Media Spotlight: Can I Get a Witness?

Can I Get a Witness? The PodcastCan I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith & Justice is our newest publication. There are many ways you can access the prophetic witness of this book. Discover the compelling stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture.

On Friday, March 22, Charles Marsh presented a lecture and discussion on the book as part of the Rebels With a Cause symposium at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Along with Hal Crowther, author of Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners, they discussed their collections of biographical essays on unexpected and underappreciated leaders in struggles for justice and equality.

BookTV will present coverage of the Rebels With a Cause symposium:

  • Mar 30, 2019 | 1:00pm EDT | C-SPAN 2
  • Mar 31, 2019 | 2:00am EDT | C-SPAN 2

Book Reviews

Lenten Journey

Join us on a journey through Lent with Howard Thurman, Dorothy Day, Mahalia Jackson, Cesar Chavez, and more witnesses to faith and justice. We are reading our new book throughout the Lenten season, and we’d love for you to join the conversation. For each chapter, we’ll post reading guides here on this page as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Those guides will include scripture passages, questions for reflection, and suggestions for other resources, including our companion podcast (links to come). You can also join our Facebook group to participate directly in the conversation.

Podcast

Can I Get a Witness? The Podcast is an audio companion to the book. In each episode of this podcast, we talk with one of our authors about the person they profiled for the book and about their writing process. The podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

Can I Get a Witness? Charles Marsh to speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book

VA Fest of Book 2019

On Friday, March 22, Charles Marsh will present a lecture on Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith & Justice as the part of the Rebels With a Cause symposium. Along with Hal Crowther, author of Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners, they will discuss discuss their collections of biographical essays on unexpected and underappreciated leaders in struggles for justice and equality. Book sales and signing will follow.

The presentation will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.

To go to the Virginia Festival of the Book’s website, click here.

Call for Applications: Summer Internship in Lived Theology 2019

Summer Internship 2019Now Accepting Applications for Summer 2019

The Project on Lived Theology is now accepting applications for the 2019 Summer Internship in Lived Theology, an immersion program designed to complement the numerous existing urban and rural service immersion programs flourishing nationally and globally by offering a unique opportunity to think and write theologically about service. To download an application, click here.

The internship is open to U.Va. undergraduate students in any field of study. Selected participants spend the summer interning with the partnering institution of their choice. Each intern works directly with a U.Va. faculty member who acts as a theological mentor, offering guidance in reading, discussing, and writing about selected texts. Each intern also has a site mentor who shapes his/her work experience and may act as a conversation partner in the intern’s academic and theological exploration. Throughout the summer, interns blog for the Project on Lived Theology website; at the end of the internship, interns complete a final project and present their work at a public event.

The deadline for application submission is February 11, 2019.

For more information on the internship and to read blog posts and biographies from past interns, click here.

For online updates about the PLT Summer Internship, please use #PLTinterns, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @LivedTheology.

Something Is Happening in Memphis: Greg Thompson Delivers Guest Lecture

On Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Campaign

On Tuesday, October 30, Greg Thompson delivered a guest lecture entitled “Something Is Happening in Memphis: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Campaign.”

Detailing the vision of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Thompson reflects on King’s work in Memphis with the Sanitation Workers’ Strike. King believed the rich, poor, white, black, gentile, Protestant, and Catholic needed to be united in collaboration. When all people are unified, beloved community will truly exist. King anchored his movement in love and he was inspired by the movement in Memphis. Thompson traces the history of civil rights in Memphis to the city’s continuing evolution today. This includes the restoration of Clayborn Temple and the surrounding community.

Excerpt: “It was love that propelled him forward, and love that held him back from places that other people would go. And lots of people thought King’s insistence on love was naive. And it’s hard to blame them. Faced with hate, love can seem impossible. Faced with violence, love can seem irresponsible and immoral. And so, lots of people tried to root the Civil Rights Movement in an ethic not of Christian love, but of a generalized democratic vision of equity. In his commitment to nonviolence, King believed that nonviolent direct action was the highest expression of civic love.”

Listen to the entire lecture through its resource page here.

