Posted by EC Andercheck July 18, 2017 9:29 am
Great Oceans yielded to Globalization – Now Humanity to the Rebirth of Religion?
Across great oceans humankind first gazed, as if across galaxies of stars, the horizon was distant and wholly unconnected to the daily concerns of humanity, these images fed the spiritual being with food for dreams and birthed hope. The communities of humans were once finite, people knew each other, and relationships were simpler. People were unsure of the things that might exist beyond the horizon. Once it was possible to conceive of a national policy with a lens that saw the continental platforms as separate amongst great oceans, this could allow for separate communities with their distinct spiritual, economic and human existences. As transportation technology advanced it still took months to traverse the great oceans, soon enough opportunities in trade awakened new levels of human avarice. Very shortly thereafter the wickedness of humanity began transporting greed, colonial arrogance and human slaves across these great expanses. It is my thesis that, just as advances in transportation once shrunk the great oceans, today’s technology has rendered one small global island, where humankind must create new systems with a sacred grounding in order to negotiate the more intertwined web of social justice implications caused by economic and political actions.
Through history, Necessity has been the Mother of Invention, never has this been more apparent than today in the cry of humanity for relief from global economic suffering. The problem is the world is becoming a smaller place, but people are becoming more polarized in political positions which are further apart. The urgent and essential spiritual opportunity is for all of humankind to learn to live together in a better way. Nancy Fraser captures the history of the systemic change we face, “Not so long ago, in the heyday of social democracy, disputes about justice presumed what I shall call a ‘Keynesian-Westphalian frame’. Typically played out within modern territorial states…”[i] Today modern territorial states are not the “frame” which contains or controls the conduct and justice of the human community and hence the Keynesian-Westphalian model for just relations is failing. In the absence of a shared sacred vision of humanity, a purely secular greed driven corrupt multinational consortium of banks, governments and corporations is pillaging natural resources, entire cultures and human dignity. Exploitation of cheap labor and natural resources for profit crosses national boundaries unchecked by any functioning morally unified system of justice.
In 1932 Reinhold Niebuhr addressed the growing challenges for a technologically evolving post-modern society to form community and how its capabilities; both rational and religious will define society’s future. In trusting that the development of reasoning ability enables individuals to measure the more complex metrics which create the schema for paths to social justice, it follows, that these metrics need to be refined by greater capabilities in order to continue to discriminate the finer resolution required for more complex technology driven relationships. In defining religious conscience Niebuhr suggests that “The holy will is a personal will’, leaving global institutional will unchecked by morality. In order for a technologically advanced community to generate a spirit of benevolence, the individual must have a growing clarity of vision of the human conditions of injustice.
Much as Niebuhr predicted, and more than he could have imagined, today’s technology brings a more diverse, more globally distant community closer together and creates a more intertwined web of social justice implications for virtually every economic and political action. It is in this challenging environment that the human conditions of suffering must not be obscured from vision, or social justice falls into the void Niebuhr outlines in, “The weakness of the spirit of love in solving larger and more complex problems become increasingly apparent as one proceeds from ordinary relations between individuals to the life of social groups.”[ii]
The Art of Living Together seemed a difficult enough undertaking for society early in the Twentieth Century, Niebuhr notes that “Harmonious social relations depend upon the sense of justice as much as, or even more than, upon the sentiment of benevolence.” If individual reason was not sufficiently powerful to harmonize the desires of the self and social interests in the past, I suggest in the future, it will fall more to moral resources from religious communities to drive social justice. Niebuhr provides no harbor for comfort in his 1932 social analysis of the rational resources of the individual, “The growing intelligence of mankind seems not to be growing rapidly enough to achieve mastery over the social problems, which the advances of technology create.”[iii]
However, in considering new strategies and goals for spiritual openness a frame for future work needs to be concerned about the quantity of orthodoxy, Niebuhr provides a helpful caution signal that there may lie a trap for the over vigorous work of religious groups. He suggests that as scholar and as clergy we might work so hard in building our own theological case that we bear a very different fruit in our dogma, “religion by whatever name, is the inevitable fruit of the spiritual stature of man; and religious intolerance and pride is the final expression of his sinfulness.” So I believe it is with an abundance of humility, that society must undertake unity in spirit for humankind without constraining it by religious zeal.
