When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail to focus national attention on the injustice of segregation, he was stung by criticism from Christian clergy who feared upsetting the status quo and urged “moderation,” prompting his historic rejoinder from the Birmingham jail, as Rev. Howard Bess recalls.
From the gospel accounts, Jesus was a fierce critic of the economic injustices of his day, demanding – within his Jewish tradition – a radical redistribution of wealth and a recommitment to Israelite teachings about caring for one another. That was his point about God’s kingdom “on earth,” writes Rev. Howard Bess.
The turning point of Jesus’s fateful week in Jerusalem was his protest at the Temple, which the Jewish priests saw as a challenge to their authority and which led to his trial and execution. But was this disruption violent or non-violent, a question posed by Reza Aslan in Zealot, a book reviewed by Rev. Howard Bess.
Many on the American Right say they’re strong Christians, but have bought into Ayn Rand economics which disdains government help for the poor and needy. Other Christians, like Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, see Jesus’s teachings enshrined in the Constitution’s commitment to the common good, writes Rev. Howard Bess.
Christian churches have convinced many believers that “salvation” only exists in the afterlife. But a truer understanding of the word – and its synonym “shalom” – reveals them to be messages calling for the present world to become a place of human fulfillment, writes Rev. Howard Bess.