The reason Martin Luther was in Birmingham is that the rate of segregation and injustices against the Negroes was extremely high. King hoped to rally the Christian movement in the City just before the Easter shopping season and force the White power structure to the negotiating table with regards to black people’s human rights violations. Therefore King as a Christian minister in charge of the Southern Christian leadership conference joined hands with the Alabama Christian movement for human rights in a campaign to use direct action and force the City to address cases of violence, racial discrimination, and segregation policies against the Negroes. According to Luther, Birmingham was the most segregated place in the country, which forced him to act. However he advocated for nonviolent protests to rally the blacks to express themselves about the injustices they encountered. As a result of his presence, the City’s leadership obtained an injunction of the planned protests, and after contemplating failing to attend, King decided to disobey the injunction and was thus arrested.
King understanding of his obligation as a Christian minister and civil rights defender
King was a Christian minister, but he also understood his role in advocating for justice in the society that was full of injustice against the Negro community. One of the motivating factors that caused King to decide to pursue civil disobedience was to rally the Church and the white religious leaders to join the cause and call for fair treatment of the Negroes in Alabama. The objective was to make the religious leaders in America see the injustice and, as a result, speak to the people in power. This was a time when courts, the white nationalist movements, and the police were brutal and injustice towards Negroes. The Negroes were subjected to segregation, they could not even sleep in motels, and they could not dine in white restaurants. King was 0f the view that Americans were equal, and thus injustice in one place was injustice everywhere, and thus even the white clergy should have voiced their concern about the racial injustices instead of criticizing him.
King’s expectations from other religious leaders of all faiths
King believed that the religious leaders would have been on the forefront to confront racial injustice and violence against the Negroes. King believed that the Church, irrespective of whether the church leaders were black or white, would stand in one voice against social injustices. However, the over 53 white ministers who condemned his actions as violent incensed him, as we can see in the letter. King differed, in an opinion by claiming that without justice and fairness, the Church had failed in its role of speaking to the government and giving wise counsel. In Birmingham, King was adamant that the objective was negotiation all along, but direct action as a means to bring the powerful white class on a negotiating table. King had hoped that the other leaders of faith would have shown leadership and condemned police brutality as well as ordinances that were unjust to the black community. King, in his letter, gave a rallying call to all faith leaders to stand up for human dignity instead of being silent or passive because they were also affected in one way or another. King pointed out to the Elijah Muhammad Muslim movement that had taken up the Negro frustrations and used violence to bring the city leadership on the negotiating table. In contrast, King advocated for nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, which was a part of the individual freedoms, but the Negroes were not given permission to exercise their freedoms.
Reason King believed they should participate in the civil rights movement
King was of the view that the religious leaders had the moral duty to participate in the civil rights movement because, just like Paul responded to Christians facing persecution, the clergy could not turn its back on its congregation in the hour of need. The perception is that the master did not just hand over freedom to the oppressed without them asking for it. King reminisced the early civilization role of the Church in defending human rights, advancing social equality, and keeping the government in check. Even though times had changed, it is clear that the Church no longer held the sway it had before. King was of the view that just the way Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego had defied the laws of King Nebuchadnezzar for a higher moral status, the Church should also do the same. This is because immoral laws cannot be used to achieve justice but can only cause mayhem in society.
The reason the faith leaders chose not to participate
However most of the religious leaders dared not to follow Martin Luther especially those that were non-Christian and the white Christian clergymen. This is because they believed that King’s tactics for advancing social equality in America were too aggressive and were meant to enhance political and racial violence. The best way that the other clergymen supported was the use of negotiations to get to the root of the issues as opposed to the nonviolent protests, marches and boycotts. However King reminded them in his letter that the white in power had refused to negotiate win the first place and only through civil disobedience could they be persuaded. Moreover, one could resist without resorting to use of violence and also nonviolence means were a means to get the attention of the oppressors and force them to listen to the Negroes.
The repercussions if all religious leaders had joined King
The repercussions would have had speeded up the civil right reforms had other religious leaders supported King. However their careers could have suffered because they were still the clergy and leaders for the white majority who in this case were the oppressors. Therefore most were in a dilemma to choose between their faith and their careers. The Church itself was not ready to defend the Negroes against the segregation and racial discrimination. In case the religious leaders could have joined King, then more people could have seen the sense of the civil injustices and supported them as a matter of moral duty. King thought that when he burst into the limelight he would have been supported by the Church leaders, rabbis, priests and ministers, but he was shocked to see some opposing him and siding with the opposing side. Some of the leaders remained extra cautious instead of coming out courageously and speaking to power, while a few came out and called out the racial injustices. If King had the support from the leaders of faith, the movement would have been stronger, wider and more powerful than ever before. The government would have listened to their concerns because they would have the numbers and a greater bargaining power.
The reason the clergy’s to support King caused him to lose faith in his fellow clergymen
King doubted the ingenuity of the Church in standing with the Negroes at a time in history when they were subjected to untold suffering at the hands of the white majority and a white-dominated criminal justice system. The fact that the members of the clergy did not stand up to such issues caused King to be demoralized. King is, however, optimistic that even if the Church fails to come up to the rescue of the Negroes, the American political ideology set out by American forefathers will eventually enable the issues of segregation and racial injustice to be wiped away from society. King, in his letter, stated that his feet were tired, but he should be at rest because he knew even if the Church and the clergymen failed to stand up for the negroes; still, all humans remain created equal before the eyes of God. King warned the Church that the judgment of God was upon them and that the Church risked being a significant player in advocating for equality and social justice, but it had failed because the leadership was in decided, lukewarm, or scared of being jailed or persecuted. He reminded Christians that even the gospel was spread through persecution.
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