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5 “Living under the Tension” They begin to wonder all over the nation, how is it we can keep walk- ing in Montgomery? How is it we can keep burning out our rubber? How is it we can keep living under the tension? And we can cry out to the nation, “We can do it because we know that as we walk, God walks with us.” —Martin Luther King Jr., September 1956 Just a few short days after the bombing of his home, King delivered a sermon at Dexter with a title he could easily embrace: “It’s Hard to Be a Christian.” The past two months of King’s life had been extremely challenging. As the most visible face of the bus boycott, he had become a lightning rod for criticism, threats, and even violence. Despite his suf- ferings, King reminded the people of Dexter that the Christian faith is by definition costly. This was not time to substitute “a cushion for a cross” or to have “a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.” He called for a more authentic Christianity that is by definition “hard because it demands a dangerous and costly altruism. It demands that the ‘I’ be immersed in the deep waters of ‘thou.’” The people of Dexter knew they were not the only Christians in Montgomery. That same morning, hymns were emanating from the all-white Dexter Avenue Methodist Church just a block away. The hypocrisy of many of Montgomery’s white Christians was fair game this Sunday, as King blasted “white people who are for justice” but who are “afraid to speak.” King concluded by reminding his congregation that Christianity demands “putting our whole being in the 1 struggle against evil, whatever the cost.” The coming eleven months would prove to be costly for many in- volved in the local struggle. In addition to facing varied and perpetual manifestations of white racism, King and other boycott leaders tried to keep the community united in purpose. Accusations that the MIA had 115

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