Honor Dr. King by Protecting the Human Rights of Children in the Womb
Without any fear, Dr King made his impassioned defense of human rights from the Natural Law. We must do the same.
Dr. King was unjustly imprisoned at the time of the writing of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail for defending fundamental human rights. It was his Christian faith, as a follower of Jesus Christ whom St Paul called the "New Man", that Dr. King wrote this letter. It was because of his faith in Jesus Christ that he had the courage to live his heroic life and suffer his martyr's death. He made his impassioned defense of fundamental human rights from the basis of a Natural law argument. We must do the same.
Perhaps the greatest living heir to Dr. King's true legacy is his niece, Dr. Alveda King
Entitled after the fact a "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" it was addressed to "My Fellow Clergymen." It reads as a manifesto for every Christian, and especially Clergy, who understand the obligation we have to stand for authentic Social Justice. As a Clergyman, a Deacon of the Catholic Church, I prayerfully read it every year during this important American holiday.
Even the salutation speaks volumes. He wrote to "My Fellow Clergymen". He engaged in this work because he was called by God. Reverend Dr. King was unjustly imprisoned at the time of the writing of this letter for defending the fundamental human rights of every single human person. I say HUMAN rights because these rights have their source in our identity as human persons created in the Image of God. The Government did not grant them and cannot take them away.
Without any fear of being seen as too "religious" he defended his position with a vibrant Christian witness. Because we are all human persons, we have human rights. The source of those rights is God the Creator, in whose Image we have been fashioned. Civil Rights, as important as they may be, are the domain of the State. And, as is obvious from Dr. King's imprisonment, are not always justly enforced or protected. It is Human Rights which were the subject of his heroism. They are ours because we have received them from God.The first among them is the right to life itself.
He wrote this jailhouse letter when he was the President of a CHRISTIAN group: "I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights."
It was his Christian faith, as a follower of Jesus Christ whom St Paul called the "New Man", that Dr. King wrote this letter. It was because of his faith in Jesus Christ that he had the courage to live his heroic life and suffer his martyr's death. He made his impassioned defense of fundamental human rights from the basis of a Natural law argument. We must now do the same as it concerns another class of human persons who are being denied the Right to life, children in the womb.
He explained to some within the Christian community of his day who had objected to his methods: "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."
He articulated one of the best expressions of Christian solidarity which I have heard in my lifetime: "I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Standing on the shoulders of the Old Testament Prophets and under the Shadow of the Cross where the final Prophetic voice, the Word made Flesh, hung in selfless love for all men and women, Dr. King addressed another thorny subject, the fact of unjust civil or "positive" laws: "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."
Dr. King confronted those who in his day accused him of being "extreme" because he called some positive laws unjust and not law at all. For those who argued that opponents of unjust civil laws must not be too public in that opposition he had these words: "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the ...
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