Creative Extremists

We were able to attend a FANTASTIC Freedom Devotional this evening. It was an inter-faith effort that allowed us to enjoy some words from our local mayor, a professor from Eastern Washington University and Pastor Happy Watkins, who performed Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. Uplifting, inspiring, historic words and beautiful music. It made me think how grateful I am for people who put these kinds of events together because when you avail yourself of them, its always a powerful and enriching experience.

“The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But 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 for 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." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Earlier today, Geoff wrote our son Trey an email letter. Since he will read it on his p-day, tomorrow, he wanted to include something about MLK and found the above excerpt from his Letter from Birmingham Jail which I don’t think I have ever read. This excerpt was so inspiring to me that as soon as Geoff finished reading it I said, “I’m posting that to my blog” but I’m also going to read the full letter in the morning, as my way of personally honoring Martin Luther King Day. Listening to Professor Schwendiman and Pastor Watkins tonight reminded me that we still have SO MUCH to learn from him and his example. I think our nation and world are still in dire need of creative extremists. I definitely aspire to be an extremist for love, truth and goodness—to follow the example of Jesus Christ.

If you could be a creative extremist, what would it be for?