Understanding and embracing a spirituality beyond one’s own is the love which the creator intended for us to share and the one true path to make unbound a sacred response to humankinds future. Beverly Lanzetta shares a story of such possibilities, when a Jesuit Seminarian is awakened to a profound spirituality in the South Dakota Lakota Rosebud Reservation, “He discovered an immense love of the land and organic harmony with nature, as well as their dynamic understanding of time and their immersion in myth and ritual….without…—Trinity, Jesus, Eucharist–the Lakota Sioux lived and practiced a holy life.”[iv] It is not an easy undertaking to unwind the web of greed and animosity built by even our religious institutions, each one attempting to make gains for their own preservation, maintaining the status quo, staying bound.
Spirituality is being heard as a call to openness and as a response to people across the world, great councils of religions have not brought people together, but there is a seed that has begun to germinate open hearts, espousing the urgent need to come together. Lanzettta called for another “contemplative vision of peace and nonviolence… breaking all free of the bondage of exclusiveness that pushes others outside the circle of love.”[v] This summary is a great message for all religious institutions to hear.
Communion as the greatest communication was a message of Thomas Merton. Pope John Paul II reminded, “Rise, let us be on our way.” Mark 14:42 in his call for both a new practice of Holy Communion as a regular Sacrament and a bold ecumenical communion with all of God’s creation as our earthly mission. For so many today, a call to communion with brothers and sisters in creation might find its path interfered with by a text message or a secular calling. The mother of invention is the dire need for a full measure of spiritual humanity, a global spirituality that finds a home in the sacred.
In The Search for Common Ground, Howard Thurman said, “An alarm will spread throughout the community…it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them—unknown and undiscovered brothers.”[vi] You have to take the time to listen, to feel the divine pathway suggested by prophets from across all the great oceans calling for harmony among all the children of men. Thurman asked us to look again for vaguely familiar stirrings or a lost dream to find the center of a common life, “Among the elder statesmen will be those whose blood the liquid fires of Martin Luther King’s dream swept all before it in one grand surge of beatific glory. They will remember and wonder at what they see about them…They will wonder and ponder heavy thoughts about man and his destiny under the stars.”[vii] The great oceans and endless stars are not so distant anymore, and the heavy pondering is upon us today and our global destiny is now one on this small island of humanity
In order to quest for a new path we must be vulnerable and open to the risk of God’s love being spread without the orthodoxy bred barriers and exclusive protections of a hierarchical church and ecclesial domain. No one institution; church or government can manage global justice, only human kind working from a divine thread of spiritual love for all humans can successfully demand that their religious home and their political homes heed the warning that we need to reinvent how we treat each other or perish.
By EC Andercheck 201
[i] Frase, Nancy, Reframing Justice in a Global World, New Left Review p36, Dec, 2005 pg1.
[ii] Niebuhr, Reinhold, Moral Man & Immoral Society, John Knox Press, Louisville, 1932, pg.29.
[iii] Ibid, pg. 50.
[iv] Lanzetta, Beverly, Emerging Heart, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2007, pg.70.
[v] Ibid, pg. 89.
[vi] Thurman, Howard, The Search for Common Ground, Friends United Press, Richmond, In. 1971, pg. 104.
[vii] Ibid, pg. 10
Posted by EC Andercheck May 23, 2017 5:12 pm
My Most recent publication is now available: Bishops, Authority and Money- A History of Shepherds as Fundraisers
This is a work in Ecclesiology focused on the the notion of fundraising in a very general sense and then its history, it is about mainline churches but also focused on the Roman Catholic Church in America. As a story it proceeds, exploring this history of the episcopacy, there are moments of glory and occasions of sin; it is an engaging story of how throughout Christendom some bishop’s actions have raised great wealth and armies for the Lord’s service and how other bishops have passively or actively bankrupted their churches.
The long decline of mainline American churches, Catholic and Protestant, is traced to a new source, the failure of their leadership to financially provision their church. In this direct practical theological and historical inquiry the scriptural mandate for church leadership to provide funding is carefully evolved and evidenced, as is the link of church leadership’s financial failing to today’s church decline
This book will challenge its reader to consider how the ministry of fundraising can rescue denominations currently facing extinction and bring the gospel message to the many millions who have left American churches. It will raise questions: Does your bishop accept responsibility to financially provision your church, as fully as he or she accepted the authority to lead at consecration?
