Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This book was the very first book I finished in 2019. The contents are Letter from Birmingham Jail which was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s response to eight white Alabama clergymen who argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought in the courts, not in the streets; and The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life which was first delivered as a sermon on April 1967 and later republished in A Gift of Love, a collection of his sermons.

Short but extremely powerful. That was the impression I got after finishing this book. There I was, well over fifty years after MLK’s time and I got goosebumps just from reading his words, how would it feel if I’d lived in his time and listened to his sermons, even if only from a radio broadcast?

I’m a Sunday school teacher (for teens) and I mentioned MLK several times to the kids, as an example of a figure who did not doubt to put others first before himself and his family; who tirelessly fought for the cause of civil rights movement until the end of his life. I told them they’re lucky to never have experienced racial segregation — how it would feel if you had to attend separate schools, sit on the back of the bus, and only allowed to use the “colored” toilets because it was the LAW?

One of the most powerful quotes in Letter from Birmingham Jail is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” MLK’s words resonate to what’s going on in Indonesia – injustice towards minority groups, injustice towards the sexual abuse victims, injustice towards the 1998 student victims whose mothers still demand justice with their Aksi Kamisan until today. “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” MLK had said.

Another powerful quote: “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.” Isn’t this the same case with the ‘silent majority’ phenomenon in Indonesia? Just because you aren’t affected directly by injustice, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care or shouldn’t stand up for your oppressed neighbors.

MLK encouraged us the be extremists for love and for justice. Will we answer his call?

The second part of this little book, The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life, which explained the length, breadth, and height of life. Loving yourself (rational and healthy self-interest) is the length of life. Loving your neighbors as you love yourself is the breadth of life. And finally, loving God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength, that’s the height of life.

I’m overjoyed I chose this little book as my first read in 2019. Also, it made me want to read more from MLK.


Book details:

Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

54 pages, published 2018 by Penguin Classics (Penguin Modern series)

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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