Christians ancient and modern have puzzled over the violence in the book of Joshua. Origen of Alexandria interprets this text apocalyptically, to give readers a sense of their own personal moral struggle as participating in a cosmic effort. For Origen, the central act of apocalypse is the cross of Jesus Christ, conquering evil through nonviolence and making religious violence explicitly prohibited. This is a compelling exegesis still today, since by using the cross to reinterpret Joshua, Origen presents a middle path between endorsing the violence depicted and excising or ignoring it.
This article offers a theological vision of how nonviolence contributes to Catholic social teaching, and offers a crosscutting, intersectional praxis related to two destructive waves in the US: the public health crisis of COVID-19 and systemic racism. First, this article will describe some basic intersections of these two waves, and then draw on a theological description of nonviolence to analyze their intersectionality. Finally, this article will illustrate how nonviolence offers a praxis for a more sustainable transformation.
We need a nonviolent soteriology that honors scriptural and theological traditions about enemy-love, suffering, sacrifice, and satisfaction and refuses to further harm victims of violence and oppression. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolence and Bernard Lonergan’s way of understanding Christ’s satisfaction by analogy with the sacrament of reconciliation disclose one way suffering can be redemptive: When nonviolent activists “present their very bodies,” they expose the violence latent in unjust situations. Similarly, when Christ presents his body, he exposes the violence at the heart of sin. Like Christ, activists “become sin” (1 Cor 5:21)—not because they take responsibility for the sin, but because sin becomes visible in the wounds it leaves on innocent bodies. Once visible, healing can begin. Further, both men argue for a proper unfolding of the extension of love to enemies, lest victims be further harmed and injustice ignored.
This article parallels Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for civil, economic, and racial equality in the USA with Julius K. Nyerere’s unrelenting liberation struggle for the emancipation of Southern Africa from colonial shackles. I write this article fully cognizant of King’s belief that what united the minority and colonial peoples of America, African, and Asia was the struggle to overcome the legacy of colonialism and racial injustice. I therefore argue that King’s dream was a shared dream, which I analyze through the prism of liberation theology.
To Dream in North and South America: Reflections on the Sixtieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
This article reflects on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered
sixty years ago in Washington, DC. It begins by pointing to the concept of “dream”
as it is understood in current language and how Dr. King used it in a theological way.
Next, the essay compares this with what Pope Francis has frequently said about
dreams, including his own. Reflecting on King’s words and the sense that the dream
he spoke about is still not a reality but a horizon of hope that stimulates struggle,
the article presents a comparative study of racism in the United States, according
to King, and Brazil, where structural racism permeates the whole society, delaying
indefinitely the dream of equality and justice. I also show how liberation theology has
been a helpful element in the struggle to keep the dream of equality alive. I
The year 2023 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the March on Washington that featured civil rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This article focuses on King’s critique of racism, poverty, and militarism, and his commitment to justice, love, and hope.
“Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Such was the entreaty that, according to popular lore, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963.1 The civil rights leader was two-thirds through the speech he was delivering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King had spoken about his dream in other contexts but had not included the idea in his prepared texts for this speech. We can be grateful then that King, responding to Jackson or some other grace-touched inspiration, went off script and spoke words that, though often scorned at the time, have ever since resounded deep in the American soul:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Modern theology has attended explicitly to issues concerning method, that is, how theological authors creatively offer interpretations that advance disciplinary knowledge. This article explores the role of aporias—logical impasses—in theological interpretation. After considering two philosophical paths for negotiating the aporia in the work of Nicholas Rescher and Jacques Derrida, it applies these interpretive paradigms to what it calls the central Christian aporia. It argues that mindfulness about the role of aporias in theological method enhances appreciation for the complexity of theological hermeneutics.
This article begins by suggesting a wider or more formal understanding of the movement known as ressourcement. After engaging a recent volume of essays on retrieval, the article takes up the work of one contemporary and one bygone theologian in order to highlight how their work embodies the call for a broader understanding of returning to the sources. It then uses Johann Adam Möhler’s reading of Anselm and later medieval theology as exemplary of this call.
