Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church


Clergy Corner

Extremists for Love

  • The Rev. Bob Dannals
  • Jan 10, 2018
  • Category: General
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This coming Monday, our nation will pause to observe the federal holiday in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday is January 15. It is, in many respects, a remarkable holiday (holy day) -- the only federal holiday to honor an individual who did not serve in an official government capacity -- honoring a person who had lasting impact on our national fabric. The Church also remembers important people on their deathday as the day of one's entrance into glory -- for Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4. The Episcopal Church welcomes us to celebrate MLK on either occasion.

Drawing on the example of Jesus, King urged us to be "extremists for love." He wrote in his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail: "Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse 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 gospel of Christ ... Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist ... 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?"

Stories and memories of racism growing up in the south come back to me this time of year. When I read biographies of Civil Rights leaders, especially of MLK, I recall how far our society has progressed. I better understand now the pressures that King and other leaders faced during the 1950s and the 1960s, pressures that surely contributed to mix-motives and halting inactivity. King's own moral weaknesses provide a convenient excuse for anyone who wants to avoid his message, and because of those weaknesses some Christians continue to discount the impact of his life. But through it all, King stuck with his overriding principle: nonviolent resistance -- a movement based on love could keep the oppressed from becoming a mirror of their oppressors.

It is at this time of year when we are challenged with the question: If it took us so long to face the sin of slavery and racism, what am I ... what are we ... blind to today? What keeps us in this new century from realizing the beloved community of love, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, freedom and justice for which King fought and died? Good questions as we venture through this season of Epiphany in which we celebrate Christ's love for all people, the manifestation of God's redeeming power in the issues of the day.

Bob Dannals