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Charles Marsh to Deliver DuBose Lectures at Sewanee University

Can I Get a Witness? Explorations in an Amen

On September 26 and 27 Charles Marsh will deliver three lectures at the School of Theology at Sewanee University as the 2018 DuBose Lecturer.

Marsh will build upon the theme of witness by presenting three different lectures. All lectures will take place in Guerry Auditorium. The first lecture “Aristocrats of Responsiblity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Quest for a New Nobility” will begin at 9:00 am on September 26.  The second lecture “‘Better than Church’: The Civil Rights Movement and Religionless Christianity” will begin at 2:00 pm on September 26. The final lecture “Visions of Amen: On the Judgment of God and the Splendor of the World” will begin at 9:00 am on September 27. There will also be a book signing with Dr. Marsh in the Convocation Hall on September 26 from 3:45 – 4:15 pm.

Find more event information on Sewanee University’s website here. For a full listing of our spring speaking engagements with Charles Marsh and others, visit our events calendar here.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology. His publications include Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2014) and God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (1997), which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

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: The Fearless Benjamin Lay

The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist, by Marcus RedikerThe Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist

In this new biography, historian Marcus Rediker, author of Many-Headed Hydra and Slave Ship, documents one of the most idiosyncratic figures in eighteenth-century America, abolitionist Benjamin Lay. Lay was a Quaker dwarf who lived in a cave-like home and was known for his dramatic protests against slavery, once kidnapping the child of a slaveholder to demonstrate the evil of separating families. Lay’s zealous witness against slavery put him into conflict with wealthy slaveholders and many of his fellow Quakers, but it also won him the respect of allies like Benjamin Franklin. Rediker demonstrates how Lay’s Christianity and Quakerism informed his radicalism and inspired a later generation of abolitionists.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“A modern biography of the radical abolitionist Benjamin Lay has long been overdue. With the sure hand of an eminent historian of the disfranchised, Marcus Rediker has brought to life the wide-ranging activism of this extraordinary Quaker, vegetarian dwarf in a richly crafted book. In fully recovering Lay’s revolutionary abolitionist vision, Rediker reveals its ongoing significance for our world.”—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition

“Lay, a lover of books, would have appreciated this one, less for the praise lavished on him than the attention given his message. As Mr. Rediker says, ‘Benjamin’s prophecy speaks to our time.”—The Pittsburgh Post–Gazette

“The unswerving eighteenth-century abolitionist Benjamin Lay, maligned when not ignored for many generations, has at last found his sympathetic biographer. In this captivating, must-read book, Marcus Rediker shows that Lay’s disfigured body contained a mind of steel and a heart overflowing with compassion for victims of the Atlantic slave trade. Lay’s place in the annals of American reform is now secure. If you’re ready to have your mind changed about received wisdom on the eccentric, lonely early abolitionist who blazed the way for later antislavery stalwarts, read this brilliantly researched and passionately written book.”—Gary Nash, author of Warner Mifflin, Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist

For more information on the publication, 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: To Shape a New World

To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Tommie Shelby and Brandon M. TerryEssays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, this new collection offers a reappraisal of King’s political thought and legacy. Of particular contemporary relevance is the consideration of King’s views on nonviolence and the strategies that made it an effective force for social change. With contributions from a number of distinguished scholars including Cornell West, Martha Nussbaum, Danielle Allen, Laurie Balfour, and many others, the book makes a strong argument for the originality of King’s political vision.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“[A] robust and wide-ranging collection… The book as a whole displays the pliability and dynamism of King’s thought, applying it to circumstances both recent (Barack Obama’s presidency) and far in the past (the practice of slavery in 18th- and 19th-century America). Throughout, King’s voice is placed within a community of philosophers… As the nation approaches the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, this work demonstrates, for anyone who needs convincing, the continued and vital importance of his thinking.”—Publisher’s Weekly

King’s theology, philosophy, and nonviolent prophetic engagement are needed now more than any time since his death. In his last speech, Dr. King said that when it comes to the struggle for love and justice, ‘nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back now.’ We must embrace his challenge in this moment and commit to go forward together, not one step back.”—Rev Dr. William Jay Barber II

