The Future of Political Theology for Christian Scholars
When: June 9, 2023, 9:00 am - Friday
Where: Board Room
How should we do political theology in Churches of Christ and Christian Churches? In the last three years, CSC has encouraged Christian scholars to contemplate pressing political issues, including racial, environmental, and economic justice. The discussion has already been rich. Yet to set our sights on such topics in a confessionally Christian setting raises questions about what political theology should be for Christian scholars, pastors, and laypeople. What are its goals and trajectories, given our present political and theological contexts? What methods best serve these goals? With three papers and a formal response, this panel begins to answer such questions.
Miriam Perkins, Milligan University, “Political Theology without a Platform: What the White Church can Learn from the Earliest African American Congregation in Savannah”
One of the earliest and strongest Christian congregations in colonial Savannah was an independently organized community of primarily enslaved Africans pastored by Andrew Bryan. In 1800, Bryan wrote a letter to John Rippon, editor of the British Annual Register, detailing a tender yet tenacious ministry. Bryan’s letter is a powerful reminder that political theology happens in grassroots congregational polity and worship that grows resilient communities of prophetic witness. Standing in the tensions between opportunity and opposition, Bryan’s community models how contemporary and predominately white churches might foster racial justice even when under-resourced and navigating polarizing political contexts.
Stanley Talbert, Pepperdine University, “Whose Politics is it Anyway?”
Probing the white supremacist’s logic fueling the “exploitation” and “ravaging” of God’s creatures and creation, James Cone queried, “Whose earth is it anyway?” Although liberation theologians, ecological theologians, and others have attended to the intersectional imperatives of Cone’s query, this presentation attends to the politics of the political. It aims to unearth the political behind the so-called apolitical theologies evidenced in Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. Ecclesiological awareness and acknowledgment of its politics are a prerequisite for better praxis and ethics. Grounding “politics” in the God of liberation provides a critique for exploitative and ravaging politics veiled behind the apolitical and gives a path forward in embodying a theological ethics of liberation.
Andrew Sutherland, Pepperdine University, “Entangled in the Economy: Thoughts on the Politics of Ecclesial Life.”
As recent CSC sessions have highlighted, our economy is often unjust, exclusionary, and violent. This paper considers how what I call “mundane entanglements” between churches and our economy ought to impact political theologies centered on the political significance of ecclesial life itself. Using critical realist sociology to analyze relations between churches and our economy, I show how mundane entanglements risk undermining (or at least complicating) a process key to these theologies: formation through church practices such as the Lord’s Supper. Such political theologies might respond by giving more attention to mundane practices that foreground and reform churches’ economic entanglements.
Matthew B. Hale, Abilene Christian University, Convener
- Miriam Perkins, Milligan University, “Political Theology without a Platform: What the White Church can Learn from the Earliest African American Congregation in Savannah”
- Stanley Talbert, Pepperdine University, “Whose Politics is it Anyway?”
- Andrew Sutherland, Pepperdine University, “Entangled in the Economy: Thoughts on the Politics of Ecclesial Life”
- Lee C. Camp, Lipscomb University, Respondent