Tag Archives: Martin Luther

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

the white supremacy of “silent piety” (part 2)- rod #Ferguson

“White Supremacy and Imagining The Crucified God”

**editor’s note: I am indebted to Kelly Figueroa-Ray for this post, and for articulating in our conversations things that I was not able to**

The question raised by Leary in the CaPC piece is “what precisely does the biblical narrative have to say in events of crisis?” Embracing a “third-wayish” tone where “both sides are equally” bad, Leary sets himself up as the objective observer who just happens to have Scripture on his side.

Leary: “it is easy in the meantime to be seduced by the ease of labels. In one narrative, the policeman is the oppressor and Michael Brown the victim. In the other narrative, the policeman made a judgment call in a difficult situation, and Michael Brown could have made some better choices that day.”

Actually Leary is presenting a narrow-sided individualistic narrative here, one that is far from “biblical.” He assumes that “both sides” are simply choosing Mike Brown as a good person vs Mike Brown as a bad person as their narratives. Let that sink in for a second. The context from which anti-racist, anti-police militarization are far more nuanced than Leary would give that side credit. From a Christian Critical Race Theorist perspective, the events happening in Ferguson are not about the individual Mike Brown versus one isolated bigoted individual. See, White Supremacy exists as a system, a set of rules and myths, roles to be played, a counter-narrative as you will to the Good News. As I have written about White Supremacy as a Religion in the past, it is the Demon that will not be named  .  Refusing to confess sin (naming it) is a refusal towards taking the first steps of repentance. Indeed, I do side with Leary in pointing to the prophets like Joel and Jeremiah, about a world whose builder is God. However, an unnecessary narrow focus on metanarrative derails from the particularities at hand.  A relevant text is found in Jeremiah, where a man out of Africa rescues the prophet from prison (an institution associated with death).  The Bible lifts this man up as a liberator, and God is just not celebrated as mere creator in this story, but as Supreme Judge, watching and involving Godself in our day to day affairs for justice. Later in this particular story, YHWH commands Jeremiah to tell the Cushite, whose name was Ebed-Melek, that because he trusted in God (in rescuing Jeremiah, God’s oppressed prophet), God promised to save this African man’s life (Jeremiah 39:17).

Ferguson, police brutality, and white supremacy are NOT failures of language games (read: the preferred Euro-centric liturgy of white churches); rather each fall within the realm of idolatry, the idols of extremist gun culture, the military, and the myth of an immutable rational self.  Juergen Moltmann’s The Crucified God was a response to the U.S. American triumphalism that disturbed him after his first work, Theology of Hope. In both mainline and evangelical circles, it is the norm for suffering God orthodoxy to be upheld, but I wouldn’t really call these as returns of theologies of the cross. D.L. Mayfield connected The Crucified God to the Ferguson protests, “I feel far from the people in Ferguson, but not as far as I was a few years ago; I feel like I see the wounds of Christ bright red in front of me, but I am still not able to feel them.”  Note here that Mayfield is referring to Christ’s immanence as transcendence here, that the Crucified God continues to present a paradox is something that Martin Luther would approve of.  Christ’s passion surpasses human understanding, and it is in that mystery as a colonized Jewish rabbi suffering under Roman imperialism, that the Son of God chooses to identify with the least of these (Matthew 25). As J Kameron Carter so eloquently put it, “in asmuch as you did it to MikeB, you did it to me”

Mayfield concludes, “He is the one offering us his own scars, pleading with us to look at our own.”  Yet Christ’s suffering not just portrayed as a passive acceptance of victimization.  More than this, as Moltmann rightly argues, the Cross is the central revelation of the Triune God who exists in self-giving, suffering love.  It is this suffering love that pours out from the Holy Trinity and overflows into the life of the human bodies who experience the world’s hatred, and Christians can only give testimony to God’s love by involving themselves in the lives of the widows, the orphans, those that are fugitives. This isn’t just about us being “civilized” and “hospitable” and “Christ-like”; rather, it is in discovering the image of the Crucified God in the crucified peoples of the world that the faithful can become, as Luther would say, “little Christs.”  

 

Blog Posts Of Note for the week of October 21st: Reformation Day Edition

Happy Reformation Day! I leave you with blog posts which I hope will give you a hint to what type of Reformation I believe “The Church” needs today.

Father Ernesto Obregon: The Westminster Confession of Faith and God’s intentions, which, in sum, is a critique of Calvin’s own theology using the examples of the WCF and his descendents.

Amanda Mac reviewed Moltmann’s Jesus Christ For Today’s World, Review of Moltmann’s Jesus Christ for Today’s World, and she had some interesting things to say about passibility and the GodHead.

Erin Kidd of Women In Theology, reading Hans Von Balthasar, wrote about Christian kenotic virtues of humility and self-giving and the problems these concepts might have for victims of trauma: On The Good Of Self-Possession

Kait Dugan wrote about her hopes for evangelical Christianity in seeing the light of a Gospel liberating us from all identity markers such as complimentarian gender roles: My Hopes.

Cynthia R. Nielsen offered a reading of Frederick Douglass’ Narrative, from the perspective of a person (Michael X. Smith) who is incarcerated in a modern prison: Douglass’ Shrouded Ghosts and An Inmate’s Reflection on Time