A Prayer for Guidance and Good Leadership for the Biden-Harris Administration

Today is “The Day” for a fresh start and for us to begin again, as a renewed nation and a people.

A Prayer for Guidance and Good Leadership

May the most wise God guide President Biden and Vice President Harris in administering justice for the poor, the wrongly-incarcerated, and the marginalized, and in leading this nation to make moral and ethical decisions that would contribute to the common good and human flourishing in this nation and in the world.

May the God of kindness lead this new administration to lead with truth, reason, kindness, grace, compassion, and in humility. May this new administration champion the cause of the poor, the sick, the fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the illegal immigrant.

May the God of providence influence the actions and ambitions of this new administration that would contribute to international friendship and solidarity, mutual respect and reciprocity, and human dignity and the sacredness of life in this nation and in the world.

May the God of love direct President Biden and his administration not to wage war with another nation and continue America’s imperial policies and military interventions in the developing countries and darker nations of the world.

May the most gracious God use the leadership of Biden-Harris to make this nation a people of compassion, hospitality, and justice.

May we all be the recipients of new divine graces and mercies on this day and forward.

In His Name, I pray.

Amen!

“In Praise of our Common Humanity and Human Flourishing: On Race, Unity, and Virtues”

“In Praise of our Common Humanity and Human Flourishing: On Race, Unity, and Virtues”

The problem of race in the American society has paralyzed our psyche to identify and affirm our common humanity. Racial-based ideas and practices have also hindered our common progress and desire to attain human flourishing, both individually and collectively, in society. As a result, some of us promote an incomplete end of human life, that is, the project of unity between the races in society to cure the dilemma of race. Arguably, the predicament of race in our culture is basically a problem of virtue. Race problems clearly indicate our weak desire to pursue higher virtues in life, that is, the divine-inspired human qualities in us that make life in this world more beautiful, relational, and interconnected.

The goal of racial disunity is not reconciliation or racial unity. Progress in race relations in society requires the cultivation and demonstration of moral virtues and ethical qualities that would make reconciliation a potential destination. The end of this life is not to attain racial unity (yet it is important and has its place in a divided country like ours); rather, each one of us has a sacred duty: the humanization of ourselves and the social/political/economic/cultural order, and the promotion of our shared humanity. The question we should be asking is this: what does it mean to be human in society? Or how does one function constructively like a full human being in the world according to the basic principle that everyone in the world or in human history bears the image of God. We should pursue the shared values and qualities (or what I simply call the “divine-inspired universal makers in us”) that will make us functionable and adaptable in any human society or culture in the world.

The project of (racial) unity and (racial) reconciliation has some theological antecedents and foundations. It is intimately connected to the fundamental qualities of being created in the divine image. Those basic divine-inspired human virtues and qualities are crucial to live the good life and to strive for human flourishing in the world.

Without certain virtue ethics, racial reconciliation is just a dream. Instead of trying to work toward racial progress and unity, let us first attempt to cultivate certain necessary virtues that would lead to transformation in the workplace, social relations, human relationships, and social systems and political institutions.

In other words, one should ask what are the moral and ethical virtues that I need to work on to sustain our common humanity and to promote unity, reconciliation, and peace in my community and society. Cultivating certain moral and ethical virtues are important to live fully and constructively as imago dei in the world.

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (16 April, 1963 by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Love and Justice!

The Bible talks more about justice than love; repentance more than unity; liberation more than oppression; inclusion more than exclusion; and hospitality more than alienation. Yet from a Biblical and theological perspective, love is untenable without justice; no unity or reconciliation without repentance; and healing is not possible without reparation.

“In Praise of Books and Reading Well: My Journey with Books”

“In Praise of Books and Reading Well: My Journey with Books”

I love good and beautifully written books. I also admire and have great respect for writers who use language with precision and clarity and words with great economy, emotional and intellectual restraint, and linguistic control.
I must admit the fact that I am a bibliophile and have always been a book enthusiast since I was a kid–growing up in Haiti, a country where books and good public libraries are rare. However, Haitian literature is very rich, and Haiti is a country of great writers, great minds, and great literature. Arguably, the country of Haiti has produced some of the most important, prolific, and influential writers in the Americas, writing in French, Spanish, and English languages.

Nonetheless, I became more conscious about my love for books, uncontrollable interest in good writing/ writers, and the weight and glory of good words and the correct usage of the right words when I was probably in 5th grade. In 7th grade, my passion for good books exploded with an enormous and enduring zeal that would eventually shaped my High school years, and eventually my academic life and my identity as a writer.

