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Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Paperback – April 1, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This important book addresses an issue many assume resides outside of evangelical concerns: racial reconciliation in America.  Reigniting Martin Luther King’s challenge to do the hard work of racial justice now, the articles in this volume boldly consider what might be done to effectively respond to a still “racialized” country.  An overriding theme of fellowship is woven within this timely volume, encouraging the eager reader, evangelical or not, to imagine anew a beloved community of racial inclusion at the looming sunset of the Obama era. In a most brilliant move, this book calls for evangelicals to carry on the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement while expanding its limitations. It acknowledges that changing legislation is but one step toward racial reconciliation for a people with, as W.E.B. DuBois once eloquently put it, “unreconciled strivings” and “warring ideals.” This volume offers the Bible as a potent tonic to change and cure the depraved heart regarding racial equality.

Derek S. Hicks, Assistant Professor, School of Divinity, Wake Forest University

This collection of personal narratives by gifted Christian leaders—black and white—strikes a blow against indifference to racism and advances the cause of Christ-exalting diversity in the church. Letters to a Birmingham Jail looks forward as well as back, addressing the ethnic conflicts of a new generation. It does not seek answers from culture but from the gospel, which transforms both our vertical relationship (with God) and our horizontal relationships (with one another).

Dr. Philip G. Ryken, President, Wheaton College

If it were within my means, I'd buy 100,000 copies of Letters to a Birmingham Jail and give them away to pastors and Christians all across America.  This book is just that important to the future of Christianity in America. Be warned though:the borders of your present reality will breached by the flood of truth that overflows out of every page.  You will be called into a deeper, more beautiful, gospel story that births missional, gospel-centered, multiethnic churches.

Derwin L. Gray, Lead Pastor, Transformation Church                                                                                                 Author of Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future                                                                    

Letters to a Birmingham Jail provides a thermostatic rather than a thermometeristic approach to the church's response to inequity and injustice within the world it serves to adjust rather than to acknowledge the social temperature. It is bathed in a Christo-conciliatory solution that fosters authentic racial reconciliation within the church, thus serving as a headlight rather than a taillight to the world.

This book advocates gospelizing the social—that is, letting the gospel subversively address the social problems within our world rather than socializing the gospel—making the gospel subservient to the social methodologies employed to address the problems within our world. The soil of this volume carries within it the seeds of the ministry of Jesus that must be cultivated if the church is to lead the way to a true and biblical revolution that engages this world's dilemma. I enthusiastically endorse this work. 

Dr. Robert Smith, Professor of Divinity, Samford University

Bryan Loritts has assembled a wonderful group of ethnically diverse church leaders to respond to the now famous letter from the pen of Martin Luther King Jr., which, though written from a Birmingham jail in 1963, continues to appear timeless and relevant today.  In response to King's well-known letter, these influential leaders seek to advance the issues raised in that letter by addressing both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of themes such as gospel, church, race, diversity, and racial reconciliation.  Each chapter in the volume offers insightful guidance, providing a beautifully harmonized chorus that will challenge readers to think, live, and serve Christianly in a more faithful way in whatever context they may find themselves.  The result is a powerful, probing, prophetic, convicting, biblically grounded, gospel-centered, culturally sensitive, interculturally competent, illuminating, helpful, and hopeful book, which I gladly and heartily recommend.  

David S. Dockery, President, Union University

In the spirit of King's iconic Letter fifty years ago, Letters to a Birmingham Jail calls us to contend with the slow, hard work of building a Christ-centered church—one that challenges us to do continual battle with the earthly divisions that diminish all who profess the name of Christ. This book is essential reading.

Charles W. McKinney, Jr., Associate Professor of History, Director, African American Studies, Rhodes College

 

 

From the Back Cover

More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Much has transpired in the half-century since, and progress has been made in the issues that were close to Dr. King’s heart. Thankfully, the burning crosses, biting police dogs, and angry mobs of that day are long gone. But in their place, passivity has emerged. A passivity that must be addressed.

