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Letter From A Birmingham Jail

A police dog held by a white police officer tears the trouser leg of a Black man, who looks calmly over his shoulder.
An image from the non-violent Civil Rights protests of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama (USA).

I am coming to feel that people of ill-will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.

– Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail (April 1963)

From a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in April 1963, Dr King wrote one of the most powerful Christian essays of the 20th century. It was a response to an open letter by eight local Alabama clergymen that criticised the non-violent Civil Rights protests in the city. It was the response of a Christian whose faith was not merely a set of beliefs and actions that he shared, but the reality in which he lived and the lens through which he both experienced the world as it was, and saw the world as it would one day be.

In this special episode we consider the background to King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail and then we read it together. As Christians in July 2020, we should not need to be reminded that Black lives matter - and yet, here we are. We need only look back to Dr King for an appropriate Christian response, but it also behoves us to join his lament. It is nearly 60 years since King wrote this essay, and still our societies - let alone our churches - have failed to internalise some of the most basic tenets of racial justice and Christian fellowship.

Transcript for introduction coming soon!

What Is God Made Of? (2 Corinthians 3)

We're back! This is the Sunday morning talk that I would have given in church this morning, if we weren't all locked down trying to squash what's left of COVID-19 in Scotland. My wife and I prepared this together, and the subject - how do we connect with God? - has been on our minds for quite some time now. When a young friend posed the eponymous question we really just went off.

Transcript coming soon!

edit (2020/03/15)

When the gospel texts converge and diverge in their retellings of the Jesus story, it can be tempting to gloss over what makes each gospel text unique. Nathan Kitchen takes us through some examples to help us read the details better. As well as nerding out on synoptic studies, we also had a great conversation about sacred time and space, and what psalms fatigue means for our (lack of) appreciation for the Psalter.

Transcript coming soon!

minicast: Tum'ah (Leviticus 12-15)

I got started on this week's episode... and I didn't finish it. But the Leviticus segment, sparked by a note in the Jewish Study Bible, was too interesting to leave in the archives. So this minicast is a look at the tum'ah - the uncleanness - of Leviticus 12-15, from a different perspective than the one usually taken in both Jewish and Christian commentary. The JPS Torah commentary volume on Leviticus also helps to place the text's concept of contagion within its ancient Near Eastern origin.

None of this is to say that the contagious miasma posited by some modern Jewish scholars is (or was) actually a phenomenon in the real world: only that this may have been the original concept behind these tum'ah texts. Re-framed with the language of ritual impurity rather than physical aura, the texts remain relevant even as Jewish thought moves on to re-read re-interpret them: because it's the theology of the text that gives it enduring significance.

Transcript coming soon!