In Haiti, I attended an all-boys Roman Catholic School, Collège Notre Dame du Perpétuel Sécours (CNPS), a rigorous and college preparatory school that has trained some of the most brilliant minds, who originated from Northern Haiti; Haiti has ever produced, such as Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Arly Lariviére, etc. I was able to attend CNPS not because my parents could afford it financially; it was because of my high academic performance and excellence that granted me access to this bourgeois school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. It was the school where all the rich kids and those in the upper class and the sons of the most powerful figures in society attended. My parents struggled to pay the semester-by-semester tuition and other related expenses. God is always on the side of the poor and the economically disadvantaged group; he generously provided for my brother and me every semester, while we were attending; I managed to make it through the academic year and until my final year of Middle School. The trajectories of my life would change when I immigrated to the United States at the age of 15; I attended a new school, in a foreign environment, a High School that was not like the one at home. Yet, I would find comfort and peace in and through books at the Broward County Public Library in Fort Lauderdale, where I would visit four to five times a week, when school was dismissed.

My favorite Middle School memory was not the time of recess or hanging out with friends, but the memorable Friday when my class would go to the library to check out novels. Oh yes, the visit to the library was the most delightful time in my childhood in Middle school. The school administration and librarian did not allow students to check out more than three books, at one time, but I attempted in several occasions to break the rule and to cheat. In fact, I would take four to five books at one time and take them to the library desk to check out. The library would kindly refuse the extra one or two. That one or two books that I couldn’t check out from the library were usually among the top ten novels I wanted to read for the next two weeks or for the month and before I would return to the library to check out more books.

Books give meaning to life. Good books deconstruct, construct, and reconstruct the human imagination and action, and they breathe new lives to dead souls and the spirit in the dark. They also bring dignity to human relationships and friendship. Books change history, culture, and society. Good books and good writers change people and contribute to human flourishing and the common good.

“20 Caribbean Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know”

“20 Caribbean Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know” by Celucien L. Joseph, PhD

The following recommendations highlight the most important theological writings or works of twenty Anglophone Caribbean Theologians and Biblical Scholars. By Anglophone Caribbean, we mean two things: (1) individuals who were born in English-speaking Caribbean countries, and (2) individuals who were not born in the Caribbean but of Anglophone Caribbean descent. Both groups write in the English language and the Caribbean occupies a major place in their scholarship and theological thinking. The order of the listing does not carry any intellectual value or weight.

  1. Idris Hamid (PhD, Theology: Union Theological Seminary)

Recommended Writings:
“The social witness of the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad, 1868-1968” (Doctoral Dissertation, 1976); In Search of new Perspectives (1971); Troubling of the waters; a collection of papers and responses (1973); Out of the depths (1977); A history of the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad 1868-1968 (1980); Theological options for Caribbean Christianity (1983).

2. Noel Leo Erskine (PhD, Systematic Theology: Union Theological Seminary) is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Candler School of Theology/Emory University.

Recommended Writings:
Decolonizing Theology: A Caribbean Perspective (1981); King Among the Theologians(1994); From Garvey to Marley: Rastafari Theology (2005); Black Theology and Pedagogy (2008); Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery (2014); “Black Theology in Jamaica,” Cambridge Companion in Black Theology, Cambridge University Press, September 01, 2012; “What Method for the Oppressed? Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Contribution to Nation-Building in the Caribbean.” In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of an Ethical Ideal, Cascade Books, August 30, 2013

3. Kortright Davis (D.Phil., Theology: University of Sussex) is Professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity.

Recommended Writings:
Emancipation Still Comin’: Explorations in Caribbean Emancipatory Theology(2008); Mission for Caribbean change : Caribbean development as theological enterprise (1982); Cross and crown in Barbados : Caribbean political religion in the late 19th century (2011); African Creative Expressions Of The Divine (1991); Serving With Power : Reviving The Spirit Of Christian Ministry (199); Compassionate love and ebony grace : Christian altruism and people of color (2014).

4. Robert Beckford (PhD, Theology, Culture, and Politics: University of Birmingham) is Professor of Black Theology at The Queen’s Ecumenical Foundation and Birmingham City University.

Recommended Writings:
Jesus is Dread: Black Theology and Black Culture in Britain (1998); Dread and Pentecostal: A Political Theology for the Black Church in Britain (2000); God of the Rahtid : Redeeming Rage (2001); God and the Gangs (2004); Jesus Dub: Theology, Music and Social Change (2006); Documentary as Exorcism: Resisting the Bewitchment of Colonial Christianity (2014).

