Remembering King primarily for his struggle against segregation is to misremember him. (America does with King what the Church has done to Jesus: remade him in our own image.) Domesticating and sterilizing King is the only way to integrate him into our national consciousness. The unlikely alternative would be to question two of America’s sacred engines: its economy and military. Ironically, King’s critiques of poverty and militarism are more relevant today than his work on behalf of racial integration.
The first verse to notice is Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death”. Paul alludes in 1 Timothy 1:10 to this verse when he says that God’s law opposes slave traders. It shows that God’s word was always against the white people who captured Africans to work on American plantations, even though tragically those white people took centuries to realize it. One of the early rumblings of the movement to end the slave trade was a pamphlet published in 1700 called The Selling of Joseph, drawing attention to Exodus 21:16.
As Stringfellow writes:
To interpret the Bible for the convenience of America, as apropos as that may seem to be to many Americans, represents a radical violence to both the character and content of the biblical message. It fosters a fatal vanity that America is a divinely favored nation and makes of it the credo of a civic religion which is directly threatened by, and, hence, which is anxious and hostile toward the biblical Word. It arrogantly misappropriates political images from the Bible and applies them to America, so that America is conceived of as Zion: as the righteous nation, as a people of superior political morality, as a country and society chosen and especially esteemed by God.
Stringfellow goes on to say that “It is profane, as well as grandiose, to manipulate the Bible in order to apologize for America.” We must not “violate the Bible to justify America as a nation.”
After all, it makes no sense at all to disapprove of a cross in a window of the auditorium (as a “graven image”) while plasti-tacking paintings of the face of Jesus all over our children’s wings. (Thankfully, the women in our children’s program typically have a healthier understanding of these things than our preachers and elders.) It’s cultural, not theological, and therefore largely unconscious and unconsidered. We just know it must be wrong because that’s how it’s always been.
People die every day not knowing the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the consequences are eternal. Pastor John Piper said, “Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.” The need for believers to go to the nations—to the ends of the world—and share the gospel is urgent.
But why is it that we’re so quick to jump into the conversation about marriage—even though the realities of marriage seem to be cracking and fading all around us? When all the smoke and lights of opinions and ideas begin to fade away, we’re left with the jolting statistics that reveal to us that it’s far easier to “like” a good marriage article than it is to actually live out a good marriage.
The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.
If the same excuses that people use for not going to church are applied to other important areas of life, it’s easy to see how inconsistent our logic can be. For example, 10 reasons not to take a bath