The Bishop’s acceptance of the authority to lead is inextricably married to the responsibility to serve; every church shepherd must recall how Jesus responded to Peter:
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”. Jn21:17
DEACON PHOENIX OF THE CLERGY
Deacon – Phoenix of the Clergy brings brilliant theological clarity to true diaconal ministry by engaging the reader with an intense and readable look into its history. The prescription for success is simply defined and canonically faithful. This is a must-read for deacons, the laity and the church hierarchy – for all who appreciate that church must change …
Buy Deacon Phoenix of The Clergy
E.C. Andercheck looks at the church’s ministry through the lens of the diaconate. What he sees, and enables us to see, is what a gift the diaconate is to the church’s mission today. The church must utilize the ministry of Deacon in more fruitful, creative ways in the church of the future; Ed’s insightful, wise, and challenging book shows us why and how.”
Will Willimon, United Methodist Bishop, retired
Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry
Duke Divinity School
An excerpt from the introduction of the book:Among the twentieth-century landscape of crumbling mainline churches and secular storms denying Christianity’s central messages, the Roman Catholic Church prepared the nest of ashes for a diaconate rebirth.
The ancient mythological phoenix is a great and powerful creature that obtained new life by rising out of the ashes of its predecessor; this regal avian-like creature appeared in a manner much akin to the succession in a human, royal dynastic line. So it is our quest to discover the nature of the theologically endowed ashes from which our new diaconate should arise. The first office of deacon was born of the apostles’ need for assistance to serve the people of God at table—this within the human and secular temporal needs that could not be administered by the apostles without sacrifice of their priestly functions.
A NEW BOOK RELEASE
Posted by E.C. Andercheck at 9:10 AM
Saturday, February 25, 2017
SEEK THE FACE OF JESUSThe Face of Jesus
February 19, 2017
Awaken Us O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. AMEN
Today’s Gospel message is important, because it is so very central to the building up of the Body of Christ. Loving your enemies is a message that I believe our polarized nation needs to hear today it is a message that every Christian, in fact, every American needs to receive.
It is hard to imagine a time when we were more polarized, more separated from love, more divided from one another, more separated from Jesus. It is hard to imagine a time when we were more committed to hating our enemies, or more committed to building our lists of enemies, or more blind to the face of Jesus!
In today’s Gospel Jesus says, But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Listen to that second part again, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Jesus does not merely suggest that we Love our enemies. He makes Loving your enemies a requirement for being a child of God.
The Gospel message continues for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Nowhere does Jesus say our Father in Heaven wants us to make a list of our enemies. Jesus is saying that the Father in Heaven touches all of His children, the sun and the rain reach all, and so must we.
Let us consider another very polarized time in our history, the Civil Rights Movement in 1957 when Martin Luther King Jr. engaged America with the idea that the civil rights movement should be driven by the Christian ideal of loving enemies.
This was also a time filled with Hate and polarization, this is taken from Martin Luther King’s message on Loving your Enemies “Now I know not everyone is going to like you, they may not like you because of the way you walk or the way you talk, they may not like you because of the brightness of your skin, or because of the darkness of your skin. They may just not like you, but that doesn’t mean you must hate them, because then they will just hate you, and the universe of Hate will just grow and grow. Some Person must have enough religion and enough morality to cut off the hate and interject the strong element of Love within the very structure of this universe.”
A minister at American Baptist College in Nashville Tennessee kept a bumper sticker from the 50s on her door, it said “I am pretty sure that when Jesus said Love your enemies, he didn’t mean kill them”.
What did he mean for us to do about enemies? Now, I am pretty sure
he didn’t mean hate them, or smile at them and gossip about them behind their back, or exclude them from your groups. It is human nature to be drawn to or away from certain people. It is of human nature not to love all. It is of divine nature to love all.
We know Saint Paul’s church at Corinth suffered Divisions. in I Corinthinians 1:10 Paul said, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided?