Greg Thompson serves as Director for Research and Creative Strategy for Clayborn Temple, a historic civil rights site in Memphis, Tennessee. In this capacity he is responsible for the creative storytelling at the heart of Clayborn’s programming and the creative strategy at the heart of Clayborn’s art-based community redevelopment. He is also the co-writer of a new musical production called “Union: A Musical” that tells the story of the Memphis Sanitation Worker’s strike of 1968, Martin Luther King Junior’s last campaign. He holds an MA and PhD from the University of Virginia.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

A Catholic Looking In: Reporting from CCDA’s 30th Annual Conference

On November 1-2, 2018, PLT graduate research student Tim Shriver attended his first CCDA National Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The conference encourages participants to “gain a fresh perspective on how to encourage wholistic restoration in our communities.” The 2018 conference theme was ROOTED. The conference is a place for Christians to meet to discuss their faith and commitment to community. The CCDA movement started in Chicago 30 years ago, and is rooted in establishing relationship and reconciliation.

Shriver writes a reflection paper on his experience at the CCDA conference. Shriver has worked extensively in the Catholic social justice movement, but he was unfamiliar with the evangelical community. His paper details the kinship he found, as well as the unfamiliarity of the whole ecosystem. Read his paper here.

Excerpt: “The importance of deep rootedness—in place, scripture, memory, community and God—echoed through our two days together. The theme played most powerfully for me in the back-to-back talks of Dr. Ray Bakke and Pastor Enid Almanzar. Dr. Bakke called on the crowd to remember the various taproots of faith from Luther, John Edwards, and John Wesley but also from the Catholic, Orthodox and various Coptic Christian churches of early Christianity. These interwoven tap roots, often forgotten, shape the church today.”

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more news from PLT fellow travelers, click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #PLTfellowTravelers. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Charles Marsh Delivers DuBose Lectures at Sewanee University

Can I Get a Witness? Explorations in an Amen

On September 26 and 27 Charles Marsh delivered three lectures at the School of Theology at Sewanee University as the 2018 DuBose Lecturer. Marsh built upon the theme of witness by presenting three different lectures.

The first lecture “Aristocrats of Responsiblity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Quest for a New Nobility” details the theology and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Marsh collects Bonhoeffer’s theological journey from gatherings in the dissident Church in Germany, his spiritual awakening during his trip through the Jim Crow south, and his late writings from Gestapo prison. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to a heightened and expansive sense of God’s presence and of what he called the ‘polyphony,’ the great richness and depth and textures of Christian faith.” Watch the first lecture here.

The second lecture”‘Better than Church’: The Civil Rights Movement and Religionless Christianity” explores the theology of the Civil Rights Movement, drawing on stories of Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, SNCC, and other pivotal figures. Marsh highlighted Hamer’s role in the movement: “She gave voice to an exuberant love of Jesus of Nazareth, an immersive intensive incarnational spirituality. I would say evangelical in the most important and robust sense of the word. A parable of God’s resounding yes and Amen spoken in Jesus and to be shared with everyone. And a love of the whole miraculous story, of the death and burial and resurrection of Christ. And her love, because of that particular conviction, was a great big open love, open to anyone who cared for the weak and the poor.” Watch the second lecture here.

The third lecture “Visions of Amen: On the Judgment of God and the Splendor of the World” draws on Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and delves into the complicity of the white churches’ response to the Civil Rights Movement. “Wandering in wastelands of our own design, we wonder, has not the judging, righteous God traveled to save us as well? Isn’t this the message of the gospel? There is a place beyond judgment and wrath? This place of course, cannot be reached without repentance, metanoia, beyond judgment and wrath is the forgiveness of sin. Attention to the sacrifices of Jesus and the excellences of Christ. Attention to the christological incognito, to the distressed and excluded. And the hope for the return of splendor in the world.” Watch the third lecture here.

Find more information on Marsh’s DuBose Lectures on Sewanee University’s website here. For a full listing of our spring speaking engagements with Charles Marsh and others, visit our events calendar here.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology. His publications include Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2014) and God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (1997), which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

We Need Each Other – More Than Ever Before

German Observations on the Current American Situation

In these days of considerable turbulence and uncertainty in the United States, we at the Project on Lived Theology have found ourselves hungering for the voices of our sisters and brothers around the globe. We invited Bishop Wolfgang Huber, a prominent German theologian and ethicist, to write a theological response to the current American political situation. In his piece, he reflects on Donald Trump as “a new focal point for the well-known phenomenon of ‘German Angst’” and finds hope in the lived witnesses of American citizens. Read his essay here, and watch this space in the coming months for more reflections from our fellow travelers around the world.

