Are You An Extremist? - By Guest Writer Faith Schiller
Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
'm ashamed to admit that for the first 19 years of my life, I have never given more than a passing thought to MLK day.
To me, MLK Day was just another semi-celebrated holiday on the calendar.
For some reason, this year I decided to read some of the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
My sister had a copy of his Letter from Birmingham Jail, so I picked it up and started to casually leaf through the pages.
Minutes later, I found myself enthralled by the dedication and passion of this amazing man. Several times during my read, tears ran down my face as I realized this letter was written for me.
Me, a self proclaimed ‘world-changer’ who had forgotten I had a responsibility to act upon the injustice I see.
Have you ever read MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail? If you haven’t, I suggest you stop reading my shallow thoughts and dive into King’s amazing letter. You won’t regret it.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail was written to a group of people, who, although passionate about the cause of racial reconciliation, had neglected to act upon their conviction.
This letter was MLK’s reminder that to remain silent in the face of injustice is no better than to be an advocate for the preservation of it.
When most people think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they think of the fight against racism.
What do you think of?
Maybe you think of his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech, or even how he was tragically assassinated.
That is what I thought of too.
But Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so much more than a dreamer.
He was an extremist.
Today the idea of being an extremist is a scary one. All around the world we see people who call themselves "extremist" commit some of the most horrific crimes against humanity.
Traditionally the term extremist is used to refer to an ideology that is considered (by the speaker or by some implied shared social consensus) to be far outside the (acceptable) mainstream attitudes of society.
So if we apply this definition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was definitely an extremist. In fact, after being labeled as an extremist, in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, MLK wrote this,
“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 in love? -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice? -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."
Was not Martin Luther an extremist? -- "Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist? -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience."
Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? -- "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free."
Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”
No question, MLK saw extremism as a choice.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had more than a dream of racial reconciliation.
He believed to his core that to be passive in the face of wrong is to be an extremist for injustice.
Either we act on what we believe, or we become the enemy of our own cause.
Also in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King penned these profound words,
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
If we believe in a cause, see a problem, and understand a solution, but do nothing.. .does that make us any different than people who are totally ignorant of the problem?"
We can be the generation who will eradicate injustice in our world.
But nothing is going to change through comfort and mediocrity.
et us not be held captive by the shared social consensus that the "American Dream," will give us a truly satisfying life.
Instead, choose your battle.
Become an Extremist.
And give your life to the fight of injustice.