Church and Modern Society

Salvation and the “Pursuit of Happiness”

by Paul L. Gavrilyuk

selfhelp

Our pop culture is presently awash with books offering assistance in the “pursuit of happiness.” A search for “happiness” on amazon.com produces nearly 250,000 results, with books ranging from The Positivity Kit (“instant happiness on every page”), to a volume that more realistically guarantees to make you 10% Happier, to a teen’s guide How to Like Yourself, to How to Be Happy in an Unhappy World, to Happiness is a Serious Problem, to, finally, Authentic Happiness. Then there is more specialized literature, such as The Happiness Diet (featuring a yummy chocolate-dipped strawberry on the cover), The Weight of Happiness (combining both a diet and an exercise program), Financial Happine$$ (with the appropriate dollar signs), and of course, Complete Guide to Sexual Happiness after Age 60 (this one is self-explanatory). Should you feel cheated in this brave new world, there are also titles such as Who Stole My Happiness? and even The Happiness Trap. The books that tap into the spiritual dimension of happiness generally serve “religion lite,” such as Gratitude Works!, which assures us that becoming more grateful helps with depression. While there are notable exceptions,[1] the vast majority of self-help books confidently locate happiness in this life and this world.

In contrast, the Christian understanding of salvation, as it is traditionally expressed, involves everlasting life and the reality that transcends this world, namely, the kingdom of God. Continue Reading…

Orthodoxy and Race in Light of Trump’s Inauguration

by Georgia Kasamias

iakovos_boy

On March 15, 1965, something momentous occurred. Martin Luther King Jr. marched down the streets of Selma side by side with various important religious and social leaders to memorialize the deaths of two civil rights heroes. With him marched Archbishop Iakovos—the only white bishop who had responded to the call to march.

The three marches on Selma served to highlight the inequality and racial discrimination African-Americans were still facing at the time, even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These marches are said to have directly influenced the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a legal measure that sought to protect African-Americans from unfair voting roadblocks.

Now, over 50 years later, progress has been made. The icing on the cake is surely the eight years Barack Obama has spent in the Oval Office. A black president—elected and re-elected—surely must be the signal that racism, especially explicit racism, is a phenomenon of the past.

Or so we told ourselves until 2016. Continue Reading…

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

by Albert J. Raboteau

iakovos_king

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, the son of Alberta Williams King and Martin Luther King, Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. King’s childhood was happy and secure, though all too early he was made aware of the hurts inflicted by racism. Like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he entered the ministry, and throughout the years of his leadership in the civil rights movement, he remained a preacher, regularly occupying the pulpit for Sunday worship, and drawing upon the black church tradition in which he was formed for both the style and content of the political speeches he delivered at demonstrations and appearances in the public square. Courses in philosophy, ethics, and theology at Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University provided King with the opportunity to develop an intellectual framework for systematic analysis of the relationship between Christianity and society, but the existential base for his commitment to social justice was already established in the tradition of black religious protest exemplified by his father’s and grandfather’s embrace of social gospel activism. Strongly attracted to the intellectual life, King might have combined ministerial and academic careers by choosing job offers at schools in the North, but in 1954 he chose instead to accept the fateful call to pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.    Continue Reading…