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On the Lived Theology Reading List: Richmond’s Priests and Prophets

Richmond's Priests and Prophets: Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era, Douglas E. ThompsonRace, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era

In the wake of the mid-twentieth century’s desegregation period, escalated turbulence and tension among political, social, and spiritual groups were commonplace, notably in the American south. In Richmond’s Priests and Prophets, author Douglas E. Thompson investigates the role white Christian leaders played in the shifting landscape of their congregations and communities amidst civil rights efforts in Richmond, Virginia. Faced with the decision to resist or assist the new racial narrative, these religious leaders are revealed to have adopted priestly and prophetic roles. Through a fresh analysis of the various desegregation strategies and patterns of the era, Thompson offers a timely and significant insight into one of the most pivotal American movements.

In an interview from John Fea’s “Author Corner,” Thompson explains the book’s formation:

“When I had begun the research in the late 1990s there was little scholarship on how white Christians engaged the civil rights movement. In the nearly fifteen years since then, there are more monographs about white Christians but many of those focus on what Charles Marsh and Stephen Haynes call the spectacles of the 1960s. When I began my research on Richmond in the 1990s, I was surprised at how few spectacles occurred. I reframed the book to examine why there had not been spectacles in the 1950s when the pressure points over desegregation were present. In the book I argue that we might understand the 1960s by studying the 1950s closer…

Outside the glare of the 1960s spectacles of marches, kneel-ins, and sit-ins Richmond’s ministers and congregations provide a compelling story about how white Christians wrestled with social change. Their variety of responses shed light on Christianity as an agent of change in social movements.”

For more information on the book click here. Continue reading Fea’s interview with Thompson here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Always with Us?

Always With Us, Liz Theoharis, Fellow TravelersWhat Jesus Really Said about the Poor

Quoting Jesus, the passage of Matthew 26:11 reads, “the poor you will always have with you,” leading to interpretations surrounding the inevitability of and moral shortcomings resulting in poverty. In Always with Us?, author Liz Theoharis uses both biblical text and the lived reality of the poor to reject these notions as dangerously out of context. Incorporating voices of the marginalized, Theoharis presents poverty instead as systemic sin, a call for the church to faithfully fulfill its mandate to confront the evils of suffering.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Be ready to be stirred up by this scriptural exploration of the meaning of poverty. It challenged me with the moral demand to end poverty now.” —Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

“Provocative. Powerful. Persuasive. Liz Theoharis’s fresh reading of a familiar biblical text opens up new ground for preaching, teaching, and activism. This is a book of lived theology and radical compassion.”—Laura Sumner Truax, LaSalle Street Church, Chicago

“Theoharis brings the Bible to life in this exciting study of one of its most famous passages. With a combination of rigorous theological scholarship and personal stories from her life as an organizer, she shows us that the front line in the fight against poverty is not in poor neighborhoods but rather within the assumptions of a society that fosters systemic injustice.”—Karenna Gore, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

“The contemporary church has become so accommodative to capitalism that its theology is often viewed as a justification of economic injustice. Dr. Theoharis’s work stands as a challenge to such theology and asserts that poverty is an affront to God. The church must be a prophetic witness and actor in the world.” —William J. Barber II, President, North Carolina NAACP

Find book details here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

PLT Contributor Nathan Walton Awarded Dissertation Fellowship

“Blessed and Highly Favored”: The Theological Anthropology of the Prosperity Gospel

PLT Contributor Nathan Walton, currently a PhD student at the University of Virginia, has received a dissertation fellowship by the Louisville Institute. Walton is one of eighteen students in the US and the only UVA student to receive the 2017 fellowship.

The Dissertation Fellowship (DF) program assists the final year of Ph.D. or Th.D. dissertation writing for students engaged in research pertaining to North American Christianity, especially projects with the potential to strengthen the religious life of North American Christians and their institutions, including seminaries, while simultaneously advancing American religious and theological scholarship.

Walton’s dissertation, entitled “Blessed and Highly Favored,” will examine the theological anthropology of the prosperity gospel. In an expanded description of the project proposal, Walton writes:

“In this dissertation I examine the Prosperity Gospel, the fastest growing Christian movement in the world. I argue that the theological anthropology of the Prosperity Gospel devalues the poor, sick, and physically impaired. Specifically, the Prosperity Gospel promotes a form of Christian individualism that affirms self-sufficiency as an anthropological ideal in ways that undermine a more socially responsible ecclesiology. Promises of personal financial gain are preferred without adequate attention to the various systemic barriers to socioeconomic equality, and approaches to healing often lack a framework for affirming the integrity of those with ongoing sicknesses or disabilities. While the Prosperity Gospel promotes self-sufficiency in the areas of wealth and health, this dissertation identifies the implications that this form of individualism has for those who remain financially and physically dependent. In response, this dissertation affirms interdependence as a more ethically responsible value than independence and self-sufficiency.