Drawing inspiration from Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, and Thomas Aquinas, and in support of the definition of evil as the privation of being or goodness, this article proposes a complementary definition of evil. It argues that evil can be defined as the non-advancement of being, appetite, or natural inclination toward its proper perfection or completion. First, it explains what this definition entails, elaborates on its implications, and defends its plausibility. Second, it discusses typical objections to the privation account and shows how defining evil relative to appetite can help overcome them.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis highlights the oceans as integral to our threatened common home and stresses the need for more effective ocean governance. Theologians can help to meet that need. By turning their attention to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its further development, and by practicing “ocean empathy,” they can join ocean scientists, NGOs, international lawyers, and others in caring for the oceans by shoring up the law of the sea.
Christian theological anthropology has been critiqued for its habit of sharply distinguishing the human from the nonhuman and for thereby depreciating human animality in one form or another. Within the context of modern theological anthropology, the result of this habit has often been a vision of the human according to which the less animal we are, the more self-transcendent and God-open we are. In light of recent theological and interdisciplinary interest in the Umwelt-theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944), I indicate how Uexküll’s influential account of animal Umwelten can be a resource for theologians seeking to articulate human self-transcendence and God-openness in a manner that avoids the depreciation—whether explicit or implicit—of our animality.
Over the past ten years of Francis’s pontificate, a transversal axis cutting across all his writings is his appreciation for the importance of social integration in Latin America. For the pope, humanity must gradually move toward greater and better forms of encounter, integration, and inclusion—that is, toward the “Great Homeland.” His experiences in South America have led him to a contextually situated conviction about the importance of concrete encounter and inclusion that has transferred to his universal teaching and, in this sense, forged his pontifical teaching from the margins. Turning to a specific corpus of papal texts written for Latin American people, we will analyze the methodological assumptions of this whole program of integration thought for the global community.
Pope Francis, Culture of Encounter, the Common Good, and Dharma: Public Theological Conversations Today
Pope Francis is able to communicate common values across borders of religion, regions, and sociopolitical systems. Catholic social teaching on the common good, particularly as articulated and promoted by him as part of a culture of encounter, conveys a relevant message for our times. Approaching the pope’s initiative from a South Asian context, I argue that an engagement with dharma, a religioethical vision, can be part of this culture of encounter, especially in public theological conversations about the common good. Specifically, the themes of the common good, like integral ecology and care for the vulnerable, as earnestly promoted by Pope Francis, can converse with dharma for mutual enrichment, even while the basic teachings on human dignity, freedom, and inalienable rights can usefully enrich the latter.
This article revisits Francis’s vision of politics as one of the highest forms of charity. It argues that Francis’s concept of “political charity” goes beyond a mere repetition of classical church social teaching on politics to ground a spirituality for Christian politicians. He does this mainly in two ways: the first is by inscribing the main Christian virtue of love at the heart of political practice; the second is by portraying both politics and economics as Christian vocations to be embraced as noble paths to holiness. Finally, I introduce an African perspective into the discussion for context and illustration.
One of the concerns that has been raised by both boards of the journal (the Board of Directors and the Board of Editorial Consultants) is that of gender parity (or lack thereof) in the articles it publishes—a problem that is troublingly evident in this issue: only one of the authors is a woman, while the
The news of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s passing arrived as I was completing the editor’s note for this issue. Benedict was a man of the church, known for his life of contemplative prayer, liturgical piety, and scholarly faith. In a different ecclesial context, the 2005 election of this scholar hierarch might have been welcomed widely in
The Holy Spirit as the Protagonist of the Synod: Pope Francis’s Creative Reception of the Second Vatican Council
This article argues that Pope Francis’s conviction that the Holy Spirit guides the synodal journey represents a creative reception of the Second Vatican Council. By highlighting the Spirit’s agency, Francis offers an alternative to Lumen Gentium’s often ornamental pneumatology. While thus confirming the council’s theological rather than institutional understanding of the church, he complements its christocentric
The ten-year Francis pontificate represents a fresh reception of the Second Vatican Council. The full dimensions of this reception can be apprehended through the lens of synodality, the leitmotif of the Francis papacy. This article will consider four features of synodality exhibited in the papal magisterium of Pope Francis that help us appreciate the ways
In modern times, the papacy has consistently advocated peace, disarmament, and peaceful resolution of conflicts, limiting the scope of traditional just war theory, particularly in the era of weapons of mass destruction. However, no pope has gone as far as Pope Francis, who has stated that there is no such thing as just war and