Sociologists tell us that Americans are more divided on Sunday Mornings than any other day of the week. During a hospital Pastoral visit this past week I was asked to explain why “those Catholics worshipped and Prayed to Mary”. I answered by saying part of the Rosary’s Prayer Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, mother of God Pray for us Sinners now, and at the hour of our death” This is a Prayer not to, but through Mary asking her to Pray for us, to intercede on our behalf. Even revering The Mother of God is sometimes taken to divide our denominations.
Jesus called for us to be one. In the Gospel of John Jesus said, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (Jn 17:20–21).
Let us look at another time and place for the Virgin Mary’s story to surprise us. It is from the Traditional Islamic Story of the Negus of Abyssinia, “In the early 7th Century, a Christian King Negus Ashama ibn Abjar ruled the Kingdom of Axum, a land also known as Abyssinia, part of modern-day Ethiopia.
Some of the pagan leaders in Mecca had begun to persecute Muhammad’s followers. The Muslims were mocked and assaulted, others had their businesses boycotted and some were imprisoned in chains. Those who had no protection fled for refuge to Abyssinia where they had heard of the famed mercy and equity shown by this King Negus.
When the Meccan persecutors found out about their flight from Arabia, they sent representatives to appeal to the Negus for their return, sweetening their appeal with gifts for him. They raised the issue of differences between the Muslims and Christians regarding the nature of Jesus. The Meccan persecutor’s spokesman tried to use these differences to convince King Negus to ally with the Meccans in persecuting the Muslims.
But the king was a wise and fair man. Instead, he invited the Muslim followers of Muhammad, to speak again. They responded by quoting from The Holy Qur’an,
“He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.” She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’ So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.”
(Surah 19 verses 19 -22 the English translated commentary)
“It is said that, after this reading the Negus cried, and picked up a thin stick and said, “I swear, the difference between what we believe about Jesus, the Son of Mary, and what you have said is not greater than the width of this twig.” He then refused to turn over the Muslim refugees and returned the gifts that the Meccans had hoped would sway his judgment.“
Our stories and traditions do not need to divide us, but they can be sources of unity to build church upon, if we can focus on the humanity we share in common, rather than focusing on that which divides us.
In todays Epistle Lesson, Saint Paul warns the Corinthians to avoid the traps of their secular world, Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God
Saint Paul goes on to show us how to think of church building, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ” Jesus gave us a very certain foundation for church, it is Love. It is with the tolerance that this Love demands that we might see the face of Jesus in every enemy we encounter.
I will close by sharing a Favorite image of Church: It is part metaphor and part not, it is an image of a complex place and a diverse community, a City of God. Written by a Benedictine Monk, Father Cyprian Davis, the 70th African American Ordained a Catholic Priest, author of The History of Black Catholics In the United States, and my spiritual director until his passing last year:
“I like to picture the Church as a very large family living in an ancient, rambling old house with solid foundations, enormous apartments, and a jumble of architectural styles that somehow never clash. Enormous cellars, musty libraries, huge fireplaces, grand staircases turning into narrow twisting ladders and sometimes disappearing all together, bricked-up windows and doorways barely masking the sound of unseen voices on the other side, meandering corridors, lofty ceilings, narrow cubicles, secret passageways, gorgeous chandeliers, and marvelous frescoes partly discolored, all of this together found in this old house. Somehow we all live here, some are here whom we do not see, some we see but we cannot reach, some are lost and we do not know how to reach them. But this house stands, for it was built on rock.”
LET US BUILD THE CITY OF GOD.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
“He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Posted by ec andercheck at 8:49 AM No comments:
Monday, January 30, 2017
Hope and Unconditional Love
It is in our moments deep in the valley of the shadows that we need to recall our faith and reach into that spiritual reservoir to have our soul revived. Here hope comes from the knowing that our God loves us unconditionally; in this we can believe – that regardless of our personal situation or our own failings God is with us. This belief can be traced to the teachings at the very beginning of the many Abrahamic faith traditions.
How might we join in God’s unconditional love and bring its resonance into our souls and experience the peace of amplified grace? Moses received this message for us all! The Hebrew Scripture says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me … (you shall) show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut 5:6-21) Loving the thousands, who might not love us, and whom we might not agree with is the path that we must now consider.
Jesus taught this to his disciples when they asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”(Matthew 22:36-40) Love is amplified in the giving; just as our spirit is lifted up when we join in songs of praise to our Father in heaven.
