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How were the 8 clergymen who wrote the letter, "A Call for Unity" hypocritical?

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amizzlle | Student, Grade 11

Posted February 20, 2010 at 8:57 AM via web

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How were the 8 clergymen who wrote the letter, "A Call for Unity" hypocritical?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM (Answer #1)

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You can argue that these clergy are being hypocrites because they are calling only for sacrifice and correct behavior on the part of the black people and ignoring all the problems and unChristian (or unJewish) behavior on the part of the whites.

They seem to be blaming all of the problems on outside agitators (King) and saying that these people should stop stirring up problems.  As King says in his response to them, they are only concerned with the actions of the demonstrators and not the actions that cause the need for the demonstrations.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:08 AM (Answer #2)

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In a brilliant piece of writing, Martin Luther King Jr. responded in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail by exposing the obvious hypocrisy of the clergymen who had called for unity.  The ministers criticized King for coming to Alabama from Georgia, as an "outsider" who was just making the situation worse.  King calls them hypocrites by pointing out that Jesus in his ministry was called "to all corners of the Greco-Roman world".  Throughout his response, King uses biblical language to set the clergymen straight.

Whie the ministers call on negroes and King to "obey the law" and pursue equality through negotiations, King points out:

"One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all'."

Here he is saying that he is being asked to follow man's law, while the ministers and white government refuse to honor God's law.

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