5. Anthony G. Reddie (PhD, Education (With Theology): University of Birmingham) is Director for the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture within Oxford University and a fellow of Regent’s Park College, Oxford. He is also Professor Extraordinarius in the Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systemic Theology at the University of South Africa.

Recommended Writings:
“The Christian education of African Caribbean children in Birmingham : creating a new paradigm through developing better praxis”(Doctoral dissertation, 2000); Postcolonial Black British Theology (1998); Nobodies to somebodies : a practical theology for education and liberation (2003); Black theology in transatlantic dialogue (2009);Working Against the Grain: Re-Imaging Black Theology in the 21st Century (2014);Is God Colour-Blind); Black theology, slavery and contemporary Christianity : 200 years and no apology (2016); Theologising Brexit : a liberationist and postcolonial critique (2019); Is God colour-blind? : insights from black theology for Christian faith and ministry (2020): “Doing It Our Way: Caribbean Theology, Contextualisation and Cricket” (2018).

6. Edmund Davis (PhD, Theology: Faculteit der Godgeleerheid, Universiteit Utrecht)

Recommended Writings:
Roots and blossoms (1977); Courage and commitment (1988); Theological education in a multi-ethnic society : the united theological college of the West Indies and its four antecedent institutions (1841-1966) (1998); Beyond boundaries : identity, faith and hope amidst fear and insecurity (2002).

7. Lewin Lascelles Williams (PhD, Theology: Union Theological Seminary)

Recommended Writings: “The Indigenization of Theology in the Caribbean” (Doctoral dissertation, 1989); Caribbean Theology (1994); The Caribbean: Enculturation, Acculturation, and the Role of the Churches (1996).

8. David I. Mitchell (Doctor of Education, Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University)

Recommended Writings:
Religious education and the Protestant Church of the Caribbean (1956); With Eyes Wide Open: A Collection of Papers by Caribbean Scholars on Caribbean Christian Concerns (1973); New Mission for a new people: Voices from the Caribbean(1977).

9. Michael St. A. Miller (PhD, Religion and Theology: Claremont Graduate School/Claremont Graduate University) is Associate Professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology and Director of Cross-Cultural and International Programs at Christian Theological Seminary

Recommended Writings:
“Religion and the Caribbean: With Epistemological Considerations and Their Implications for Doing Theology in the Caribbean” (Doctoral dissertation, 1996); Reshaping the Contextual Vision in Caribbean Theology: Theoretical Foundations for Theology Which is Contextual, Pluralistic, and Dialectical (2007); “Mission in Pluralistic Contexts: A Caribbean Perspective,” in Introduction to Disciples Theology, ed. Peter Heltzel (2008); “Caribbean History and the Quest for Freedom: Freedom, Further Undermined but Unconquered,” Encounter 71, No. 3 (Summer 2010); “Caribbean History and the Quest for Freedom: Freedom Lives in Plunder, Resistance, and Compromise,” Encounter 71, No. 2 (Spring 2010); “Impulses in Caribbean Theology,” in Papers from Network on Theological Inquiry, ed. Preman Niles, (CWM: October 1998).

10. Dianne M. Stewart (PhD, Systematic Theology: Union Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Emory University.

Recommended Writings:
“The evolution of African-derived religions in Jamaica : toward a Caribbean theology of collective memory” (Doctoral dissertation, 1997); Three Eyes from the Journey: African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience (2005); “Womanist Theology in the Caribbean Context: Critiquing Culture, Rethinking Doctrine, and Expanding Boundaries” (2004); “Religious Pluralism and African American Theology,” The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, edited by Katie Cannon and Anthony Pinn, 331-350 (2014); “Women in African Caribbean Religious Traditions,” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, edited by Rosemary Skinner Kellar and Rosemary Radford Ruether, 116-126 (2006); Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage (2020).

11. Anna Kasafi Perkins (PhD, Theological Ethics: Boston College) is Senior Programme Officer, Quality Assurance Unit, Office of the Board for Undergraduate Studies (OBUS).