To Shape a New World is a milestone in the study of Martin Luther King, Jr., essentially a sanctified figure in American life, whose actual ideas are rarely interrogated in any depth, either in the public realm or in academic circles. What makes this volume particularly striking is the exceptionally high quality of the essays, which are analytically rigorous, impressively researched, and often profoundly original. They highlight the limits of common narratives about King and the civil rights movement, showing the shifts in his own thinking and the unconventional nature of many of his arguments. This is a path-breaking book.”—Aziz Rana, Cornell University

For more information on the publication, 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: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass: America's Prophet, by D.H. DilbeckAmerica’s Prophet

In his new biography Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet, historian D.H. Dilbeck seeks to focus on an underexplored aspect of the prominent abolitionist’s life, his Christian faith. Dilbeck- who previously wrote A More Civil War– portrays Douglass’ religious life as complex, combining both youthful evangelicalism and a growing hostility towards churches complicity with slavery and bigotry. The book shows how Douglass came to represent a prophetic black Christian vision, and his life showed the tension between the promise of an inclusive Christianity that embraced social reform and the reality of an American Christianity that was too often simply a religion for slaveholders.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“A superb account of one man’s 50-year fight for human rights and freedom in America. Recommended for those interested in the U.S. Middle Period, Civil War, African American history, and all readers.”—Library Journal, starred review

“D. H. Dilbeck does a very fine job assessing and then discussing the importance of the black prophetic voice to this reformer and Christian activist.”—Spirituality & Practice

“An original and often moving account of a complex but endlessly interesting figure, a giant in his time who still speaks to Americans today. Dilbeck has treated Douglass’s religious faith and prophetic character more carefully than any previous scholar.”—George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Chosen Peoples

For more information on the publication, 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: Langston’s Salvation

Langston's Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem, by Wallace D. BestAmerican Religion and the Bard of Harlem

In Langston’s Salvation, Princeton University Religion scholar Wallace D. Best offers an important evaluation of the place of religion in the work of the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes. Langston’s Salvation is not strictly a religious biography of Hughes, but rather a study of how Hughes engaged with religion as an intellectual and how he thought theologically. Hughes was raised in the AME Church, and as an adult wrote about religion extensively, particularly in his poetry. Hughes vocally insisted that he was not an atheist or antireligious, and Best is able to document his complex attitude towards faith. As Best observes in the book’s preface, “Hughes seemed to have existed somewhere between a religious past and a present that was always in flux on matters of God, faith and the Church.”

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“[A] meticulous account of Hughes’s religious provocations in his literary work…Offering astounding historical and literary analysis to some of his widely popular and some of his lesser -known works such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Tambourines to Glory respectively, Best explicates Hughes’s works to explore the religious orientation in his writings.”—Black Perspectives

“As Wallace Best portrays him in this stunning, brilliantly argued and written work, Langston Hughes is a poet and prophet who spoke to the deepest dilemmas of African American Christianity in the uncompromising language of religious and artistic modernism. The road to Langston’s “salvation” was not straight, and as he charts its course over time, Best enlarges the field of American religious history and the meaning of modern ‘religion’ itself.” —Robert A. Orsi, Professor of Religious Studies and History, Northwestern

“With close readings of Langston Hughes’s poetry and with finely tuned arguments about the place of religion during the early twentieth century, Wallace Best provides what none has offered before: he shows the beautiful mind of Langston Hughes as a ‘thinker about religion.’ Langston’s Salvation heralds a new day, perhaps even a renaissance, not only in the study Hughes and his poetry, but also of liberal religion in the United States. It is impossible to read Langston’s Salvation and fail to wonder what other great writers of the past have to offer if we follow Best’s lead and approach them as thinkers about religion. This book is like Hughes’s poetry: an invitation to see more than what’s on the surface.”—Edward J. Blum, author of W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet

For more information on the publication, click here.

