdict adverbs from the position between them.

Though the ungrammaticality of split verbs is an urban legend, it found its way into The Texas Law Review Manual on Style, which is the arbiter of usage for many law review journals. James Lindgren, a critic of the manual, has found that many lawyers have “internalized the bogus rule so that they actually believe that a split verb should be avoided,” adding, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers has succeeded so well that many can no longer distinguish alien speech from native speech.”

In his legal opinions, Chief Justice Roberts has altered quotations to conform to his notions of grammaticality, as when he excised the “ain’t” from Bob Dylan’s line “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” On Tuesday his inner copy editor overrode any instincts toward strict constructionism and unilaterally amended the Constitution by moving the adverb “faithfully” away from the verb.

President Obama, whose attention to language is obvious in his speeches and writings, smiled at the chief justice’s hypercorrection, then gamely repeated it. Let’s hope that during the next four years he will always challenge dogma and boldly lead the nation in new directions.

Culture of Life, Culture of Peace

Today is the anniversary of the landmark 1973 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade. The decision legalized abortion in the United States.

Here is a prayer to mark the day:

A Prayer for Your Culture of Life and Your Culture of Peace

Almighty God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We pray that Your holy presence surrounds us always,
enveloping us throughout our pilgrim days and nights upon the Earth.
You are the air we breathe.
You are our daily bread.

We pray that our eyes and ears and hearts are open and welcoming
to the images and sounds and impulses
that You send to shepherd us.
We pray that we are fertile soil for the seeds You plant.

Thank You, God,
for the Universe and the Earth
for every human life born and unborn
– in the past, in the present and in the future
and for every part of Your Creation.

Thank You, God, for all of Your blessings during this pilgrim journey.

Almighty God,

We pray today that
Your Culture of Life and Your Culture of Peace may reign
in our thoughts,
on our lips,
in our hearts,
in our guts,
in all that we are, and in all that we do -- seen and unseen.

We pray today that
Your Culture of Life and Your Culture of Peace may reign
in our families,
among our friends,
in our homes,
in our workplaces,
in our schools,
in our churches,
in our neighborhoods,
in our cities and towns and villages and farms,
in our states,
in our nation,
and throughout Your World.

Almighty God,

We pray today that, through Your grace,
we may know an end, in practice and in law, to
abortion,
capital punishment
euthanasia,
war,
poverty,
racism,
and all forms of violence and injustice.

Almighty God,

We pray that, through Your grace, we may have the
love,
faith,
hope,
courage,
wisdom,
tenacity,
and imagination
to be Your instruments in building
Your Culture of Life and Your Culture of Peace upon the Earth.

And, Almighty God,

We pray that, when our pilgrim journey has ended,
we will be with You forever
in the warm embrace of Your love.

Amen.

The image above is from here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Obama = Bush 3?"

The Anchoress today shared the very smart clip below from "The Daily Show."

It might just make some Democrats' heads explode:


RE the inaugural address, The New York Times has a round-up of opinions, including that of William Safire.

Peggy Noonan has a new column up, too. Subhead: "He begins with a serious, solid Inaugural Address."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Than Party or Philosophy

For the thinking of one Republican on the day's events, here's a post at 10:46 a.m. by Karol at Alarming News:

Good luck, Mr. President

I love America more than I love any party or political philosophy. So if Obama balances the budget, ends all wars, brings hope and confidence to the American people all while lowering the oceans and projecting strength abroad, I'm in.

But if he doesn't, let's all remember what we learned during the last eight years: dissent is patriotic. Let's be patriots!

If you have a sadistic need to hear from an angry Republican today, go here. (H/t: Sully.)

The Doers

I thought President Obama's inaugural address was quite good. Not a home run -- but a solid double or triple.

The Anchoress has some good thoughts on the address here and here with links to others. Mike thought the speech had four money quotes.

This passage sticks out for me:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.


The photo above is credited to Ron Edmonds of the Associated Press. It's via the P-G.

Cojones

On multiple topics political and theological, I do not agree with Rick Warren. But, I thought he a fine job today with the invocation at the presidential inauguration.

And, while it was not sensitive from an interreligious perspective, I must say that it took cojones to end with "The Our Father":


The text:

Let us pray. Almighty God -- our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.’ And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King, and a great cloud of witnesses, are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice-President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes -- even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation, and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president, and his wife Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life -- Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus -- who taught us to pray:

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

Amen.

Mike liked the prayer, too.

A Good Time for Prayer

This morning is a good time for prayer, especially prayer for incoming President Barack Obama.

A Concord Pastor has done this well:

O God,
upon this man, our new president,
shower your wisdom
that he might govern America
in the light of your truth.

Give him vision to see the future's demands
and a love for the past
upon whose history we stand.

Grant him inner strength to bear the office
to which the nation and the world look
for guidance and leadership.

Give him a love for the law
the keeps us from chaos
and orders our lives for the common good.

Endow him with strength to make difficult decisions
and with courage to be faithful
to judgments made.

Instill in him a respect and reverence for life
in all its shapes and forms,
especially for the most innocent and defenseless.

Give him a heart for the hungry and the homeless,
for victims of disease and war,
for those everywhere in need of a share of others' abundance.

Grant him good counsel on the economy
lest our wealth consume us or be consumed
by our foolishness and greed.

Make him a man of peace and a maker of peace,
at home and abroad,
and in his own heart as he stands before you.

Make him a leader of all Americans
and of Americans on all sides of many issues:
make him a president we can trust.

Let the wisdom of your truth,
the rule of good law
and the promise of liberty and justice for all
guide our new president and the people he serves.

God, we pray that you bless America
and President Barack Obama
who begins this day to lead us.

Amen.

The photo above is credited to Joe Raedle of Getty. It comes via Sully.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

In honor of today's national commemoration of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am posting below the full text of his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

It was a response to a statement by eight white Alabama clergymen (including a Catholic bishop who later became a civil rights activist).

Rev. King's letter is lengthy but worth the read:

April 16, 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, 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 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.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails so express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; selfpurification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gain saying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham that in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants -- for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliation?" "are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bill" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and halftruths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person that Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hoped that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral that individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more that 340 years for our constitutional and Godgiven rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored" when your first name becomes "Nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when your are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of Harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus is it that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in it's application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. 'Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti-religious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom 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 prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another mans freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro the wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all it ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion, before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relations to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in the generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergyman would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously closed on advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in blacknationalist ideologies -- a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -- and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus and extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like am ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvery's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime -- the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -- such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden, and Sarah Patton Boyle -- have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips for Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. Yes, I love the church. 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 through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful -- in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey Gad rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent -- and often even vocal -- sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion to inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America if freedom. Abuse and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -- and yet out of bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we not face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrations. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end or racial injustice. As T.S. Eliot has said, "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and when her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. 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 their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.


The photo above is from here.