Read + Reflect: 28 Days with Martin (Installment #4)

Welcome to the fourth installment of this series! Click here for the first installment.


One of the ways I’m encouraging my congregation to learn about the social roots of black oppression in modernity is through an educational series called Read + Reflect: 28 Days with Martin. Everyday in the month of February, I will publish a brief excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s writing and a short reflection question on my church's Facebook account and via email to those who subscribe to our Social Justice Team. My hope is that these short, regular exposures to King’s words—which often expand beyond then-current race relations and into theology, philosophy, economics, and militarism—will stir something in people to become more educated, advocate for justice, and carry on King’s dream.


20 February 2023




“Let us be dissatisfied. Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. Let us be dissatisfied until the day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied.” (Where Do We Go From Here?, 1967)



The civil rights movement was constantly criticized for moving too fast or demanding too much. King, though, insists that anything short of full freedom and liberation from oppression is insufficient. What issues in our current context, especially those currently being celebrated for having made “progress,” do we need to be dissatisfied with? 


21 February 2023




“We will have to repent in this 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 coworkers with God…” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)



In his doctoral work at Boston University, King was influenced by theologians who shared the sentiment that inaction in the face of injustice is just as dangerous and damaging as overt endorsement of it. How can we, as individuals and religious communities, move away from silence and embrace advocacy?


22 February 2023




“It is time that we stopped our blithe lip service to the guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These fine sentiments are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, but that document was always a declaration of intent rather than of reality. There were slaves when it was written; there were still slaves when it was adopted; and to this day, black Americans have not life, liberty nor the privilege of pursuing happiness, and millions of poor white Americans are in economic bondage that is scarcely less oppressive.” (A Testament of Hope, published posthumously in 1969)



In one of his most radical critiques of America’s foundations, King points out the historical fact that these words from Thomas Jefferson were written and adopted at a time when slavery was still alive and well in our nation. That being said, though, the vision itself is pure enough and wide enough for all to find a place in it. How can we advocate for the full inclusion of both the poor and oppressed in the American ideal? 


23 February 2023




“So we are here because we believe, we hope, we pray that something new might emerge in the political life of this nation which will produce a new man, new structures and institutions and a new life for mankind. I am convinced that this new life will not emerge until our nation undergoes a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.” (The Three Evils of Society, 1967, sourced from



King strongly believed that racism didn’t develop in a vacuum, but grew alongside other sources of evil and injustice, here named as economic exploitation and militarism. In order to deal with one, you have to deal with all three. How do you see these three “giant triplets” in society today, and what ways can we be actively resisting them? 


24 February 2023




“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” (Where Do We Go From Here?, 1967)



Love and power, for King, become fully actualized only when they interpenetrate one another. Where in your life or our society do you see love in need of power and power in need of love?


25 February 2023




“This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums.” (Nonviolence and Racial Justice, 1957)



Both in training and family descent, King was a product of the Christian tradition. Easter, for him, was a symbol of the eternal triumph of good over evil, life over death. How can we embody that triumph in the way we relate to society and injustice?


26 February 2023




“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 an extremist in 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.’” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)




Though influenced by several different sources (including, most famously, Mahatma Ghandi), King derived much of his nonviolent philosophy from Jesus in the gospels, whom he here calls an “extremist in love.” How can we be extremists in love in our lives? In society? At work? 




[Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are taken from A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. James M. Washington, (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).]



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