Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a mindful MLK Day to you

It's Martin Luther King Day in the States. Dr. Vallicella linked to Dr. King's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," an excerpt of which is below:

I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill-will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize 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.

Beyond the immediate question of black and white, I think Dr. King's wisdom is generalizable as a moral rule: for anything that is worth doing, morally speaking, the time is always now. As Dr. King himself writes:

We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.


1 comment:

Malcolm Pollack said...

"Time is neutral." This insight also gives the lie to the ubiquitous fatuity "the wrong side of history."