Recommended Writings:
The Wages of Sin is Babylon (2014); Justice as Equality: Michael Manley’s Caribbean Vision of Justice (2010); Justice and Peace in a Renewed Caribbean: Contemporary Catholic Reflections (2012); “The Centre No Longer Holds: Caribbean Theologyv(Dis)Engages the Cultural Space.” In Judith Soares and Oral W. Thomas (eds.), Contending Voices in Caribbean Theology, pp. 73-92 (2019); “Resisting Definitive Interpretation: Seeing the Exodus through Caribbean(ite) Eyes, Text and Context: Vernacular Approaches to the Bible in Global Christianity, ed. Melanie Baffes, pp. 23-39 (2005); Is Moral Dis-Ease Making Jamaica Ill? Revisiting the Conversation (2013); “Theologising Women, Speaking across Traditions: A Response”. Theologising Women: Speaking Across Traditions. Judith Soares and Vivette Jennings. (Eds.). WAND, UWI Open Campus (2009); America Will Call Evil by its Name”: Evil as atheologically and morally loaded notion in American Foreign Policy Discourse, in Ethical Issues in International Communications. Ed. Alexander G. Nikolaev, pp. 71-84 (2011); “Some Theological Reflections on Exodus Politics and Leadership in the Pre-Independence English-Speaking Caribbean” (2001).

12. George MacDonald Mulrain (PhD, Theology; University of Birmingham) is President of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA).

Recommended Writings:
“Theological Significance of Haitian Folk Religion” (Doctoral dissertation, 1982); “Training for missionary work overseas : a study of personal development for coping” (M. Phil, 1997); Caribbean Theological Insights: Exploring Theological Themes Within The Context Of The Caribbean Region (2014); Theology in Folk Culture: The Theological Significance of Haitian Folk Religion (1984); “Tools for mission in the Caribbean culture,” International review of mission, v. 75, no 297, pp. 51-58 (1986).

13. Marjorie Lewis (PhD, Theology: University of Birmingham) is University Chaplain at Acadia University.

Recommended Writings:
“Towards A Systematic Spirituality for Black British Women’” (Doctoral dissertation, 2007); “Diaspora Dialogue: Womanist Theology in Engagement with Some Aspects of the Black British and Jamaican Experience,” in Anthony Reddie (Ed.) Black Theology an International Journal Volume 2 Number 1 January (2004) pp. 85–109; “You have to stand on crooked
and cut straight”- reflections on Tamar” (2011); “A Reimagined Framework for Theological Education: Mainstreaming Gender in Theological Education” (2019).

14. Michael N. Jagessar (PhD, Theology: Universiteit Utrecht) is Minister of the United Reformed Church with responsibility for intercultural theology and practice of ministry, and former moderator of the General Assembly.

Recommended Writings:
“Full Life For all: The Work and Theology of Philip A. Potter : A Historical Survey and Systematic Analysis of Major Themes” (Doctoral dissertation, 1997); “A Theological Evaluation of Community in Wilson Harris’ The Guyana Quartet” (MA Thesis, 1992); “Caribbean Literature: A Theological Perspective : An exploration of religious themes in Caribbean Literature from a theological perspective” (2010); Postcolonial Black British theology : new textures and themes (2007); Christian worship : postcolonial perspectives (2011); Black Theology in Britain: A Reader (2016), Ethnicity: The Inclusive Church Resource (2015.

15. Oral Thomas (PhD, Theology: University of Birmingham) is President and Professor in the Arts in Ministerial Studies at the United Theological College of the West Indies.

Recommended Writings:
“Contextual Contestation in Biblical Hermeneutics within a Caribbean Context: A Case for a Biblical Resistant Hermeneutic” ( 2007); “Genesis 1-2:4a and Exodus 1-15: A Basis for a Theology of Liberation” (MTS Thesis, 1996); “A Resistant Biblical Hermeneutic within the Caribbean”, Black Theology, An International Journal, Volume 6 No. 3 (2008); Biblical Resistance Hermeneutics within a Caribbean Context (2014); “Biblical Interpretation within a Caribbean Context”, In Black Theology, Slavery and Contemporary Christianity (2016); “Ashley Smith, Carnival, and Hermeneutics: Reflections on Caribbean Biblical Interpretation” (2013).

16. Delroy A. Reid-Salmon (PhD, Theology: University of Birmingham) is Pastor of the Grace Baptist Chapel in New York and a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, Regents Park College.

Recommended Writings:
Home away from home : the Caribbean Diasporan Church in the Black Atlantic tradition(2008) ; Burning for Freedom: A Theology of the Black Atlantic Struggle for Liberation; Burning for freedom : a theology of the black Atlantic struggle for liberation (2012); “A Sin of Black Theology: The Omission of the Caribbean Diasporan Experience from Black Theological Discourse” (2008); “Omar M. McRoberts, Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood” (2007); “African American Theology and Her Siblings in the Caribbean Diaspora: Toward a Theology of a Plurality of Praxis in the Black Atlantic World” (2019).