Excerpt: “Therefore it is a central task of Christians to speak frankly about our doubts, our anxieties, our xenophobia. Only in addressing those feelings do we have the chance to develop a realistic picture of our situation. Only if we learn to express our fears can we develop hope. Only if we address the reasons for mutual distrust can we develop trust. To develop the strength for such an approach we need each other. We need each other even more than ever before. Our understanding of the human person created into the image of God is at stake.”

To read more Wolfgang Huber, we recommend this excellent article: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Christian Existence on the Edge of the Future.”

To browse our PLT resource collection, click here. Updates on our resources can be found online using #PLTresources. To get these updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology.

 

PLT Alum Nathan Walton Defends Dissertation on Prosperity Gospel

Nathan WaltonDissertation Entitled Blessed and Highly Favored

On May 16th, PLT alum Nathan Walton, successfully defended his dissertation: “Blessed and Highly Favored”: The Theological Anthropology of the Prosperity Gospel.  This project examines Prosperity Gospel Pentecostalism, also known as the Word of Faith movement, which is the fastest growing Christian movement in the world.  Addressing the relationship between health and wealth within the Prosperity Gospel is at the heart of this dissertation’s central thesis.  It argues that the Prosperity Gospel presents a form of Christian individualism that is harmful for those who experience ongoing poverty or continue to lack robust health.  Promises of personal financial gain are preferred without adequate attention to the various systemic barriers to socioeconomic equality, and approaches to healing quite often lack a framework for affirming the integrity of those with ongoing sicknesses or disabilities.  This dissertation identifies the implications that this form of individualism has for those who remain financially and physically dependent.  In response, this dissertation affirms interdependence as a more ethically responsible value than independence.

The methodology of this dissertation draws from both qualitative research approaches and theological frameworks.  Through in-depth interviews, content analyses of sermons, and participant-observation research in two megachurch communities, it grounds its description of the Prosperity Gospel within ethnographic fieldwork.  Subsequently, it brings this research into conversation with the theological writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.  This dissertation then offers a more theologically robust and ethically responsible vision of Christian identity and practice that has implications for both academic discourse and the church.

While this project offers several important interventions into broader theological discourse, most importantly, it directly engages a movement largely ignored by academic theology.  By focusing on the Prosperity Gospel, as well as drawing from qualitative research methods, this dissertation contributes to the growing corpus of theological works which take the religious and quotidian lives of faith communities seriously.

PLT Director Charles Marsh posed a series of questions for Walton on his research:

1.      What is the prosperity gospel?

The Prosperity Gospel, the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world, claims that God desires for all believers to live in financial abundance and robust physical health.  Its proponents teach that poverty and sickness are both spiritual curses that have been defeated by Christ’s sacrificial death.  Together, health and wealth are understood as spiritual realities that Christians can bring into concrete manifestation through faith and verbal affirmations.  Today the Prosperity Gospel flourishes in Protestant (and increasingly in Roman Catholic) churches, especially among the poor in the United States and the Global South, promoting a vision of the good life that valorizes wealth and health.

2.      What drew you to the project?

I initially became interested in studying the Prosperity Gospel because a family member became involved in the movement.  Their embrace of Prosperity Gospel teachings raised a lot of theological questions for me, particularly as it coincided with my own academic work in religious studies.  As an undergraduate at UVA, I wrote a thesis on the Prosperity Gospel, focusing primarily on its use of scripture.  After completing a master of divinity degree, my academic questions about the Prosperity Gospel eventually grew beyond hermeneutical questions about scripture to then encompass broader sociological questions about why the Prosperity Gospel remained such a widespread phenomenon as well as questions about the broader impact of its teachings on adherents.  At the same time, I became fascinated with the interplay between these sociological realities and their theological roots.

3.      Kate Bowler has written a definitive history of the movement. Your paths may have crossed at Duke. What distinguishes your study from her account?

Kate Bowler’s Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, offers a compelling and illuminative account of the Prosperity Gospel.  She effectively traces this movement’s inception and history, while drawing out several of the dominant themes that have shaped its development.  As a historian, Bowler’s approach is largely descriptive.  While my dissertation provides a brief historical description of the movement, it is primarily informed by a theological analysis with specifically normative aims.  My work not only assesses the Prosperity Gospel, but offers a constructive theological response that draws from the theological and ethical reflections of 20th century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.  This theological lens and response is the fundamental difference in my account.