It is so simple! Love God as he loves you and love your neighbor as God loves you, do this without conditions. This central message to all the faithful of Abraham is driven by the simplicity of a message God set in Commandments in stone for Moses, before the times of the ministries of Jesus or Muhammad. Yet it is so hard! Despite all of this teaching we find ourselves vulnerable in a world torn apart by the absence of love and amongst the triumph of divisions driven by conditionality and, yes by separations arising from religious beliefs.
God loves us unconditionally, let us join him by loving all of His children unconditionally and then with a hope filled heart await His loving grace and healing. This is a place of peace within love’s resonance; a place beside still waters where the reflection of God’s love is joined by our love opening our bodies to healing and our hearts to being lifted up with new hope. (cf. Psalm 23)
Posted by E.C. Andercheck at 9:22 AM No comments:
Saturday, January 14, 2017
America needs a new King!In his great speeches King’s voice continues to call out for freedom; just as God’s voice within us is calling out for a new kingdom, so that we may one day all sing out “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
AMERICA NEEDS A NEW KING
By E.C. Andercheck
The voice calling out for freedom and justice continues today, it continues to exclaim an urgent need for help, on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, it calls from prisons, from underfunded schools and from the unemployment lines. It calls out from these hurting places giving witness to injustice and evidencing the persisting systematic impact of racist and classist policies. This voice calls out to all, to all who will listen, in a special way it demands that all Christians consider our society’s failure to deliver justice and preserve human dignity. This voice is God’s voice within us, exclaiming the need to renovate the core societal structures, which are failing too many of God’s people
The call to Religious Leadership might sound different today, but this call to justice is based on the same call for human rights and human dignity that called out in Birmingham Alabama to a young Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955. The Montgomery Improvement Association began a new movement to bring an end to the segregationist and violent atrocities erupting from racism and oppression. The horrors from this lack of social justice were too often brutally fatal, however so is the outcome of a lack of economic justice today. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of personalism and human dignity lie at the liberation theology roots of the civil rights movement call to social justice, and today’s call to economic justice; these two calls are inseparable. Human suffering from poverty echoes the mid-twentieth century call for a liberating theological response.
I believe the message of human dignity and love, which were the theological underpinnings that Martin Luther King Jr. brought to the civil rights movement seeking social justice, would be the same if he were here to lead a call for economic justice today. It is my notion that in order to be effective agents of change, religious leaders today must ground their calls for economic and social justice firmly with liberating theological underpinnings of love and human dignity, recalling the lost memory of the work of the Black Church and Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Martin Luther King Jr.. Social justice cannot bloom into true liberation and economic justice under the racist and sexist clouds of classism allowing oppression of marginalized people. Today’s new social and cultural forms of evil might be subtler in their public action, but they are no less horrific in their crippling effect on people.
Martin Luther King Jr. provided a consistently strong theological message based on love and human dignity, with an unyielding moral vision of the urgent and immediate need to address the challenges facing the African American people and communities. This acted out evidence of his interiority, witnessing the depth of his work’s theological underpinnings provided the basis for the power of his leadership to be an agent of change. Dr. King’s moral vision of the dignity due to mankind as a human right, frames the ethical dilemma that struck directly at his core moral philosophy, which was built significantly on the objective ideal base derived from his study of Philosophy, Personalism and his Theology.
The need for a more effective agency of change in today’s struggle for economic justice is clearly calling out for prophetic leadership. In examining the role of the black preacher during a National Public Radio interview, Rev. Stephan Epps, asserted, “I don’t think that our community has done, through the black church, as much to deal with the economic issues first, before politics.”[i]The future of the Black Church in America is challenged, as are her youth, unemployment is systemic for young Black men who suffer the lowest demographic propensity to graduate from high school in our country. Our prisons host one out of every nine young Black men and one out of every one hundred Americans, a multiple of more than five times that of any other industrial society. An uninterrupted agenda of racialized social justice will clearly yield continued economic injustice, and uninterrupted classism predicts continued racialized poverty.
