Can Black Churches Help ‘the Least of These?’

As the American left continues to seek a coherent way to articulate its moral priorities in these days of political stalemates and widening income gaps, it might look to the most unlikely of places — the academy — for guidance and inspiration.

At elite universities and seminaries thrives a constituency of African American intellectuals who fiercely contend that the American conversation needs to stay focused on justice — specifically, for those whom the Bible calls “the least of these.”

Cornel West, who was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest, is perhaps the most visible. But there is also James Cone of the Union Theological Seminary, whom the New Yorker profiled in 2008 as an intellectual influence on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — the controversial pastor emeritus of President Obama’s church in Chicago. And there is Eddie Glaude of Princeton, who last year wrote a red-hot essay for the Huffington Post called “The Black Church is Dead.”

And there is Obery Hendricks, a Bible professor at Union whose book, “The Universe Bends Toward Justice,” was published this month. (The title borrows from an often-used phrase by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.). In a series of interconnected essays on subjects ranging from gospel music to supply-side economics, Hendricks rails against the conventional hypocrisies in public moral and religious discourse.

According to Hendricks’s biblical exegesis, Jesus was a class warrior. Jesus said, “Woe to you who are rich,” Hendricks wrote. “Wealth becomes unjust for Jesus when it is used in an unjust fashion, or for unjust ends, or when it is greedily accumulated and not shared with those in need of material assistance.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Lisa Miller

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