Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr

MLK Jr., the Two Kingdoms and the Politics of Love

“In these days of uncertainty, the evils of war and of economic and racial injustice threaten the very survival of the human race. Indeed we live in a day of grave crisis.” (p.Xiii, Strength To Love) These are the words that begin Martin Luther King’s work Strength To Love. Although these words were published in 1963 it is certainly not a stretch to note their relevance to the state of current socio-political issues in the United States. Whether it is President Barack Obama’s recent declaration to send troops back to Iraq, the continued fight for socio-economic equality throughout the states, or the continued injustices that take place in cities like Ferguson throughout the country, we do indeed live in turbulent times. Furthermore at stake here is the survival of the human fabric. How can the Christian community address these dire circumstances? What response can theology offer up to these concerns? Although there is no comprehensive answer to this question Dr. Martin Luther King can offer some insight on the ways theology can address current crisis such as the racial injustices that happen far too often in our world today. Ultimately the solution lies in showing the love of Christ to all of the communities to which we belong. I believe to create a theopolitics of love one must understand the true nature of their citizenship in the world, incorporate the capacity for altruism, and become aware of humanities shortcomings.

As a member of the Christian community it can become difficult to navigate the world of both the sacred and the secular. Christians belong to both of these worlds. King notes: “Every true Christian is a citizen of two worlds, the world of time and the world of eternity. We are, paradoxically, in the world and yet not of the world” (p.12). Thus we are citizens of both the temporal world that we live in on Earth as well as our heavenly citizenship to live eternity with God. This is complicated because we have citizenships in both of these worlds at the same time. We are thus not allowed neglected the concerns of one in favor of the other and vice versa. This can be interpreted that because we have dual citizenship, we are also have dual responsibilities that are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, our responsibility on the temporal world is to bring about the peace that we seek from our eternal union with God. This task can only be fulfilled through the fight for justice for all of God’s creation.

Beyond realizing the nature of Christian dual citizenship it is equally important understand what it means to show neighborly love. Reflecting on the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 25:10-37) is helpful here. Before examining this parable it is important to understand the context of this parable. A law expert has asked Jesus’ advice on how to enter heaven. In other words it is a question regarding how to obtain dual citizenship. They eventually reach the conclusion that it is through loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. However, the discussion does not end there. The law expert proceeds to ask Jesus who is one’s neighbor. This leads to Jesus’ reply using the famous parable in which the Good Samaritan acts the most neighborly. Both a priest and a Levite pass over a man who has recently been robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is only the Samaritan who has the courage to help him and to truly act like a neighbor. On the surface it seems as if the other two were merely acting out of their own selfish interest without concern for the life staring them directly in the face.

It is entirely possible that they may have had great reasons for not stopping. However, what makes the Samaritan neighbor is his ability to exercise his capacity for altruism. King states “true altruism is the capacity to sympathize. It is the personal concern that demands the giving of one’s soul (p.27)” This form of altruism involves feeling for the person in need, including their pain, agony, and burdens. It is the personal concern that allows us to recognize the humanity that we all share. All too often we focus on only those issues that concern a particular group that we associate with. It is hard for us to be concerned for issues outside our context. Only through recognizing the humanness of everyone are we able to truly exercise our capacity for altruism. The Samaritan was able to exercise his altruistic capacity because he saw the man on the road first and foremost as human. He did not see his race, ethnicity, gender or other socially constructed categories. He was able to identify the shared humanness that both of them possessed. Our capacity to be altruistic is the motivating force behind our ability to show neighborly love. This in turn allows understanding that connection between our responsibility as citizen of the eternal God as well as our responsibility to the temporal world.

I can think of no better example than the call to fight for racial justice in America today. While the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford III have garnered recent media attention they are far from the only victims of institutional racism in the United States. Part of truly realizing dual citizenship is the very real practice of social justice from American Christians. Living out a social justice ethos can take a variety of forms. Whether it is the individual Christian or the entire church community advocating social justice is important. From supporting protest rallies, to playing an active role in helping to change institutional policies that create a system predicated racial inequality Christian communities must take an active role in realizing the responsibility to the temporal world as part of a theopolitics of love.