Viscount Nelson aligns the evolution of a ‘waning of Black Leadership’ with conservative domination, as evidenced at a 1980 forum, where he stated, “Thomas Sowell intended to move blacks away from the ‘old civil rights movement’ towards a more enlightened policy that would ameliorate the African American condition….reviewing the eighteen blacks and five whites attending the two day meeting, an overwhelming number comprised conservatives far to the right of mainstream African American society.”[ii] In the midst of this message we might hear an echo of Joseph H. Jackson’s conservative priestly approach to focusing on the positive side and acquiescing to the suffering in survival. This new conservatism provides the framework for a personal agenda that allows the socially rising members of today’s more “consumerist” religious America to follow a Prosperity Gospel and ignore economic justice for the least of Christ’s people.
In contrast, Dr. King’s voice brought a visionary and prophetic call for immediate and unrestrained change, delivered within a theologically grounded message of love and portrayed through personal action in demonstrations witnessing his beliefs. Dr. King’s moral vision of the dignity due to human kind as a human right, this frames the moral dilemma that struck directly at his core. The moral philosophy, which King built was derived from his study of Personalism. Kenneth Smith describes the “Themes of Personalism in King’s thoughts: Several themes occur and reoccur in King’s writings that are clearly traceable to the influence of personalism. These themes may be treated under the following headings: (1) the inherent worth of personality, (2) the personal God of love and reason, (3) the moral law of the cosmos, and (4) the social nature of human existence.”[iii] The notion of Dr. King’s Beloved Community is built on moral philosophies of personalism and liberalism, it is demonstrated in the theological grounding of his speeches from Montgomery to Memphis. We see it in his numerous references to the redemptive value of love, notably in the story he tells of Abraham Lincoln and his great detractor Stanton, to his promotion of the hateful opponent to Secretary of War Stanton, then to the eulogizing loving and redeemed voice of an affectionate Stanton after Lincoln’s death.
Dr. King lived and studied in the north; both at Crozier Theological Seminary and at Boston University Graduate School, this opportunity provided a breadth of theological training and exposure to philosophical thinkers well grounded in Personalism. The Social Gospel was actively a part of that dialogue and King engaged it fully, drawing a contribution to his theology. John Colin Harris summarized, “A logical consequence of the personalist perspective is an emphasis upon the relation of religion and philosophy to the total historical process. The social relevance of religious concepts and concerns was one of the emphases of Boston personalism that found fertile ground in King’s developing perspective.”[iv] The human condition of poverty and its debilitating effects on human personality were a pressing moral concern for Dr. King; Peter Paris said “King viewed economic justice as a necessary structural framework for the ultimate end, the blessed community.”[v] King’s moral vision of the society’s treatment of individuals formed a necessary theological response, and already while in Boston he had begun the framing of the necessary political theories of change, which would become activated in Montgomery, Alabama before the ink on his thesis for Boston University was dry. John Ansbro asserts that, “King maintained that the social mission of the Christian Church requires that it have as its primary goal the development of the beloved community.”[vi] In the beloved community, Dr. King again defines his vision of a freedom obtained through God’s overarching love in society with love as the force directing the human social relationships and actions of each member.
Shayne Lee has provided some important insights into American religion in his nuances regarding religion and economics in his book America’s New Preacher, T.D. Jakes. Certainly, self help ministries are accelerants for a providing a message of Christian Hope, and it is apparent that Jakes is doing so for many people. He is a business ‘success story’ coming from humble roots to shepherding a flock of 30,000 members in Potter’s House in Dallas and millions beyond in his TV Ministry. But this raises a question, not is he a great promoter of his ministry, but is he doing great ministry promoting justice for all of God’s people? I went to T. D. Jakes website and I couldn’t listen to a Potter’s House Sunday sermon without clicking in the donation button. Is the prosperity gospel only for those who are already educated, employed and are self actualizing individuals without criminal records? Lee concludes, “T.D. Jakes mirrors an American dream tainted by materialism. But one thing that has not changed is that from the depth of his soul to the core of his experience, Thomas Dexter Jakes is an American Phenomenon.”[vii] The potential for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a dream for all of mankind under an American democracy, has been perverted to an American dream of selfishness at anyone else’s expense. This is cause for reflection on our society’s ethics and our voter supported policies. A Christian community fails to be Christian if it prospers solely the few, mirroring a self enriching materialistic dream. This perversion might be caused by the loss of memory of Christian love, and cured by the consciousness religious leadership needs to recall from the lost memory of our church, community, family and religious history.