That’s the aim of Letters to a Birmingham Jail. A collection of essays written by men of various ethnicities and ages, this book encourages us to pursue Christ exalting diversity. Each contribution recognizes that only the cross and empty tomb of Christ can bring true unity, and each notes that the gospel demands justice in all its forms. This was a truth that Dr. King fought and gave his life for, and this is a truth that these modern day "drum majors for justice" continue to beat.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802411967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802411969
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Too many of my white friends tell me the race problem is a dead issue and only keep alive by a few wounded people. NOT TRUE and this book written by white and black authors tells us that most in the USA have not yet dealt with the deeply buried challenges.
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The contributors weave together a great work that comes from many angles to help the reader diagnose underlying racial currents while offering ways to think and fight for an ethnically diverse body that honors the triune God of the bible. Thankful for this book!
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Letters to a Birmingham Jail is inspiring, intense, confrontational, honest and thought-provoking, this is a must read not just for church leaders, but for our country. The landscape of America is changing and we'll need authentic diversity to combat the homogenous cultural assumptions that plague The Church and how she's viewed by society. Again this is a must read.
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Reading this book really touched my soul. I discovered the title as it was mentioned in another book I was reading so I ordered it. I have found it very moving and educational. I am white, raised in Southern California and was a teenager during the segregation marches in the south. I spent little if any time considering the struggles of black people. Reading this book and other books like it has opened my eyes and made me ashamed of the majority race's treatment of minorities in genera,l but black people in specific. This book is very thought provoking.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a desire to be a positive force in combating segregation.
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Format: Paperback
If you are interested in this topic, you need to read this book. If you are not interested in this topic, you MUST read this book. This book offers great perspectives from a diverse group of leaders.
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Format: Paperback
“While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I cam across a recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’”

These words open a letter by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a man who’s name is now synonymous with civil rights. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is insightful and challenging in so many ways, but I’m struck by the thought, now that we can review it in hindsight, of the “what if.” What if Dr. King hadn’t been so unwise and so untimely? Where would we be today? Would we still have separate drinking fountains?

Dr. King knew that knew that “wise” and “timely” would never come and so what was called for was a bit of “holy impatience.”

Why does the book exist?

“The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” – Dr. King

Letters to a Birmingham Jail is a response to Dr. King. Not a refutation, but instead an examination of what he was doing, how it impacted these particular writers, and a call for the Church to continue what Dr. King started; an end to apathetic passivity.

The book features the full letter from Dr. King and ten essays from black, white and Asian pastors who have been impacted by what Dr. King did, or felt motivated to continue what Dr. King started.

What’s it all about?

“A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising that law.” – Dr. King

King’s letter is powerful and I found it to be the most powerful part of the book. The essays are fantastic as well, displaying a great deal of emotion, tragedy, perseverance, and triumph. It’s the words of Dr.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most important and eye-opening books I’ve read in a long time. Maybe ever. Being the terrible student that I was, I never really paid attention in history class. I used to joke that the only thing I knew about history is that World War I came before World War II. So when I started homeschooling my kids about four years ago, I began learning alongside them about world and American history. It’s been an awakening experience beyond anything I could have imagined. We recently wrapped up several weeks on the Civil War, so all of the stories of that time period were fresh in my mind and my soul when I chose this book to read and review. To say that I read this book with a tender heart would be a gross understatement. I was already wrecked going into this book, so the words within “Letters to A Birmingham Jail” ripped my heart wide open.

Before reading the book, I first read Dr. King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” two times and listened to him read it once (there are audio recordings of Dr. King reading his letter online). His letter stands as a beautiful and horrible picture of the time in which he lived. It is beautiful, sad, true and prophetic all at the same time. This book, Letters To A Birmingham Jail, is filled with stories and thoughts of thankfulness for our collective progress and remorse over our collective failure in regards to Dr. King’s mission of racial justice and reconciliation.

“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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail

The book consists of ten chapters, each written by a different person.
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