Wallace Best is a member of the department of religious studies at Princeton University, where his research and teaching center on African American religious history, religion and literature, and gender and sexuality and womanist 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: Accidental Theologians

Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity, by Elizabeth DreyerFour Women Who Shaped Christianity

In Accidental Theologians, Religious Studies professor Elizabeth A. Dreyer examines the theology and lives of Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux. These four are the only women out of the thirty-five people who have been declared “Doctors of the Church” by the Roman Catholic Church, a title that requires theological acumen, holy living and recognition by the Pope. These women largely did not write conventional academic theology, but their writings could often be more religiously insightful because of their popular style. Dreyer makes a strong case for the continued importance of these women to the present.

For more information on the publication, 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.

Lived Theology a Year After Charlottesville

Like many of our friends and neighbors, near and far, we at the Project on Lived Theology experienced the events of August 11 and 12, 2017, with horror, grief, anger, and determination. In the days, weeks, and months following those awful days, we were heartened to hear so many voices invoking theology in their reckonings with our national demons of racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. What follows is a collection of some of those voices. We offer them here not as a full representation of voices, nor as perspectives which we necessarily endorse, ouiut as a resource for those who, like us, are still wrestling with this painful, ongoing story, and who wish to do so in the light of larger stories and deeper truths.

 

Following the events of August 12th, the University of Virginia’s Religious Studies department put out an open letter condemning the ideology and violence of the white supremacists who were demonstrating.  It points out that their actions stand condemned in all the world’s religious and ethical systems.

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University published a series of short responses to August 12th by a number of religious professionals in the Charlottesville Community, including several faculty members in the University of Virginia’s department of religious studies and local clergy. The following individuals wrote:

Faith leaders as well as faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students of the University of Virginia wrote reactions to events that appeared in a variety of outlets. These are below:

News outlets and magazines covered the religious and personal aspects of the events of August 12th. Some of the notable pieces are:

More recent and forthcoming books and articles reflecting on the events of August 12th and its impact over the past year:

 

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: Trouble in Mind

Trouble in Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years - What Really Happened, by Clinton HeylinBob Dylan’s Gospel Years: What Really Happened

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan has long been an enigmatic figure. Perhaps the most controversial period in his career was between 1979 and 1981, when the Jewish-born Dylan began espousing Christianity. In Trouble in Mind Clinton Heylin – Dylan’s most meticulous biographer- argues that this period was one of the most creative and generative of Dylan’s life. Heylin documents the influences in Dylan’s life, such as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, that led to his brief and highly visible conversion.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

Trouble in Mind documents the tours and recording sessions with an obsessive detail that, at the very least, encourages the reader to come at it all afresh. . . . his interrogation of what it was all for is, to fans like me, highly illuminating.” —NewStatesman

For more information on the publication, 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: He Calls Me By Lightning

He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty, by S. Jonathan BassThe Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty

There are many histories that focus on the grand sweep of the civil rights movement. Historian S. Jonathan Bass’s He Calls Me By Lightning offers an intimate scope, examining on one case that shows the brutality of the legal system in the Jim Crow south. Bass’s book focuses on Caliph Washington, a black man who was attacked by a white police officer in a small Alabama town. During the course of the altercation the officer was killed, likely by his own gun accidentally discharging. Washington fled, and was eventually convicted of murder. Washington was sentenced to death, and the book chronicles more than a decade of stays of executions and legal maneuvering before he was eventually released.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

He Calls Me by Lightning is riveting, heartbreaking, and vitally important. Through meticulous research and vivid prose, Bass brings the raucous world of Bessemer, Alabama, to life as it was in the Jim Crow era, and recovers the epic story of Caliph Washington’s struggle for freedom. This odyssey through a profoundly unjust legal system has a great deal to teach us all about the present.” — Patrick Phillips, author of Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

“In sharper focus, thanks to Bass’s painstaking research, is a picture of how Jim Crow legal systems operated at the local and state levels. . . . There is much in He Calls Me By Lightning that we needed to know. There is much, almost too much, that is simply nice to know. But we are left, at the last page, with insight into a history of America that can no longer be left unknown.” — Colbert I. King, Washington Post

He Calls Me By Lightning insists that we face the cost of lives that don’t matter to a persistent racial caste system. It reminds us that human endurance and irrepressible love outlast the glacial pace of change, and proves how much we do not yet know about our history.” — Timothy B. Tyson, New York Times Book Review

For more information on the publication, click here.