A continued search for systemic structural flaws that support economic injustice provides insight into King’s perspective on the failings of society; his genius was that in discovering the systemic failing he enabled the search for a path to cure. Johnny Hill gives us a glimpse of the international thought of Dr. King in his book Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu, “King, in particular, was very concerned with America’s expanding imperialism abroad and the exploitation of American corporations in Latin America. As he turned his attention to the structural forces that perpetuate systems of poverty, he recognized there was a pattern of racialized poverty flowing from western nations across the globe.”[viii] Today, throughout the world and in America’s great cities, poverty is attacking human dignity and defeating Christian Hope.
In the introduction to A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [ix] Andrew Young cites King’s daily involvement and moral commitment as a key part of Dr. King’s engaging leadership in the operations of the civil rights movement. Andrew Young said, Dr. King “Clearly delineated the moral issues” and as a leader he was a voice of hope to all men but, “He was first of all a man of faith, a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus.” The element of the devout Christian theologian within Dr. King is abundantly clear wherever he travels and deeply framed within his prophetic calls to action. His leadership’s moral and theological underpinnings are evidenced in the success of his calls for justice and in his movement of great forces to drive political change.
For many years the role of supporting the survival of a flock was the noble and primary charge of many pastors, this work was beneficial and in a manner consistent with “the priestly type” of religious leader as defined by Peter Paris[x]. But this is not the necessary agency of change for today, nor was it the approach of the young Dr. King who brought a prophetic non-violent approach to change. The liberating theology of Martin Luther King Jr. might be defined simply as a doctrine growing from the natural response to each of God’s people’s pain and the response of conscience to call for immediate and equal justice for each of God’s people. Our hope for political change must be based on a renewed Christian sense of conscience, faith in God, and the potential of a truly responsive representative democracy. Dr. King’s, ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech says it best,
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal……….I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”[xi]
In introducing a revival of Dr. King’s, ‘Where Do We Go from Here’ sermon, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy spoke about, “the clarity of King’s vision of economic and social justice as inseparable in the fight against racism and classism.”[xii] In Dr. King’s speech ‘Where Do We Go from Here’ he says discrimination and segregation successes are deeply felt….but Black Americans still live in the basement of the great society and there is a long way to go and,
“We have left the sands of Egypt….. but we must assert our dignity and worth.
A Majestic sense of self worth is what is needed
Power without love is reckless and abusive
Love without power is sentimental and anemic
Power at its best is
Love implementing the demands of Justice
And Justice at its best
is love correcting everything that stands against love.”[xiii]
The call to economic justice is clearly a Christian Agape Love based ideal asking for justice to empower the oppressed; this should resonate with all truly Christian people. However, true economic justice policy results can only be obtained if the agency for change implements the call to action with an appreciation of the system.
What is the mysterious formulation for a Christian Ideal to become fully acted out in a representative democracy today? First, the theological underpinnings must be well formed at the foundation of the interiority of the prophetic agency for change. This economic justice message delivered with intensity and emotional impact will necessarily agitate systemic structures and threaten institutions. Second, the agency of change cannot be successful without legitimizing credentials recognized by a large community of followers and the agents must be seen as being concerned with systemic reform, not institutional destruction. In the absence of credentialization, or reforming goals the agent of change will agitate more fear than the institutional stakeholders can tolerate and the agency will be denied or terminated.
It is my appraisal that Dr. King’s leadership contained the key essential elements for prophetic religious change agency, well grounded in a moral vision of human equality, based on a Christian theology of agape love, and driven to bring about a societal systemic change through a political renovation not a revolution. There is a strong argument to support the notion that the Civil Rights movement gained its degree of success so directly because of the concurrent, if not always unified, activity of multiple types of religious leaders. This having been said, if we combine within our agency of change the elements of the leaders of the civil rights movement we see agitation to revolution with a balancing set of calls to reasonable renovation. I would make the case that the civil rights movement could not have achieved the degree of success it did without the extraordinary liberationist leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a theologically endowed prophetic leader and I believe he is the most effective leadership model for the center of today’s economic justice agency for change.