17. Margaret Aymer (PhD, New Testament and Early Christianity: Union Theological Seminary) is Professor of New Testament at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Recommended Writings:
First pure, then peaceable : Frederick Douglass, darkness, and the Epistle of James (2008); James: Diaspora Rhetorics of a Friend of God (2014), Fortress Commentary on the Bible (with Gale A. Yee, Fortress Press, 2014); Islanders, Islands and the Bible: Ruminations (2015); The letters and legacy of Paul (2016); Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament (2014).

18. Valentina Alexander (PhD, Theology: University of Warwick) is Professor of Black Theology at The Queen’s Ecumenical Foundation and Birmingham City University.

Recommended Writings:
“Breaking Every Fetter”: To What Extent Has the Black Led Church in Britain Developed a Theology of Liberation? (Doctoral Dissertation, 1997); “Afrocentric and Black Christian Consciousness: Towards an Honest Intersection.” Black Theology in Britain: A Journal of Contextual Practice, 11-1 (1998); “Onesimus’s Letter to Philemon,” Black Theology: A Journal of Contextual Praxis 4, 61-65 (2000); “Passive and Active Radicalism in Black Led Churches. “In Black Theology in Britain: A Reader. Edited by Michael N. Jagessar and Anthony G. Reddie. (2007).

19. Lorraine Dixon is a retired Anglican Priest and womanist theologian.

Recommended Writings:
“A Black Woman and Deacon: A Womanist Reflection on Pastoral Ministry.” Aldred (ed.) Sisters with Power, pp. 50–64 (2000); “Teach it, Sister!’ Mahalia Jackson as Theologian in Song.” Black Theology in Britain 2 (1999): 72-89; “Reflections on Pastoral Care from a Womanist Perspective.” The Interdisciplinary Journal of Pastoral Studies 132 (2000): 3-10; “A Reflection on Black Identity and Belonging in the Context of the Anglican Church in England: A Way Forward.” Black in Theology in Britain: Black Theology in Britain: A Journal of Contextual Practice 4 (2000): 22-37. “Tenth Anniversary Reflections on Robert Beckford’s Jesus is Dread: Black Theology and Black Culture in Britain.” Black Theology: An International Journal 6, no. 3 (2008): 300-307; “Are Vashti and Esther our Sista? The Stories of Two Biblical Women as Paradigmatic of Black Women’s Resistance in Slavery” (2000).

20. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) and former Executive Director of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association.

Recommended Writings:
Created in God’s image : from hegemony to partnership : a church manual on men as partners : promoting positive masculinities (2010); Righting Her-Story: Caribbean Women Encounter the Bible Story (2011); Bible and theology from the underside of empire (2016); “The spirit that groans within us : the challenge of being semper reformanda churches” (2007); “Confessing Faith Together in the Economy: The Accra Confession and Covenanting for Justice Movement” (2008).

“20 Haitian Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know”

“20 Haitian Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know”

  1. Jean-Bertrand Aristide (PhD, African languages: University of South Africa)

*Recommended Writings: In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti (1990); Théologie et politique (1992); Aristide: An Autobiography (1993); Tout homme est un homme (1992); Névrose vétéro-testamentaire (1994); Dignity (1996); Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization (2000); Haiti-Haiti: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization (2011).

2. Laënnec Hurbon (PhD, Theology: Institut Catholique de Paris; PhD, Sociology: Sorbonne University)

*Recommended Writings :

Dieu dans le Vodou haitien (1972); Le Barbare imaginaire (1987); Les mystères du vaudou/Voodoo: Search for the Spriit (1993); « The Church and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Saint-Domingue. » The abolitions of slavery : from Léger Félécité Sonthonax to Victor Schœlcher, p. 55-68/ Publisher: New York, NY [ etc.] : Berghahn Books [etc.], 2003.

3. Jules Casseus (D.Min., Pastoral Theology: Colgate Rochester Divinity School)

*Recommended Writings: Pour une Église Authentiquement Haitien (1987); Théologie Pastorale : Etre un bon Pasteur dans un monde Corrompu(1997); Ethique Chrétienne : Etre un enfant de lumière dans un Monde de Ténèbres (2001); Haïti, quelle église– quelle libération? : (réflexions théologiques contextuelles autour des évènements socio-politiques et ecclésiologiques allant du 7 février 1986 au 7 février 1991) (1991); Haiti : what kind of church … what kind of freedom?(2004); Élements de théologie haïtienne (2007); Toward a contextual Haitian theology, 2013.

