“Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace

A recent plane ride provided me with the opportunity to read Martin Luther King Jr’s brilliant Letter from a Birmingham Jail. If you haven’t yet, you really should. It is very well-argued and steeped in a very deep knowledge of Christianity and Socrates, which is always a pleasure to see.

Plus, it’s current! The recent attack on Chick-Fil-A has prompted the usual litany of posts from Christians crying about how they’re oh so tired of the culture wars. MLK had similar dealings with the self-declared moderates of his own era, but he deals with them so much more kindly than I could. A few choice excerpts:

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to 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.

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 Counciler 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”

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 other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.