In order to bring about an assault sufficient to commence a real change in economic justice in America today, I envision the need for an agency of change with a prophetic call sounded through a strong theological message with a well credentialized socio political approach. Religious leadership will have to unify in calling out for God’s power to advance the democratic principles of our nation to foster massive new social enterprises, commit substantial government resources to support the re entry of prisoners into the main stream of American life, to equally educate all Americans and to be certain that every American who can work has a job or a government job and those who cannot work will have a life saving net of dignified public support. In working towards the beloved community, Dr. King said “We are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”[xiv] Kenneth Smith summarizes, “This was King’s homiletical way of affirming that reality is composed of structures that form an interrelated whole.”[xv] Martin Luther King Jr.’s work provides both a theological and an ethical vision of the Liberation Praxis necessary to address the challenges facing the American people today.
America’s need for a new King (a modern day version of Martin Luther King, Jr.) is more evident than ever; it is love that brings freedom and polarization that enslaves. King knew Freedom was never easily achieved; but he knew the fight would be worth it when one day we could all sing out “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” In his great speeches King’s voice continues to calls out for freedom; just as God’s voice within us is calling out for a new kingdom.
Edward C Andercheck
[i] Stephan Epps, Examining the role of the Black Preacher, In a National Public Radio interview, (New York, National Public Radio, 2007)
[ii] Nelson Viscount, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership, (New York, University Press of America, 2003) ,pg251
[iii] Kenneth L. Smith, Search for the Beloved Community: The thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Valley Forge, Judson Press, 1974), 104.
[iv] John Colin Harris, The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.,(PhD diss., Duke University Department of Religion, 1974), 97.
[v] Peter J. Paris, Black Religious Leaders Conflict in Unity, (Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), 140.
[vi] John J. Ansbro, Martin Luther King Jr.,Nonviolent Strategies and Tactics for Social Change, (New York, Madison Books, 2000), 187.
[vii] Shayne Lee’s, America’s New Preacher, T. D. Jakes,(2005, NYU Press,) 189
[viii] Johnny Bernard Hill, The Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond TuTu,(New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), 159.
[ix] Andrew Young, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Hachette Audio compact disc, 2009.
[x] Peter J. Paris, Black Religious Leaders Conflict in Unity, (Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), 17.
[xi]Martin Luther King Jr., speeches that changed the world, (London, Smith Davies, 2005), 152
Xi Edward M. Kennedy, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Hachette Audio compact disc, 2009.
Xii Martin Luther King Jr., Where do we go from here, Speeches that changed the world, (London, Smith Davies, 2005), 152
[xiv] Martin Luther King Jr., The speeches that changed the world, (London, Smith Davies, 2005), 154.
[xv] Smith, Kenneth L. , Search for the Beloved Community: The thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Valley Forge, Judson Press, 1974)
Ansbro, John J., Martin Luther King Jr.: Nonviolent Strategies and Tactics for Social Change, (New York, Madison Books, 2000)
Epps, Stephan, Examining the role of the Black Preacher, In a National Public Radio interview, (New York, National Public Radio, 2007
Harris, John Colin, The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.,(PhD diss., Duke University Department of Religion, 1974)
Hill, Johnny Bernard, The Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond TuTu,(New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2007)
Kennedy, Edward M. , A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Hachette Audio compact disc, 2009.
King, Martin Luther Jr., I Have a Dream, speeches that changed the world, (London, Smith Davies, 2005)
Lee, Shayne, America’s New Preacher, T. D. Jakes,(New York, NYU Press, 2005)
Nelson, Viscount, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership, (New York, University Press of America, 2003)
Paris, Peter J.,Black Religious Leaders Conflict in Unity, (Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991)
Smith, Kenneth L. , Search for the Beloved Community: The thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Valley Forge, Judson Press, 1974)
Young, Andrew, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Hachette Audio compact disc, 2009
Posted by ec andercheck at 8:41 AM
Deacon Phoenix of The Clergy[Deacon Phoenix of The Clergy]
The History That Truly Defines A Ministry
My Deacon Book
Xulon Press- Deacon brings brilliant theological clarity to true diaconal ministry by engaging the reader with an intense and readable look into its history. The prescription for success is simply defined and canonically faithful – this is a must read for deacons, the laity and the church hierarchy – for all who appreciate that church must change …
It truly is a History that defines Diaconal Ministry.