The Universe Bends Toward Justice
Obery Hendricks, Orbis
Obery Hendricks has borrowed the title of his book from Martin Luther King, but he writes with his own degree of intensity about the systemic injustice inherent in American politics and church.
In tracing the history of religious music, he sees reflected over time levels of marginalisation, oppression and injustice. Of early spirituals: “They reminded themselves and the generations that followed that, although chattel was their status, it was not their identity.”
He deplores the shift to gospel music: “Gospel songs do not exhort resistance to injustice; they counsel joyful resignation instead” and “sadly in gospel music today, seldom is proclaimed the God of liberation — just the God of escape.”
The popular performances of the lead singer and the group are matched by antics in the pulpit, where the “gospel of prosperity” is proclaimed.
He contrasts this with the life and teaching of Jesus of Galilee, who announced, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”
All this is propped up by the political system, which he exposes in great detail. The connection of religion and politics goes back a long way, to when Constantine “turned the faith movement into the official religion”.
In America, political leaders who publicly espouse Christian faith have overlooked that care for others in society, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable, is among the foundation of biblical ethics. They have been supported by “pulpit entertainers” who propose a “shameless distortion of Jesus’ teaching”.
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