My methodology draws from both qualitative research approaches and theological frameworks. First, I ground my description of the Prosperity Gospel within ethnographic fieldwork among two Prosperity Gospel megachurch communities in Richmond, Virginia. After conducting in-depth interviews, content analyses of sermons, and participant-observation research, I then bring my findings into conversation with the theological writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. By drawing from these sociological and theological resources, I tease out the theological anthropology that is articulated in the distinctive speech and enacted in the practices of this influential and quickly expanding movement. In response, this dissertation then offers a more theologically robust and ethically responsible vision of Christian identity and practice that foregrounds the common good and is instructive for the broader church.”

For more information on the fellowship, visit Louisville Institute’s website here.

Nathan Walton is currently a PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Culture. Walton was previously a graduate research assistant for The Project on Lived Theology. Walton served as a Summer Internship in Lived Theology mentor for Peter Hartwig in 2014.

To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Born from Lament

Born from Lament, Emmanuel KatongoleThe Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa

All too familiar with the calamities of violence, war, and poverty, Africa is in desperate need of a theology of hope in the form of lament. In his newest release, Emmanuel Katongole advocates this development and explores the rich theological and social dimensions of the practice of lament in Africa through accounts of Christian activism. Introducing lament as a mechanism to mourn and appeal God, Born from Lament is an invitation for all to contribute to a new narrative for the nations.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“What an extraordinary gift! Emmanuel Katongole helps us see how God and the everyday, lament and hope, Scripture and prayer, church and public life all hold together. Born from Lament is about Africa, yet it speaks to the world. This is a landmark work by one of the most remarkable and transformational theological leaders of our time.” —PLT Contributor Mark R. Gornik, City Seminary of New York

“Katongole in this book redefines the method for doing public theology in Africa and the world church by giving voice to those on the margins. He argues that hope in Africa should be presented not simply as a wish or pious claims but as a light that one can discover in Africa by following stories of faith, courage, and the practice of hopeful living among many African Christians.” —Stan Chu Ilo, DePaul University

“A rich ethnographic and theological analysis. . . . Born from Lament is a refreshing political theology grounded in human practices rather than the sovereignty of the state and its rulers. This compelling invitation to rethink the theology of hope should be on everyone’s reading list.” —Elias Kifon Bongmba, Rice University

For more information on Katongole’s book, click here.

Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest ordained by the Archdiocese of Kampala, has served as associate professor of theology and world Christianity at Duke University, where he was the founding co-director of the Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation. Katongole’s research interests focus on politics and violence in Africa, the theology of reconciliation, and Catholicism in the Global South. His other publications include Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing (2008) and The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa (2010).

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Organizing Church

Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, Your Community, and Our World, by Tim Conder & Daniel RhodesGrassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, Your Community, and Our World

Amidst a pivotal era of change and mass movements, the church is poised to mobilize congregations with the embrace of community organizing. In their newest release, Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes offer a field guide to fulfill this calling and renew churches as leaders at the forefront of social justice issues. Organizing Church equips faith believers to respond to the challenges presented by the global culture of the 21st century, revitalizing the intersection of faith and action within congregations.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“In a season of fearful speculation about what the future holds for the Church, I believe more than anything that the future belongs to churches who have deep relationships, strong local commitments, and a community ethic of working toward a beloved community. In other words, I believe the future of the church belongs to churches like Tim’s, churches you will likely never hear about who do the quiet work, day in and day out, of faithful discipleship. Many pastors and faith communities want to be this kind of church; most don’t know how. This book is for them. With clarity of vision and a plethora of practical applications, Organizing Church will guide your congregation toward being an active participant in both personal and communal transformation in your community. I highly recommend this book to pastors, lay leaders, and all followers of Jesus who are looking to reexamine their understanding of church and reclaim its prophetic and transformative role in society.”―Danielle Shroyer, author, speaker, pastor

“J. I. Packer once observed that the problem of evangelical and free churches is they suffer from a ‘stunted ecclesiology.’ If his diagnosis was correct, and I believe it was, then Conder and Rhodes offer the equivalent of an ecclesial growth hormone therapy. The ecclesiology they propose begins at the level of practice and moves to theological reflection. This book should be at the top of the list for anyone seeking to understand what it means for congregations to be the Body of Christ’s continuing presence in the world.”―Curtis W. Freeman, Duke University Divinity School, author of Contesting Catholicity and Undomesticated Dissent

“You think you have heard about white evangelicals in politics. But have you heard this other (very different) story that Conder and Rhodes tell? One of congregations organizing for justice with black and brown sisters and brothers, learning from the IAF and the NAACP, working for justice for all people and creation, participating in bringing the kingdom Jesus preached? The former might win you the White House. But the latter is bigger and more lasting—it points to–no, it is–the Beloved Community. This book is brimming with grace and wisdom and hard work and good cheer.”―Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology

To read more on this publication, click here. Find more information on Rhodes’s current writing project on Cesar Chavez with SILT 16/17: Can I Get a Witness? here. To be directed to the SILT 16/17 initiative page, click here.

