From Interim Dean Dr. Gregory Howard, Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology, on his presentation tomorrow night
The nexus between “God is on the side of the oppressed” (James Cone) and Jesus’ declaration that he “has come so that we may have life and have it to the full” cast light upon the United States Declaration of Independence’s claim of such truth that all people possess the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, it demands an ecclesial response to oppression of every kind that negates the aforementioned ideas. Equality and racial and gender justice are a constant anthropological dilemma that persists without the full engagement of the faith and ethic of Jesus in public life; and its imposition upon public policy and civic responsibility. The Judeo-Christian experience from antiquity to the present age is one that exclaims that we are minority people struggling to survive (Jerome C Ross) in an often imperialistic and androcentric reality perpetuated by Eurocentric supremacy seeking to maintain privilege. Frank Thomas has stated that privilege is our greatest enemy because no one wants to give it up; including people of faith that choose self and communal preservation of a particular race, ethnic group or social class vis-a-vis white heterosexual male dominance. The question is common vernacular “what would Jesus do”.
From Israeli and Palestinian tension to white and black and brown relations in America—the interrogative is, who is David and who is Goliath? Pastor as resident theologian and cultural creator establishes agency for the disenfranchised even at the expense of his or her social accoutrements, comfort and security. This is prophetic in that it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. As a seminary in the 21st century—curriculum inclusive of practical theology in that of social activism and transformative praxis that aims toward freedom engages seminarians’ faith in public life. It exegetes culture and seeks to deconstruct and slay the Goliath who compromises one’s unalienable right for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness—in spite of race, gender, sexuality, orientation and personal economy. Theological reflection and education examine sacramentality or the evidence of grace in all creation which also requires the recognition and a reversal of the contrary—disgrace. The pulpit must be trained to find its way to the vocation of policy maker, educator and social justice advocate as public witness. In the words of my late maternal grandmother Winnie Blanche Henderson, “Just treat folk right.”