4. Fritz Fontus (PhD, Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Le chrétien et la politique (1982); Effective communication of the Gospel in Haiti: its inculturation (2001); Les Églises protestantes en Haïti. Communication et inculturation (2001).

5. Jean Fils-Aime (PhD, Theology: Université de Montréal)

*Recommended Writings:

L’inculturation de la foi chrétienne au contexte du vodou haïtien : une analyse de l’oeuvre de trois théologiens protestants haïtiens (PhD, Dissertation, 2005); Vodou, je me souviens (2005); Et si les loas n’étaient pas des diables? : une enquête à la lumière des religions comparées ; essai (2008); Le nécessaire dialogue entre le vaudou et la foi chrétienne: l”inculturation de la foi chrétienne au contexte du vaudou (2010); 200 ans de zombification massive. Les églises évangéliques en Haïti. Le temps des bilans (2017).

6. Karl Lévêque (PhD, Philosophy: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings: La philosophie de la connaissance chez Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (Doctoral Dissertation, 1967); De la théologie politique à la théologie de la revolution (1970); L’interpellation mystique dans le discours duvaliérien, in Nouvelle Optique (1971); L’analyse sociale : pour voir au changement, in Relations (1982); En cas de conflit : une Église en situation de conflit (198?); L’analyse politique : idéologie et mentalité sociale (1993).

7. Ronald Charles (PhD, New Testament/Early Christianity: University of Toronto)

*Recommended Writings: Paul and the Politics of Diaspora (2014); Traductions Bibliques Créoles et Préjugés Linguistiques (2015); The Silencing of Slaves in early Jewish and Christian Writings (2019); “Interpreting the Book of Revelation in the Haitian context.” Black Theology: An International Journal 9.2 (2011) 177-198; “Q as a question from a postcolonial point of view.” Black Theology: An International Journal7.2 (August 2009) 182-199.

8. Abson Predestin Joseph (PhD, New Testament Studies: Brunel University/London School of Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Shaping Theological Education in the Caribbean: A Community Approach (2011); A Narratological Reading of 1 Peter (2012).


9. Dieumème Noelliste (PhD, Theological Studies: Northwestern University)

*Recommended Writings: Shaping Theological Education in the Caribbean: A Community Approach ( 2011); Diverse and Creative Voices: Theological Essays from the Majority World (2015); Les religions afro-caribeennes a la lumiere de la foi chretienne: Similitudes et differences (2019).

10. Jean Duthène Joseph (PhD, Theology: Trinity Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Roman Catholicism and Haitian Vodou and the Impact of their Association on the Protestant Church and Community in Haiti(Doctoral dissertation, 2006); Le millénium : une réalité incontournable dans le plan de Dieu pour la fin des temps (2012); La foi judéo-chrétienne à la croisée des chemins (2017)

11. Chantale Victor Guiteau (PhD, Theology: South African Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: The Role of Evangelical Churches in Combating Structural Corruption in Haiti (Doctoral dissertation, 2017); Combating Structural Corruption in Haiti: Role and Contribution of Evangelical Churches (2020); Les femmes dans l’expansion de l’Eglise de Dieu en Haiti : rôle et contribution (2002).

12. Nixon S. Cleophat (PhD, Theology and Ethics: Union Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination (2016); Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective Critical Approaches to Religion: Race, Class, Sexuality, and Gender (2018)

13. Kawas François (PhD, Theology: Institut Catholique de Paris, STBS ; PhD, Sociology: Institut Catholique de Paris, FASSE).

*Recommended Writings: Nouvelle évangélisation et culture haïtienne : évolution institutionnelle de l’Eglise catholique en Haïti après le Concile Vatican II et son nouveau rapport au Vaudou (Doctoral dissertation, 1994); L’Eglise catholique à l’épreuve du pluralisme religieux. Re- Cherche Documentaire sur la situation actuelle de l’Eglise catholique par Rapport aux Autres religion (2003); Vaudou et Catholicisme en Haïti à l’aube du au XXI ̊ : des repères pour un dialogue (2005); Sources documentaires de l’histoire des jésuites en Haïti aux XVIIIe et XXe siècles : 1704-1763, 1953-1964 (2006); L’histoire des jésuites en Haïti aux XVIIIe et XXe siècles : 1704-1763, 1953-1964 (2006); L’ètat et l’èglise Catholique en Haïti aux XIX ̊et XX ̊siècles (1860-1980) : documents officiels, déclarations, correspondances etc. : Tome I (2006); Jésuites, sciences et changement social en Haïti, hier et aujourd’hui : un engagement intellectuel au service des autres (2010).

