Theology in the Public Square: Reflections on Reinhold Niebuhr and Malcolm X in a Racially Charged America

Topics: Black people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 8 (2139 words) Published: May 23, 2014
Theology
 in
 the
 Public
 Square:
 
 
Reflections
 on
 Reinhold
 Niebuhr
 and
 Malcolm
 X
 in
 a
 Racially
 Charged
 America
 
This paper reflects the theological implications of life in the public square from the perspectives of two theologians in a very racially charged US of the 1950/60’s.

 

 

 
One
 can
 conclude
 from
 the
 Adamic
 creation
 account
 that
 God
 created
 

humanity
 to
 live
 in
 harmony
 with
 God,
 the
 created
 order,
 and
 itself.
 
 In
 spite
 of
 its
 
fall
 and
 banishment
 from
 the
 sacred
 garden,
 humanity
 was
 not
 stripped
 of
 its
 
imagination
 and
 curiosity.
 As
 its
 progeny
 increased
 and
 expanded
 across
 the
 lands
 
of
 the
 earth
 so
 too
 did
 its
 potential
 for
 the
 marvelous:
 great
 acts
 of
 compassion,
 
sympathy,
 and
 consideration;
 a
 desire
 for
 justice;
 and,
 as
 Reinhold
 Niebuhr
 furthers,
 
the
 moral
 potential,
 “to
 consider
 interests
 other
 than
 their
 own
 …
 [and]
 on
 occasion
 
preferring
 the
 advantages
 of
 others.”1
 However,
 upon
 their
 collectivizing
 with
 each
 
other
 over
 time
 a
 startling
 contrast
 emerged.
 There
 was,
 “less
 reason
 to
 guide
 and
 to
 
check
 impulse,
 less
 capacity
 for
 self-­‐transcendence,
 less
 ability
 to
 comprehend
 the
 
needs
 of
 others
 and
 therefore
 more
 unrestrained
 egoism.”2
 
 And
 within
 the
 womb
 of
 
inferiority
 injustice,
 inequality,
 and
 oppression
 were
 birthed.
 
 
 

 

In
 light
 of
 these
 progeny
 we
 find
 the
 setting
 for
 this
 discussion.
 In
 examining
 

the
 words
 put
 forth
 by
 Reinhold
 Nieburh
 and
 Malcolm
 X
 we
 will
 navigate
 these
 
offspring
 of
 injustice
 as
 snapshots
 into
 their
 publically
 theological
 voices.
 It
 should
 
be
 noted
 that
 their
 voices
 do
 not
 necessarily
 emanate
 from
 a
 pulpit
 but
 rather
 from
 
books,
 lectures,
 streets,
 and
 ghettos.
 The
 voices
 may
 not
 resonate
 with
 all
 audiences
 
but
 they
 do
 resonate
 with
 those
 to
 whom
 they
 were
 spoken.
 As
 their
 words
 are
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 West,
 Cornel;
 Niebuhr,
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