Thursday, August 8, 2019
Be not conformed....................
For years King had felt an affinity with Saint Paul. He likened his own "kitchen conversion" in January 1956 to Paul's blinding vision on the road to Damascus in the first century C. E. The Greek Jew, like King, heard Jesus speaking to him. The heavenly light was so bright that Paul could not see in an earthly way for three days. King identified with the ex-persecutor's relentless persecution—"tried for heresy at Jerusalem, jailed at Philippi, beaten at Thessalonica, mobbed at Ephesus, depressed at Athens," and imprisoned and executed in Rome.
Not long after King's own vision he preached a sermon at Dexter in the persona of Paul, a letter to American Christians. Martin as Paul urged his audience to "be not conformed to this world," but to transform themselves into the divine image, a colony of heaven, to being by refusing to conform to banal evil. At least since his Albany jailing King had thought about writing a letter from jail as Paul had done. Now he transmuted the despair he felt reading the clergymen's letter into a furious burst of intellectual energy, to craft a Pauling epistle that sharpened themes he had previewed in his 1956 sermon.
Like Paul of Tarsus, the Birmingham inmate penned an urgent letter for a particular place and time that took on universal meaning for all times and places.
-Stewart Burns, To The Mountaintop: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Sacred Mission To Save America 1955-1968
King's amazing letter is here