14. William Smarth (PhD, Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Mentalité chrétienne pour le développement : simples réflexions pour le stage de formation missionnaire (1968); Ki kalite demokrasi nou bezwen ann Ayiti (1991); L’Église concordataire sous la dictature des Duvalier (1957-1983) (2000); Histoire de l’Église catholique d’Haïti, 1492-2003 : des points de repère (2015).

15. Godefroy Midy (PhD, Theology: Université de Montréal; PhD, FordhaUniversity)

*Recommended Writings: Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s Philosophy of the Person (Doctoral dissertation , 1971); Jalons pour une théologie haitienne libératrice en dialogue avec G. Gutierrez et J.L.Segundo (Doctoral dissertation, 1977); Evangéliser Haiti pour une culture de vie, Bulletin de Liaison, Vol. IX, No. 3, Centre Pedro-Arrupe, Haiti (Octobre 2004), p. 2-17.

16. Henri Claude Télusma (PhD, Theology: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings: Une analyse théologique de la coexistence christianisme/vaudou en Haïti : ouverture pour un dialogue interreligieux A theological analysis of the coexistence Christianity / Voodoo in Haiti : opening for an interreligious dialogue (Doctoral dissertation, 2017); Théologie et prédication dans le contexte actuel d’Haïti (2017); Bicentenaire du protestantisme en Haïti : enjeux et perspectives théologiques (2015); État des lieux des rapports antagonistes entre chrétiens et vodouisants en Haïti(2018).

17. Manassé Pierre-Louis (PhD. cand., Theology: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings :Bicentenaire du protestantisme en Haïti : enjeux et perspectives théologiques (2015); Théologie et prédication dans le contexte actuel d’Haïti (2017); “LE MANIFESTE DE L’EGLISE POUR UN TEMPS DE RUPTURE ET D’UN RENOUVEAU SPIRITUEL” (2019); Mes raisons de croire: Questions discutées sur la foi et la raison (2020).

18. Wilner Cayo (PhD. Theology: Université de Montréal)

*Recommended Writings: L’anthropologie théologique évangélique à la rencontre de la rationalité technoscientifique (Doctoral dissertation, 2012); L’Église haïtienne au Québec: origine, évolution et visage actuel,’ In: L’identité des protestants francophones au Québec: 1834–1997. ed. Denis Remon. Montreal: ACFAS, 1998. 139–160. Dejean, Paul. Les haïtiens au Québec; Statut éthique de la vérité en postmodernité (M.A. Thesis, 2004).

19. Lys Stéphane Florival (PhD, Christian Ethics/Theology: Loyola University Chicago)

*Recommended Writings: Haiti’s Troubles: Perspectives From the Theology of Work and From Liberation Theology (Doctoral Dissertation, 2011); Liberation ethics in Latin America : a methodological and theoretical analysis of the work of Dussel and consideration of its application to Haiti (MA Thesis, 1989).

20. Celucien L. Joseph (PhD, Systematic Theology and Ethics: University of Pretoria; PhD, Literary Studies: University of Texas at Dallas)

*Recommended Writings: Theologizing in Black: On Africana Theological Ethics and Anthropology(2020), Revolutionary Change and Democratic Religion: Christianity, Vodou, and Secularism (2020); The New Life Catechism for Children (2019); “The Rhetoric of Prayer: Dutty Boukman, The Discourse of “Freedom from Below,” and the Politics of God,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion2:9 (June 2011):1-33; “The Rhetoric of Suffering, Hope, and Redemption in Masters of the Dew: A Rhetorical and Politico-Theological Analysis of Manuel as Peasant-messiah and Redeemer,” Theology Today (October 2013) 70: 323-350; “Redefining cultural, national, and religious identity: The Christian–Vodouist dialogue?” Theology Today, 2016, Vol. 73(3) 241–262; “Toward a Politico-Theology of Relationality: Justice as Solidarity and the Poor in Aristide’s Theological Imagination,” Toronto School of Theology30: 2 (December 2014): 269-300; “Viv Dechoukaj Long Live Uprooting Aristide s Politico theology of Defensive Violence,” Black Theology, 15:3 (2017):185-208; “James Cone and the Crisis of American Theology,” Missionalia, v46 n2 (2018): 197-221; “The Meaning of James H. Cone and the Significance of Black Theology: Some Reflections on His Legacy,” Black Theology, v18 n2 (2020): 112-143; “Theodicy and Black Theological Anthropology in James Cone’s Theological Identity,” Toronto Journal of Theology, v35 n1 (2019): 83-111; “Towards a Caribbean Political Theology of Emancipation and Decolonization: A Comparative Analysis of Four Caribbean Theologians,” Black theology, 16, no. 2, (2018): 148-180.

