When we think about Christmas, do we associate it with charity or justice? Christmas certainly appears to be associated with charity in our larger culture. In contrast, Isaiah 9:2–7 reminds us that the lectionary readings for the season consistently focus on justice.
Contemporary African political theologies are a study in contrasts. A prophetic strand challenging unjust politics is alive and well, but so are political theologies that align with unscrupulous politicians and seek wealth at the expense of ordinary people. This dizzying situation raises questions of both substance and method about what African political theology is and how to do it.
This past weekend my Facebook and Twitter feeds were awash with rainbow colors and expressions of patriotic love for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
The Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granting “marriage equality” to same sex couples coincided with Pride weekend in many places, including Houston, Texas, where I have lived a good part of my life. My straight friends were particularly effusive in their expressions of joy on my behalf, as if Obergefell v Hodges were the decisive moment when people like myself finally achieved equality.
It was as if this moment were marked somehow out as sacred.
A 2005 New York Times poll discovered that 80 percent of US citizens believe that it is indeed possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (quoted on p. 70). In her new book Solidarity Ethics, Rebecca Todd Peters argues that it is this belief in self-sufficiency that, in part, underwrites the structural issues of oppression and inequality of our neoliberal globalized world. Global structural evils stand on the values and worldview of the privileged. And the benefits of privilege are so deeply woven into the fabric of our quotidian realities that it requires a concrete change in perspective—a conversion, in fact—to recognize the problems this privilege also creates for others.
Justice fails where civil law and order are privileged over peoples’ ability to determine their destiny by confronting affronts to their dignity by legitimate powers. Let me offer two examples. I confess I am still in love with the Occupy Movement (OWS).
Isaiah offers us a startling vision of a society beyond scarcity and gross inequalities of wealth, leading to a subversion of all our economic logic. If we are prepared to re-conceive our world as a divine gift to all, we will be prepared to work towards a day when no one is excluded from God’s bounty.