Faith In Community Reflections: The Fierce Urgency Of Now

~ Angie Wright, Faith in Community Coordinator

As our City approaches the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, Greater Birmingham Ministries is renewing a tradition of theological reflection on happenings in our world, the light and darkness they shed on the most vulnerable of God’s children, and the challenges they place on people of faith. Facing the fiercely contested election, we find wise and urgent counsel in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech given at Riverside Church in New York City nearly 45 years ago.

First, Dr. King acknowledges the temptation of inaction and the risk of speaking out:

“We are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on . . . Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

Next, he calls on people of faith to remember where our loyalties lie:

“This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy.’”

Dr. King already knew all about the 1% and the 47% that have been talked about so much this year. He called for fundamental change:

“A true revolution of values will cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”

The vitality, integrity and soul of our country and world depend on this “revolution of values”:

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when ‘every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.’”