S. Jonathan Bass is a Professor and Chair of the History department at Samford University, along with being the University Historian. His areas of expertise include the civil rights movement, the American south, and legal history.

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.

Birmingham Woman Shares Some of her Final Memories with Lived Theology Group

Contributed by guest author Marie Sutton

Just a few weeks after meeting the Prophet with a Pencil scholars and theologians to share her story of being jailed and persecuted for freedom, civil rights foot soldier Betty “BJ Love” King passed away.

The 72-year-old Birmingham, Alabama woman sacrificed her childhood through countless non-violent protests and demonstrations to help break the back of segregation in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the most segregated city in America.” She was with the Lived Theology group in early June at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and softly spoke of the path that led her to fight segregation. She died, surrounded by her family, on June 19.

BJ Love (center) at the Prophet With a Pencil meeting
Photo by H. Jay Dunmore.

“There is a scripture that says, ‘He who has ear let him hear.’ She was one of those who heard the cry to fight against segregation,” said King’s sister Dr. E. Dashanaba King, of Ghana. And, up until her passing, King never closed her ear or silenced her call for equality and social justice for the disenfranchised.

As a 16-year-old preacher’s kid in 1963, the young woman was sitting in class at Wenonah High School in Birmingham when the “freedom bus” pulled up to recruit students to volunteer to protest laws that prevented African Americans equal access to public accommodations. While others stalled, King popped up and walked out the door.

She and others were transported to the city fairgrounds where stiff-necked policemen treated them like chattel, putting them and other children as young as 8 in cages. The young people weren’t given food and watched as their desperate parents tried to push rations through the gate. Eventually, King and the others were taken to the downtown jail where convicted criminals and thugs called home.

“She didn’t know all the fearful situations she would be getting into,” King’s sister recalled, “but she wasn’t afraid.”

King was reared by a foot soldier. Her father, the late Rev. Floyd King Sr., was an active movement man who hosted the People’s Religious Broadcast radio show and also walked alongside Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Dr. Martin Luther King.

“He would always tell us we had to do the will of God. When you feel in your heart that you have to do it, you have to do it. ‘He who has ears let him hear.’”

After being released from jail, King shared her testimony at mass rallies and church services across the city in order to help recruit other young people. And, she continued her fight against segregation, feeling the sting of water hoses and knowing the threat of being bitten by police dogs. She participated in at least 40 Freedom Rides and engaged in sit-ins and kneel-ins at white churches. She also boycotted the local library as well as countless whites-only lunch counters at restaurants and retailers. And, she was among the thousands of young people who attended the historic March on Washington.

Eventually, King and her family moved to New York. There, she took her voice to the radio airwaves alongside her father. On Sunday mornings, they would co-host a show bringing on various local choirs and gospel artists. King also shined a particularly special spotlight on what would be a fusion of gospel music and Caribbean beats that she coined, “Gospelipso.” She even penned an award-winning play called “Hallelujah New Orleans,” which was performed at the historic Cotton Club in Harlem.

In addition, King worked professionally as a certified physical therapist technician at the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs Medical Center where she got the nickname, the “singing lady with healing hands.”

“She had the biggest heart,” her sister said. “That’s why her name is BJ Love.”

Years later, King made her way back to Birmingham where she was active with social justice organizations and well as being back on the airwaves with her show “From the Mountain 2 the Valley Civil Rights Broadcast” and then later co-hosted “Great Legends in Gospel.”

In 2011, she and five other women were granted pardons for their 1963 conviction of “parading without a permit” under a city law called the Rosa Parks Act. King initiated the request and got it granted along with the other women, including her sister, Carolyn, who in 1964 integrated the all-white Jones Valley High School.

“I want her to be remembered as a lady of love,” King’s sister remarked. “Also, I want her to be known as a woman who always encouraged you to never give up. No matter your lot, if you find yourself in the fiery furnace do not give up.”

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.