Monday, January 21, 2013

Thabiti Anyabwile: two articles on Martin Luther King Day & a suffering minority

Thabiti Anyabwile, a Baptist pastor in the Cayman Islands and one of the members of the Gospel Coalition has two very important postings for Martin Luther King Day. One is a posting on his blog, Pure Church, “A Few Reasons King’s Vision for America Remains Unfulfilled.” The other is an interview of him by Trillia Newbell, “What we need to learn from the minority experience.” The latter is also on the Gospel Coalition site.

Anyabwile begins has article on King’s vision and why it is still unfulfilled with this:

Across the United States, persons will commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rightly so. God used Dr. King to save America from her fratricidal hatred of her darker brothers. In an unanticipated and much longed for historical moment orchestrated in the councils of Divine Providence, God raised Dr. King onto the national scene as the visionary, orator and martyr for Civil Rights. Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, full civil rights seemed distant and nearly impossible to achieve. After roughly 20 years of public ministry and agitation, the denial of full Civil Rights seemed unthinkable. What happened in between must surely be one of the most remarkable records of God’s deliverance of any people in any place.

After explaining how King should be seen as the only true American hero since the ending of WWII, Anyabwile gives several reasons why the dreams are not fulfilled. One is the lack of any in-depth knowledge of King, his concerns, purposes and writings. Anyabwile writes, “Most Americans–White and Black–know little more of King than the fact that he was a preacher and a “slain civil rights leader.” Fewer still have read any of his writing while assigning him iconic status. But the problem with icons is that they rarely communicate the depth and substance of the thing pictured.”

Anyabwile goes on to write of the impersonal American wars of our times, which include the use of drones in “civilian areas,” and of President Obama and abortion. He writes:

Does anyone else find it a tragically sad irony that the new icon of civil rights progress, President Obama, has with his presidential policies regarding abortion ended untold numbers of Black lives when King fought to save them? President Obama’s position on abortion actually represents the most vile and fundamental betrayal of King’s legacy. King fought against the country so that the country might live up to its ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” King sought the extension of life and the full thriving of humanity for African Americans who were systematically denied it. President Obama’s policy systematic ends life even before it begins. His policy on abortion must surely be the grossest violation of basic humanity and civil rights in American history. Grossest because his victims are unborn and defenseless children. Those with tender consciences will object to this word choice, but we can only call the President’s policy and its effects “demonic.”

These are strong and important words with a clarity that should cause many to take notice. There are also words on King’s view of the “Beloved Community.” Read the article here: A Few Reasons King’s Vision for America Remains Unfulfilled.

The other article, an interview, centers on how Christians in the United States might learn from the minority experiences of the black community, as they themselves enter into a similar experience. To get a sense of the kinds of answers that one can find in this article here are two of Anyabwile’s thoughts:

3. Learn how to suffer.
What American believers are now calling "persecution" is mild compared to the brutality Christians face in other parts of the world. What we're facing is almost loving treatment compared to what African Americans from the early 1600s beyond the mid-1900s faced. Black people have been a suffering people and have managed to endure that suffering with tremendous dignity. Right now, the church in the United States doesn't seem to know how to bear reproach very well. The theologies dominating the airwaves are prosperity theologies—of the materialistic word-faith type as well as of the more mainstream American triumphalistic and moralistic type. So when the church hurts it quickly finds the fetal position and whines its way through the conflict. African Americans didn't have that luxury of meeting suffering with whining—and no one was listening! We had to learn that suffering wasn't the end, and that our humanity was proven by our suffering even if it was sometimes distorted by it as well. The church must draw from those resources.

4. Learn how to persevere when everything is against you.
Are we going to close our churches, withdraw from the public square, avoid our neighbors, and hide our faith because we're opposed? We won't if we're genuinely Christians. We'll have to press on in the face of minority status and systemic repression. This also means learning not to whine and to get on with living. So what if the deck is stacked? It's not going to change by complaining. No one is going to give you anything. If you have a case to make, you're going to have to make it from the floor of the lion's den. Everything about it is unfair. Get over it. Get on with it.

Again here is the link to the article, “What we need to learn from the minority experience.”

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