Martin Luther King’s Jr. Extremism
Progress only comes through hard work. For African Americans in the 1960’s, oppression was a huge problem, so they wanted to do something about it. These people had to fight for justice because they were not given it freely. In the 1960’s, African Americans were not allowed to use the same restrooms, drinking fountains, bus seats, or even lunch counters. The limitations were a huge problem for them because they believed that everyone deserved the same rights. They were fed up with the injustice and oppression. In the African American fight against this oppression, one man stood out above the rest: Martin Luther King jr. He was one that everyone could look up to. King’s peaceful protests put him in many jails. A group of clergymen wrote him a letter to belittle him and his actions, and he decided to respond to the criticism, which was an uncommon occurrence in his life. Long hours of doing nothing in a jail cell gave King plenty of time to write his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” By referencing other religious leaders and figures such as Jesus Christ, Paul and Martin Luther, he successfully argued that being an extremist is not always a bad thing.
After being accused of being an extremist, King gave some examples that were perfect for arguing that extremism can be a good thing. Pathos used a big role in his explanation. He made the clergymen feel guilty for calling him an extremist and making it out to be a bad thing. Saying extremism is not always bad made the clergymen truly believe in what he was saying. Towards the end of his letter, King ultimately asked, “What would Jesus do?” Appropriately, his first example of an extremist was Jesus Christ. King quotes Jesus saying, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you,” from Matthew 5:44. King was hoping to strike a note with the clergymen. He knew that making them feel guilty for calling him an extremist would cause them to regret writing the letter at all because they all looked up to Jesus. He was the man that they all aspired to be like, and when King compared his own actions to those of Jesus’s, the clergymen probably would have felt guilty for accusing him of being an erroneous extremist. King pointed out that all three men that were crucified on Calvary’s Hill were punished for the crime of extremism. He said, “Two men were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below the environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.” King proved that extremism is meant, in many cases, to spread a message for a good cause.
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In addition to noting that Jesus Christ was an extremist, King also included Paul as an example. In many areas of the letter, King compared himself to Paul in the sense that he, “must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.” King used Logos to make a logical claim in his own case of defending his right to be in Birmingham. He states, “I am here because I have organizational ties here.” Later, King reminds the clergymen that in the days of early Christians, they were often unwelcomed when they entered a town. These unaccepting people were convicted for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”; the very thing that King was arrested for. Like Paul and these early Christians, King was not accepted by others. Because they are all religious people, King’s circumstances for being in Birmingham should have made sense to them. Not only was he invited there, but he went to Birmingham to aid his people just like Paul did.
King quotes Paul in Galatians 6:17 saying, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The scripture shows the clergymen just how dedicated King is to his cause as well as how religiously inclined he is. His use of Ethos is extremely strong. As stated earlier, King just wanted to help the people that were being hurt and come to their aid. He quoted Martin Luther saying, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God,” from when he was at the Imperial Diet of Worms.explain quote King defended his case by making himself sound almost like a saint. Like Martin Luther, King was a very religious person. He made the clergymen trust him more by proving that he was very religious and that he was just like them. Just like Luther and the clergymen, King devoted most of his life to religion. Luther’s extremism led to the very first Protestant service, the Lutheran religion, and the ninety-five theses. King argues that if Luther’s extremism led to such great things then why would his extremism not lead to similarly great things.