05 Mar 2021

“I Have to Make a Faith Act”: The Story Behind the Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Image credit: Jim Forest, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/12219184015 It is April, 1963, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded and led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is out of funds. [1] Not only is money scarce, it seems like support for the movement among supporters is faltering. In Montgomery, several years prior, tens of thousands had participated in the bus boycott and other actions for over a year, despite bombings, physical attacks, and harassment

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08 Jan 2021

A Year of Revelation

It is (nearly) universally acknowledged that 2020 was, to put it technically, a dumpster fire. A global pandemic, economic turmoil, political chaos, isolation from loved ones, and massive loss of life across the globe combined to make 2020 one of the most difficult years to live through, both literally and metaphorically. In this short reflection I would like to focus, though, on what we can take away from this year. To be clear, this is

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26 Jun 2020

Trauma Porn and the Problems of Sustaining a Movement: A Lesson from Martin Luther King Jr.

By now, everyone who wishes to (and undoubtedly many who did not) has seen the gruesome death of George Floyd with a knee on his neck. The video of Floyd’s murder now joins a twisted pantheon of video evidence of brutality against Black bodies, that stretches back to the infamous videotaped police beating of Rodney King in 1991, and to public displays of brutality that were cast across the country during the Civil Rights Movement

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29 May 2020

“How to Be an Antiracist” – A Review and Reflection

Though How to Be an Antiracist is accessible to a general audience, it is rigorous scholarship by Ibram X. Kendi, professor at American University and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center. In this book, Kendi applies the important historical work of his first major publication Stamped from the Beginning (Nation Books, 2016) to practical antiracist endeavors. In this review I examine the contours of his argument and investigate his controversial claim that it

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06 Apr 2020

Divine Dissatisfaction Part 2: Joy as the Realization of the Beloved Community

O. Fernandez, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer / Public domain In part one of this article, Divine Dissatisfaction: Loving Rage and the Imagination of a Better World, I argued that an important aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theology—what he calls divine dissatisfaction—can be better understood if connected with the concept of rage. Rage, in this context, I define as a refusal to operate within the status quo bounds of rationality, a

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06 Mar 2020

Divine Dissatisfaction: Loving Rage and the Imagination of a Better World

James Cone states at the beginning of his paradigm-altering first book, Black Theology and Black Power, that he writes with “the attitude of an angry Black man” but also with “a certain dark joy.”1 Why does he simultaneously name these experiences, anger and joy, that are seemingly in conflict with one another? And what is it that makes his joy dark? I argue that Cone names his joy as dark, not because it is evil

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01 Nov 2019

Why We Still Need the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Today

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. contained within himself many identities. King was a scholar, prophet, civil rights leader, advocate for peace,1 and—above all—a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, King was also a plagiarist and philanderer, who was often depressed by his own personal failings and the failings of the movement for which he became a symbol.2 When we recall King’s life and work we must—in true Kingian fashion—hold both his

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07 Oct 2019

Withered Souls

“There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”[1] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What happens when one consistently ignores their conscience? What kind of damage might that do to a person or people group? These are questions Martin Luther King Jr. took up, specifically regarding white people. King recognized that from the

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28 Sep 2015

Pope Francis Speaks to Congress

Last week the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis, delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress. For my friends who are too busy to read the whole speech but who might be interested to know the gist of it, I have prepared this summary. None of this should be considered a quotation – just the gist of what was said. Thanks for letting me speak here. It’s good to be in the Western Hemisphere

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12 Mar 2015

Are you willing to cross that bridge? – A review of Selma

This past Sunday, as America commemorated the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I decided to take my 10-year-old daughter to see the film Selma. I am so glad I did. It was one of the most important and powerful films I have ever seen. I was brought to tears during the opening scenes of the film.   Selma opens

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23 Dec 2014

On Torture

This is not the piece I wanted to produce the same week I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1967 speech at Riverside Church, I must address the recent U.S. Senate report on state-directed torture “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”1 The barbaric and dehumanizing treatment of suspects in U.S. custody is one of the great moral issues of our generation, yet despite the

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