“Never must the church tire of reminding ‘humanity’ that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent” (p 39)

Related article from the archives: How Dietrich Bonhoeffer Redefined the Two Kingdom’s theory

dreams not drones #MLKDay2014

“It’s ideas that change people over times.”- Melissa Harris-Perry

If there is one thing that I can’t stand more than anything in January, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on social media. I’ve grown tired and sick of being tired of people who normally STAN for white supremacist practices, dole out quotes by MLK Jr. to make themselves feel better.  When I was in seminary, one of the bitter experiences that will always stick with me was a chapel service where then-Senator Obama was praised as the culmination and fulfillment of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s work.  In fact, I do recall a friend was wearing a shirt that suggested just that!

 

In a recent lecture and subsequent q & a session with students at the University of Rochester, political studies professor and MSNBC analyst Melissa Harris-Perry talked about how a more human, less divinized, messier approach to King Jr.’s legacy should be the key to winning a more progressive future. Ideas are what matters, they are what last and change the world.

MLK Jr. wasn’t shot down for his beliefs. MLK Jr.’s and the women, the other adult men, and children who marched with him, their bodies were not tortured because of their abstract notions of equality, their patriotic love for the U.S. Constitution, or their religious fervor. Bodily encounters are what change the world through praxis. Liberating Praxis changes things. Battles of ideas are waged through the mediation of human anatomy.

We should stop looking at how Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world; let us ponder what changes he fought for, and how this world has remained stubbornly the same. What we should do, on this day, and maybe every day, is look at the values he embodied, and the places where he placed his body. Why was he joining janitors in Tennessee for a protest in his last days? Why did the White Supremacist media in the days of old (I’m looking at you, New York Times), condemn MLK Jr. for opposing the Vietnam War? You see, the Civil Rights movement was and still is a peace movement. One cannot separate the white supremacist logic behind domestic policies and neatly divide them from the Military-Industrial-Complex. War means an evaluation of which bodies matter, which bodies are to be valued over all others. Any military policy that kills indiscriminately, and disproportionately against one people group, is racist. This is why I don’t divorce my anti-racism from my pacifism, I never have, and I never will.

Harris Perry and other black academic elites have supported President Obama’s drone policy uncritically, and I think it is time for them to reassess their values. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is right, MLK Jr. had a dream, Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama has a drone. I am under no illusions about how imperfect MLK Jr. was, but I do have a good grasp on what he stood for, and no matter how murky you try to make his figure, a tool for militaristic neoliberalism he certainly was not.

Now, more than ever, the Church, and the United States do not really even need MLK Jr.’s ideas (ahem, uncritical commitment to the state via the Constitution is problematic); what we need is his model of practices for peacemaking.

You might also like:

Cornel West on the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

and

How Lupe Fiasco Honors MLK’s Legacy and HOw President Obama Doesn’t

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Stuff Evangelical Christians Like: Concern Trolling For Black Souls On #MLKDay

“***Rather than debating whether MLK was an evangelical or even a Christian, Russell Moore asks a better question for this day:***

While I appreciate Dr. Moore’s article. I don’t think it is a “better question for today.” As you might expect on a site called “The Gospel Coalition” that we take the gospel very seriously. Whatever good MLK did in his life—and God used him in powerful ways!—does not offset the impact of his false teachings. We should be concerned if even one soul was led to hell because of his rejection of Biblical truths.”- Joe Carter

For more of this legalistic filth, See the comment section of the The Gossip Kkkoalition’s post for MLK Day.

A brief commentary on the above quote.

1st, Yes the TGC has admitted Jonathan Edwards was a slave-owner. Bravo! But really, how about 9 Things You Didn’t Know about the Confederate States of America? That these folk were evangelical, biblical Christians who considered themselves orthodox? Or what about, “9 Things You Didn’t know About Christians Before the Civil Rights Movement?” You know things like how they used (and continue to use)the Bible to promote racial segregation, including A. W. Tozer. The TGKkk gives a half-hearted attempt to want the presence of black men, with speculative posts on Holy Hip Hop and “growing” movement of Calvinism among African American community. But they are unwilling to even listen to the rational voices from Reformed black men in blog posts, who just went ignored.

