This weekend marks the MLK holiday weekend. At FCC we will be marking the occasion with a joint worship service at North Stamford Community Church, 31 Cascade Rd., Stamford. Worship begins at 11am. Pastor Jacki and I will be speaking to the theme, “I Have a Dream.” We will also be inviting the congregations to share their dreams. In preparation for Sunday I’ve been reading from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” King wrote this open letter to a group of fellow clergy who were criticizing his use of non-violent direct action to bring about justice for African Americans, particularly in the South. The criticism was that King was creating unrest and “disturbing the peace” by raising awareness of the suffering of black people. Instead, these clergy, who identified as “white moderates,” recommended patience and incremental change. King defended his actions and called on his colleagues to remember their God, who, we are told, heard the cries of his people oppressed in Egypt and took action on their behalf to free them. King famously wrote about the “fierce urgency of now.”
The Letter from a Birmingham Jail reminded once again of the difference between charity and justice. Charity meets the needs of suffering people while leaving the social structures that create suffering in place. Justice takes a critical look at the structures and seeks to change them. Saint Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran Catholic priest martyred for his work on behalf of the poor once said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why there are so many poor people, they call me a Communist.” Which is exactly what they called Dr. King.
I don’t believe that we have to become Communists to create more just social structures in the U.S., but my dream is that as a church, we use the opportunity that our church restart affords to engage not only in acts of charity but also in a movement for justice.