January 19, 2010

mlk jr thoughts

[NOTE: I did not post this yesterday because it was my day off with my kids. And as you can see, we were too busy to come inside and post this.]

In reflecting on the roots of the kind of faith that brought us a prophet such Martin Luther King Jr., Kelly Brown Douglas reflects on slave Christianity in her book, The Black Christ. Here, she writes about the differences between the faith of slaveholder and slave:

"Slave Christianity did not focus on the relationship between Jesus and God as did slaveholding Christianity... Jesus' meaning had more to do what what Jesus did in their lives. Jesus was a living being with whom the slaves had an intimate relationship... Jesus' significance for the slaves was based upon an interpretation of Christianity that stressed the centrality of Jesus' ministry and relationship to the oppressed during his own time... The crucifixion was, however, the event that most clearly demonstrated to the slaves Jesus' solidarity with them... The resurrection also revealed that the death of the cross was not the last word–freedom was."
I think the dichotomy between slave and slaveholder faith that Douglas draws is somewhat false. I'm unconvinced that the difference was whether or not a group acknowledged Jesus as God. To say, that a man that had died two thousands years ago was resurrected from the dead and was now present with them was not God seems a bit of a stretch. Though my opinion doesn't quite matter, I tend to think the difference was something else. It was whether or not they believed in this incarnate God. Slave holders gave mental ascent to this concept but were terrified of it being reality. Slaves believed in this and knew it to be reality. And they dreamed of the result. (see Dallas Willard on the issue of belief)

David Bosch wrote in A Spirituality of the Road,

"During my previous visit to the United States, in 1965, I often saw glimpses of Martin Luther King's protest marches on television. One night, as I was watching television with a white American couple, we saw the whole group of marchers all of a sudden kneel down in the street and pray. I remember the white Americans saying to me that they thought that was artificial, something calculated to create effect. It was clear, though, that for King this was genuine and natural. The trouble with us Westerners is that usually the pious are not politically inclined and the politically inclined are not pious. ... So, deep down we remain dualists, true to our Greek spiritual ancestors. It took us many, many centuries to come to the realization that man could not be subdivided into a psyche and a soma, that many illnesses involved both the one and the other... Neither have we succeeded in overcoming this dichotomy in our theology. That is why we so easily make caricatures of one another... We are, then, in need of a new understanding of spirituality–an understanding that is both deeper and broader than most of what we have had so far."
Bosch was right, most of Western spirituality still divorces things of faith from things of the world. It seems that within our minds, the temple veil has yet to be torn, the presence of God still remains within the Holy of Holies. But there are those, such as Martin Luther King Jr., that even while under great threat and personal brokenness, took the announcement of the kingdom of God to the streets. And there (as Bosch witnessed), we saw glimpses of the Kingdom.

May we too, be people that that can taste the presence of God in Christ even in the darkest of places and pray in the streets that the Kingdom of God come.

Posted via web from jason evans

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