Comment from Trillian Newbell:

“There has to be a better way. There just has to be. Is it possible to ask questions like: “Joe why did you think it was important to point out the ONE fact about his theology?” Rather than going to task to dissect his heart and motives. It seemed to me that he shared wonderful facts beyond that one fact about his theology. And, honestly, those who have studied MLK already knew this. So Joe, thank you for pointing out that only two other men have a holiday–what an honor to get to celebrate the life and legacy of MLK today knowing that it’s so rare. I’m so thankful that Sharpiro asked Dr. King to write the letter from the jail. God is sovereign and good and new it would be used regardless of being printed. King’s non-violent movement remains to me one of the most compelling acts of Christian responses to persecution. Dr. King endured great suffering (even that stabbing) which only leads me to be that much more grateful. Thanks for pointing that out. And though I wouldn’t follow his theology I am more aware that God will use who He chooses, how He chooses, when He chooses. God is a good and sovereign God and today I rejoice in His goodness and providence and in the legacy of MLK.”

Response from Carter? *crickets*

Comment from Thabiti Anyabwile:

“One of the earliest biographies of King’s thinking and theological formation, Smith and Zepp’s Search for the Beloved Community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., uses the label “evangelical liberal.” Zepp and Smith define an “evangelical liberal” as someone who is a “serious Christian” looking for a theology that can be believed by “intelligent moderns.” They define liberalism (of which they’re a part) as “intelligent moderns” looking for a way to be “serious Christians.”

In our day that sounds like a contradiction. But we have to keep in mind that (a) liberalism is not one thing, (b) many African American thinkers are not easily classified using the dominant theological language, and (c) it’s King’s experience as an African American that shapes his thinking as much as anything. Greater influences on King would be his teachers at Morehouse (George Kelsey and Benjamin E. Mays) and Crozer (George W. Davis). It’s the Christian tradition that has the largest formative influence, not Gandhi.

I agree with Joe that King would not regard himself an evangelical, what was called “fundamentalists” in his day. He’s educated in the heyday of liberalism at a liberal divinity school. “Fundamentalists” were the enemy and the modernist-fundamentalist controversy was getting into swing. But he gives hint of traditional evangelical thinking because his language is richly biblical and because he at least takes seriously the ethics of the Bible. No one can impeach his living exposition of love for neighbor and enemy, which was the sine qua non of his view of the kingdom or “beloved community.” “

Any response from Carter? *crickets again*

Any argument based on reason, history, and critical thinking will not get a response because this was meant to be a cheap shot, especially these are facts we already knew about MLK Jr. And really, what does an assassination attempt on his life have anything to do with celebrating his legacy or how God used him?

2nd, The Gossip Kkkoalition does not quote any of MLK’s sermons to prove that he is a heretic; they only quote his scholarship while he was in seminary. Then they go on to mourn the idea that BLACK MEN have not attended conservative evangelical seminaries like they have hoped. No, MLK’s seminary papers do not provide helpful clues into what he preached. Critical Scholarship is separate from doctrinal confession, well for most people. We are not saved by the dogma that we mentally assent to; salvation only comes by way of the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

3rd, On the racial innocence of evangelical Christianity, I say this. The act of posting this gossip column on MLK Day is not inherently racist. What was racist was the reasons given for it, concern trolling for the souls of Christian black Americans who were under the pastoral leadership of MLK Jr. It reeks of theological imperialism in the worst of ways. It also exposes the disembodied theology that the Gossip Kkkoalition is promoting. Preaching the Gospel is not the same as denying our bodily existences. It can’t be; Christianity is not a deism or humanism. Christianity affirms the God of Israel who sent the Logos in the person of Christ Jesus, Jewish blood and flesh. The Jewish flesh and blood of the Messiah was raised from the dead by this same God.

4th, and lastly, on nonviolence,

“Well, I wish liberal thinkers like Tolstoy would take the entire Sermon seriously, instead of taking bits out of context to justify pacifism.”-Joe Carter

I have read the entire Sermon on the Mount. Where does it say anything about Just War Theory? Or can you admit that you got that from Augustine, bad biblical interpretation and all? For more on this, seee #3. It’s about a theology of disembodiment, an imperialist religion more than it is about the Good News.