Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever and if repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. [End of Letter from Birmingham Jail]
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King reminded his fellow clergymen that Jesus was an extremist for love who taught his follower's to "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."
King recalled to his fellow clerics that the Hebrew prophet Amos was an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
The world is pulled to change by extremism and our only dilemma is what will we be extremists for? Hate or love? God or State? The preservation of injustice or the extension of justice; equal human rights?
The clinging to the status quo is a form of extremism for all around US are the deep groans from the oppressed, as King addressed from his jail cell:
Few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. Too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."'
Small in number, they were big in commitment and by their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.