Daniel Rhodes is the faculty coordinator of contextual education at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago. His work centers on “The History of the Future: Apocalyptic, Community Organizing, and the Theo-politics of Time in an Age of Global Capital.” Rhodes is interested in political theology, broad-based community organizing, capitalism and Christianity, globalization, sovereignty and governance, and war and peace studies.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here.

PLT Contributor John M. Perkins featured in Christianity Today

Dream with Me Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, John M. PerkinsAn excerpt from Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win

A trailblazer in the Civil Rights Movement, John M. Perkins remains a leading voice at the forefront of racial reconciliation. In his newest release, Dream with Me (Baker Books, 2017), Perkins uses raw, personal stories spanning from the civil rights era to today to call us to work for justice by living out God’s redemptive love in all of our relationships. Many victories have already been won, but a continued and renewed commitment to justice is imperative.

In an excerpt of the acclaimed publication recently published by Christianity Today, Perkins writes:

When our poor white guests arrived at the Samaritan Inn, I was caught off guard… My automatic response was to treat them the way whites had treated poor blacks—to patronize them. But these people were teaching me, John Perkins, the guy who was supposed to be leading the church in reconciliation, a lesson in what it really means to be reconciled to one another…

Just because some whites use heinous, callous, and abusive language to describe black people does not mean that we, as black people, are justified in responding with racial insults of our own. I can understand how it comes about. We as a people have been beaten down so much that calling poor whites a hurtful name is almost a cry for dignity. I get it.

But it is a backward cry. In a way, it’s an attempt to make poor whites feel the way we did when whites would fling racial slurs our way. But for us to do the same thing to poor whites that wealthy whites were doing to us only throws everyone into the same mud heap. A better way is possible. We all must have the compassion, wisdom, and mutual respect to rise above slander, slurs, and snubs to a place of love. What we ought to be striving for today is a new language of love and affirmation that will replace these hurtful slights. What if we started calling one another “friend,” no matter our race, politics, or economic class? Friends, I like that.”

Read the full excerpt on Christianity Today here. For more information on the book, click here.

John M. Perkins was a civil rights leader in Mississippi in the 1960s, and founded Voice of Calvary Ministries, a Christian community development ministry, with his wife Vera Mae. In 1983, Perkins established the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development, Inc., to advance the principles of Christian community development and racial reconciliation throughout the world. His publications include Let Justice Roll Down (2012) and Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community (2010).

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Incarnational Humanism

Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology), by Jens ZimmermannA Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World

The postmodern West has surpassed its Christian roots and legacy of reason, freedom, human dignity and democracy. In Incarnational Humanism, author Jens Zimmermann presents the church as the vessel for change through the retrieval of an ancient Christian humanism for our time. Drawing on the sacred offerings found in Scripture, common humanity extends beyond any religious or secular divides. Incarnational Humanism presents a distinctly evangelical philosophy of culture that grasps the link between the new humanity inaugurated by Christ and all of humanity, upholding the church as a witness to the world’s reconciliation to God.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“A timely and insightful analysis of how human beings, in the course of several centuries, have come to dominate a world and yet have lost their sense of what it means to be human. Jens Zimmermann demonstrates with depth and clarity the way that our common humanity was recovered in the incarnation and is communicated to us and to the world in the eucharist. This is truly a book for our times.” —Barry Harvey, professor of theology in the Honors College, Baylor University

“Zimmermann rightly challenges the dualism that remains endemic to much evangelical spirituality. Tracing the history of incarnational humanism, he presents a call back to a sacramental, participatory view of reality. Perhaps the most hopeful element of Zimmermann’s account is its concluding plea for the centrality of the Eucharist for a Christian approach to the world. This book will become assigned reading for my Theology of Culture class!”—Hans Boersma, Regent College, Vancouver

“At a time when various secular humanisms are thriving, Christians might imagine that the way forward is to make common cause with others in promoting human values without mentioning doctrines that specifically pertain to Christianity. With his characteristic erudition and eloquence, Jens Zimmermann shows that the opposite is the case: it is precisely in and through the incarnation of Jesus Christ that true humanism flourishes, because human life together requires the healing and hope that God brings by even now drawing us into his life. Without faith, hope and love, humanity founders. Zimmermann sheds profound light upon the full scope of life in Christ.”—Matthew Levering, University of Dayton

Find book details here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Next Week: PLT Contributor Sarah Azaransky Visits UVA

This Worldwide Struggle: Religion and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement, Sarah Azaransky book eventOn the Civil Rights Movement in its Global Context

On Tuesday, May 2, PLT Contributor Sarah Azaransky will deliver a guest lecture at UVA on her forthcoming book, This Worldwide Struggle: Religion and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Azaransky’s research reveals fertile intersections of worldwide resistance movements, American racial politics, and interreligious exchanges that crossed literal borders and disciplinary boundaries, and underscores the role of religion in justice movements. Shedding new light on how international and interreligious encounters were integral to the greatest American social movement of the last century, This Worldwide Struggle confirms the relationship between moral reflection and democratic practice, and it contains vital lessons for movement building today.