“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

It seems to me in contemporary American society, the human life and the American experience are reduced to four major issues: the narrative of race, the narrative of gender, the narrative of sexuality, and the narrative of white supremacy. The existential question before us is this: how shall we think about the discourse of race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy within the national narrative of the American Republic today? Yet people in different parts of the world, especially in the Global South, have comparable existential human questions that may arise at any time that they often learn more in times of darkness and hopelessness than in light and freedom, including the threat of imperialism, mass poverty, global hunger, capitalist exploitation, high unemployment, mass illiteracy, child and sex trafficking, malaria, AIDS/HIV, clean and sanitary water, agriculture, farming, and the menace of American-European political hegemony in the world. My invitation to you reader is to be concerned about “the other worlds” and to ask critically : how shall we reason about other equally human concerns that are global, trans-national, trans-racial, and trans-gender in our times? Arguably, the human life is formed profoundly by different forces, competing discourses, distinct values, and it is also shaped substantially by multiple stories and agencies that are sometimes inconsistent, transnational, and heterogeneous.

By any means, am I insisting these pressing matters (race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy) do not transform how we construct social relations, define humanity, forge friendship, and nurture human relationships in the American culture; rather, I am proposing that there are equally important experiences and narratives that are shared by all human beings universally, and that those stories and events respectively mark the human condition and alter both the civil and political societies in this culture and in the global community. I am also suggesting that the human experience—although may be shaped by a particular social environment and particular historical context within the (political) framework of a specific nation-state (i.e. the U.S.)—transcends the American experience and the Americentric definition of humanity.

Even within the geopolitical context of the United States, what it means to be human should always rise above Americentric values and ideologies. To be human should not be confined to a particular geographical location, citizenship, and nationality—those of the United States, for example. The notion of human membership is a transcendental experience that bears transnational and intercultural attributes, concurrently. While the American citizenship or nationality does in fact come with global advantages and international privileges—especially when an American travels to a foreign country with a U.S. passport, for example—because of its association with the American empire and political hegemony in the world, both citizenship and nationality as geopolitical identities also belong to all peoples and nations. Therefore, we should see ourselves as global citizens of the world and global (inter-)nationals of the global village.

To be human simply means to have defining values and qualities that are universally common in all peoples in the world, regardless of location, sexuality, race, gender, and nationality. In other words, there are human characteristics, properties, and virtues that all people in the world experience and possess, including family/kinship, friendship/companionship, compassion, kindness, love, dignity, worth, reason, self-awareness/consciousness, intelligence, ontological equality, personhood, suffering, pain, sorrow, illness, feelings/emotions, culpability/guilt, ambitions, dreams, etc.

Further, everything in society should not be reduced to the concept of race; arguably, race alone does not regulate all human trajectories and journeys in this life. All matters in society should not rotate around the notion of gender; gender alone does not constitute all the multiple identities and experiences that are intrinsic to human existence and the way an individual, for example, understands or perceives his or her place in the world. Correspondingly, everything in this culture should not be reduced to sexuality; while for some people, human sexuality (or their sexual preference) defines their humanity and struggle to articulate personal freedom and (ontological) identity, sexuality could also be interpreted collectively, that is, within the context of a community and kinship. As human beings, we do not just live personal lives; our personal lives are also corporate and collective, and beyond the confinement of the individual (sexual) preference or option. Finally, everything in society and in the human experience does not point to white supremacy; in other words, I am suggesting that white supremacy does not name human history nor defines human existence or entails what it means to be human in the world.

Our struggle is against our own conception of humanity and to be incorporated into the global humanity. Correspondingly, our underlying challenge in our community and the world is to find the appropriate tools and adequate recourses to maximize our humanity and sustain our inherent dignity while maintaining the transcendental nature of our individual and collective humanness.