The Future of Civil Rights Activism: Ruby Sales Engages in Charlottesville Public Forum

In Conversation with Charles Marsh on Social Justice and Spirituality

Ruby Sales VFH, Charles MarshOn November 29, civil rights leader and public theologian Ruby Sales traveled to Charlottesville to participate in a public conversation on social justice and spirituality hosted by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH).

The event, Every One of Us: A Conversation with Ruby Sales on Race, Spirituality, and Public Life, featured a dialogue between Sales and Charles Marsh, engaging Charlottesville community members on critical issues of race, spirituality, and public life. Extensive community interest brought 398 guests to the event, overwhelming the official capacity of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center of 200. While there was standing room only, even those with a seat rose to close the program with a standing ovation.

In an opening discussion on fellow civil rights witness Victoria Gray Adams, Charles Marsh asked Sales, “What is the unfinished business of the civil rights movement today?” Sales answered:

“These are the questions that are still on the table today. Movements seek to raise up our consciousness from the low level of empire consciousness to the high level of mountaintop consciousness, where we begin to see the world and each other in very different, and larger, and more relational ways. Because it is in the process of moving up to a high level of consciousness that we come to know a full meaning of God and we come to know each other in community.

So I think the question is still on the table today as white supremacy is rampant in this country, as political speech is violating, dehumanizing, and degrading, as white anger threatens to shed the very curtains of democracy in this country that threatens the lives of not only people of color, but also women… I think we are facing a spiritual crisis in America today. It is a spiritual crisis of meaning that gets at the very heart of what kind of people we will be in the twenty-first century in a capitalist technocracy where very few lives matter and most of us are unessential. I think that peace is not an abstraction.”

Her visit to Charlottesville also included an intergenerational master class at UVA, a roundtable lunch discussion with local community leaders, and a private dinner hosted by New City Arts Initiative. At the conclusion of her trip, Sales shared her plans to develop a history-focused reading list for people interested in her work and ideas, to be compiled and shared by VFH with the public.

To watch this discussion in full and view photos of the event, click here. More information on Ruby Sales can be found 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.

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.

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On the Lived Theology Reading List: Church in Ordinary Time

Church in Ordinary Time: A Wisdom Ecclesiology, Amy Plantinga PauwA Wisdom Ecclesiology

The liturgical season called “ordinary time” consists mostly of the weeks between Easter and the beginning of Advent. This season, generally ignored by theologians, aptly symbolizes the church’s existence as God’s creature in the gap between the resurrection of Christ and the consummation of all things. In Church in Ordinary Time, author Amy Plantinga Pauw draws on the seasons of the church year and the creation theology elaborated in the Wisdom books of Scripture to explore the contours of a Trinitarian ecclesiology that is properly attuned to the church’s life amid the realities of today’s world.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Beautifully framed and written, this is an ecclesiology that matters. Amy Plantinga Pauw is one of the leading American theologians of our generation; when you read Church in Ordinary Time, you can see why she is such a respected and important voice.”—Willie James Jennings, Yale Divinity School

“Wisdom traditions in Scripture and theology converge in this timely and provocative book on ecclesiology. Pauw offers a richly Trinitarian, ecumenically attuned, and profoundly relevant proposal for all who are serious about the church’s self-understanding today. Her writing is clearheaded and firmly rooted in Augustine, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, and biblical wisdom literature. It’s about time we had wisdom like this. Readers across all traditions will be challenged and grateful.”—Don E. Saliers, Candler School of Theology, Emory 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.

Recapturing King’s Prophetic Witness in the Trump Era: Larycia Hawkins Delivers Guest Lecture

Larycia Hawkins, "The Mountaintop as the Valley of the Shadow", Bearing the Cross in the Age of Donald J. TrumpBearing the Cross as Creative Protest

On November 1, Larycia Hawkins delivered a guest lecture, entitled “Bearing the Cross in the Age of Donald J. Trump: The Example of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement.”

Utilizing the prophetic guidance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. to address the politics of Trump’s America, Hawkins breaks down the prerequisites of cross bearing to body work, soul work, and foot work, calling us all to embodied solidarity and the civil courage to pursue a committed activism. She moves on to discuss the nature of cross bearing through the witness of MLK in his quest to save the society he was calling to truth. Finishing with a discussion on the politics of cross bearing, Hawkins argues King is pointing us toward recapturing a prophetic vision of human dignity, where the perspective of the oppressed is heard and the moment for justice is always recognized as now.

In her closing reflection on King’s thoughts for these days, Hawkins compels us all to engage in ways that are prophetic and pragmatic and continue to have hope: 

So what would MLK say to Trump? I think he would say several things… I think he would say you shall know them by their fruits and ask the 81% of white evangelicals who voted for him, where is the fruit? I think he would warn us about false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. I think he would say, you are your brother and sister’s keeper, and their blood cries out to you from the ground. Do you see it?…

I think he would say to the Congress of the United States, you call yourselves righteous, but the prophet Isaiah says righteousness and justice go hand in hand and that in fact, kingdoms and cities will be redeemed by justice. Nevertheless, your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.

I think he would say to most of us in this room, how are you complicit in the vast inequality that masquerades as the truth of the American dream?… He would ask us how open the eyes of our hearts are.

He would ask President Trump to get caught up in a vortex of love. Heather Heyer’s father said at her funeral, ‘It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from. If she loved you, you were stuck.’ He would ask President Trump, who do you love? What do you love? And he would ask us the same question.”

Listen to the entire lecture through its resource page here.

Larycia A. Hawkins is the Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. She is the recipient of many honors, such as the Bridge Builder Award from The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (MI) and the Dr. Betty Shabazz Award from Women in Islam Inc. (NY). Dr. Hawkins’ recent publications include “Prophetic and Priestly: The Politics of a Black Catholic Parish” (2015) and “Jesus and Justice: The Moral Framing of the Black Agenda” (2015). Her research engages the intersections of race/ethnicity, religion, and politics. Her writing, speaking, teaching, and scholarship are squarely animated by a conviction that political science should be relevant to the real world.

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.