4.      Your dissertation is engaging, carefully argued and accessible to non-scholars. What do you hope this contributes to academic theology? What do you hope this contributes to the life of the church?

This project addresses a current gap in scholarship by directly engaging a movement largely ignored by academic theology.  By focusing on the Prosperity Gospel, as well as drawing from qualitative research methods such as ethnography, this dissertation contributes to the growing corpus of theological works which take the religious and quotidian lives of faith communities seriously.  In addition, this project has implications for the church because it illumines the ethical issues at stake in some of Christianity’s most dominant theological claims.  Perhaps most importantly, it provides next steps for Christians both within and beyond the Prosperity Gospel movement, liturgically and socially.

5.      Why is attention to the Prosperity Gospel important at this time in our nation’s history?

Attention to the Prosperity Gospel is important because it is a significant case study in the relationship between American religion and culture.  As the Prosperity Gospel has appropriated and interacted with social realities such as capitalism, consumerism, globalization, and American individualism, its ability to impact the economic and even political sensibilities of Americans has become increasingly apparent.  In addition, attention to the Prosperity Gospel is crucial for our historical moment because it also functions as a globally significant American cultural export.  As adherents from South Korea to Nigeria to Brazil embrace this movement, there is an argument to be made that they are also embracing many aspects of what it means to be an American.

6.      You’ve decided to pursue a theological vocation, at least for now-in a non-academic setting. Can you talk about the challenges and joys that you’ve discovered so far in doing theology in community development?

I derive great joy from witnessing how theological assumptions provide many of the parameters for how we do community development work, even as theological claims find expression in that work.  Some examples that I’ve witnessed include our incarnational emphasis that manifests in programs that are neighborhood-based, a commitment to discipleship that fundamentally shapes our youth programs, or a commitment to reconciliation that informs the type of witness we seek to provide for our city.  One of the challenges in doing theology in community development is that the collaborative nature of community development inevitably involves navigating non-Christian perspectives and expectations.  Yet rather than being an obstacle, this is simply an opportunity to model what it means to pursue faith-informed social engagement in an ideologically pluralistic world.

Nathan graduated and is currently serving as executive director of Abundant Life Ministries in Charlottesville. His interests include community development, theology, and parish ministry. In addition to his role with Abundant Life, Nathan serves as Community Life Pastor at Charlottesville Vineyard Church.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more news from PLT fellow travelers, click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #PLTfellowTravelers. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Something Is Happening in Memphis: Greg Thompson to Deliver Guest Lecture

On Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Campaign

On Tuesday, October 30, Greg Thompson will deliver a guest lecture entitled “Something Is Happening in Memphis: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Campaign.” The lecture will begin at 3:30 pm at the Bonhoeffer House at 1841 University Circle, Charlottesville, VA. Admission to the event is free, and the public is invited to attend. Parking is available at UVA International Center, 21 University Circle, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

Greg Thompson serves as Director for Research and Creative Strategy for Clayborn Temple, a historic civil rights site in Memphis, Tennessee. In this capacity he is responsible for the creative storytelling at the heart of Clayborn’s programming and the creative strategy at the heart of Clayborn’s art-based community redevelopment. He is also the co-writer of a new musical production called “Union: A Musical” that tells the story of the Memphis Sanitation Worker’s strike of 1968, Martin Luther King Junior’s last campaign. He holds an MA and PhD from the University of Virginia.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Charles Marsh to Deliver Nusbaum Lecture at Virginia Wesleyan

The American Civil Rights Movement and the Women Who Started It

On October 25 at 7:00 p.m. Charles Marsh will deliver the Justine L. Nusbaum lecture at Virginia Wesleyan University. The lecture will take place at Boyd Dining Center.

Marsh will discuss the religious beliefs behind the American civil rights movement, and highlight women who enacted these convictions. He will reflect on the witness of social reformers Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Gray Adams, and Jane Stembridge, Marsh will show how their determined leadership and organizing gives us insight in addressing challenges of today.

Find more event information on Virginia Wesleyan’s website here. For a full listing of our spring speaking engagements with Charles Marsh and others, visit our events calendar here.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology. His publications include Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2014) and God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (1997), which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.