New books that are shaping conversations about American religious history
Martin Luther King Jr.
Being wise as a serpent doesn’t mean having a hard heart.
William Pitts examines the era when the Social Gospel was new—and controversial.
Gary Dorrien chronicles the influential—but often forgotten—work of Mordecai Johnson, Benjamin Mays, and Howard Thurman.
Motivated in part by the whitewashing of a radical legacy, Patrick Parr explores King's seminary years and the roots planted there.
I was invited to an interfaith solidarity service. Instead I spent the day reading Congressman John Lewis's graphic novel trilogy about the civil rights movement.
Yes, it’s a Christian heresy. There are worse things.
Some riots protest injustice. Others perpetuate it.
In 1963, at the height of segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for creating the beloved community. He exhorted all Americans to stand for justice, not by eradicating our differences but by affirming and claiming our identity, heritage, and legacy. His vision of the beloved community embraced principles of inclusion: sharing the rich resources of the earth; eliminating poverty, hunger, and homelessness; and combating racism and discrimination.
Fifty-two years ago, eight white clergy penned their version of “all lives matter.” These white men of God questioned the efficacy of the civil rights movement in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. They wrote that "honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts.”
The third Selma-to-Montgomery march was a civil rights watershed. It also focused the lives of many who gave it its spiritual hue.
Between April 1831 and February 1832, two officials of the French government under Louis-Philippe toured Jacksonian America. These two officials—Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont—were on assignment to research prisons in the United States and later produced a report of their findings in 1833. But while traveling through America, Tocqueville and Beaumont were also carefully observing political and social life in the new republic. Both men published works on their observations. Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America (1835/1840) and Beaumont wrote a novel, entitled Marie or, Slavery in the United States (1835). Most Americans are familiar with Tocqueville’s work, but Beaumont’s novel is less well known.
Throughout history, people loyal to a higher law have been responsible for much violence. Should we reject appeals to a higher law?
Sitting beside my best friend, we tensed as policemen clubbed civil rights protesters. We teared up as Martin Luther King Jr. marched alongside James Bevel, as Coretta Scott King talked with Malcolm X, and as the leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee strained to relate to their elders. Selma was an experience: visceral, soulful, inspiring, and shocking. A visual image that struck me was based in sound: microphone before King, organ pipes behind him.
Seven of this year's eight best picture nominees are stories of lone, white heroes—stories that seem out of touch with the times. The exception is Selma.