Reviews and endorsements of the book include:

“The long civil rights movement has needed an expansive religious history. This is it and so much more. Inventively following this set of Christian thinkers and activists across the globe and toward various religions, Sarah Azaransky has shed new light on the most pivotal innovation of the twentieth-century: genuine democracy. This Worldwide Struggle is not just great history; it’s religious, moral, and ethical reflection for all lovers of democracy and justice.” –Edward J. Blum, co-author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

“Azaransky offers a savvy, cogently written understanding of the internationalism of early twentieth-century black Christian intellectuals and activists. She comprehensively details previously neglected history of African American religious contributions to global moral commitments challenging white supremacy and socioeconomic inequalities. This book is an inspiring primer in deliberately crafted frontiers of justice-oriented black Christianity, so timely for anyone seeking hopeful roadmaps for similar contemporary forms of religious solidarity supporting human dignity across borders.” –Traci C. West, Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies, Drew University

“More than any other, this book reveals the many extensive international relationships that African American religious scholars and civil rights activists established between the 1930s and 1950s. This much needed book, rich in historical data, will be welcomed by all its readers for its compelling evidence concerning the world-wide significance of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States through its connection with anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa.” –Peter J. Paris, Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor Christian Social Ethics, Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

The presentation will begin at 2:00pm in Wilson Hall 301. Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend. For details and release information on the new book, click here.

Sarah Azaransky is an assistant professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Her publications include The Dream is Freedom: Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith (Oxford University Press, 2011) and an edited volume, Religion and Politics in America’s Borderlands (Lexington Books, 2013).

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: We Shall Not Be Moved

We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth's Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired, M. J. O'BrienThe Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired

The 1963 Jackson Woolworth’s sit-in has come to be largely recognized by a set of photographs capturing the violent tension between the raw virulence of racism and the defiance of visionaries. While the event’s importance has been recognized as sparking to life the civil rights movement in Jackson, it has failed to be studied in its historical context. Filling this gap by incorporating both biography and history, author M.J. O’Brien crafts a gripping narrative through the eyes of those participating in this harrowing sit-in experience.

Rev. Ed King, who became the chaplain at Tougaloo College during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, remembers the day clearly:

“Store officials soon roped off the whole lunch counter except where the three students sat. The Colored Lunch Counter (with only 30 seats) was also soon closed. For the next 45 minutes, the demonstrators sat quietly at the deserted, darkened counter… The Jackson Daily News managed to define the events of this first 45 minutes as ‘trouble.’ In the next two hours there would be more ‘trouble’ here than in any sit-in in the history of the Movement.”

Continue reading King’s account in our digital civil rights archive here. For more information on the book, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Embracing the Other

Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, by Grace Ji-Sun KimThe Transformative Spirit of Love

In a time of widespread conflict, achieving reconciliation and justice among all people is a difficult task. In Embracing the Other, Grace Ji-Sun Kim incorporates concepts from Asian and indigenous cultures to construct a border-crossing theology on the power of the Holy Spirit. Contributing a Asian feminist perspective, Kim pens a unique solution to global justice and healing through a reliance on “Spirit God.”

Reviews of the publication include:

“Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book Embracing the Other represents a bold, original, and insightful challenge to prophetically confront the sins of racism and sexism through the life-giving power of the Spirit. This book is an important Korean-American contribution to the spiritual revitalization of North American churches and the struggles against everyday racism and sexism. I highly recommend it.”—Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School

“Grace Ji-Sun Kim continues to offer us insightful and original work that makes a difference in both the church and the academy, a rare accomplishment in the scholarly world. This book shows the growing impact of her fresh voice — prophetic, priestly, and practical.”—Dwight N. Hopkins, University of Chicago

“In Embracing the Other Kim constructs a theology of Spirit-Chi of love to liberate, empower, and transform the Other, envisioning the postcolonial reality of human liberation, justice, and equality regardless of one’s skin color, culture, religion, and power. The `Spirit God’ she adopts here is a radical affirmation of all colonized, marginalized others. This significant, must-read book offers a revitalizing Christian theology of the Spirit in and for our highly racialized and genderized world.”—Namsoon Kang, Brite Divinity School

For more information on the book, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.