January 16, 2015 / Filmwell
This debut feature from Paul Harrill has been getting a lot of press. Jeffrey Overstreet …
February 10, 2017
In 2003, a group of theologically minded graduate students collaborated to form the first online issue of The Other Journal. At the time, we observed an uncomfortable alliance between an overtly evangelical president and a religiously driven endorsement of American exceptionalism. We saw that in the wake of 9/11, we were on the verge of two simultaneous (and ultimately protracted) wars in the Middle East. And we believed that if we were to truly understand the moment and challenge the dominant discourse, it was essential to promote theological literacy and Christian ethical discernment.
This is a belief that has continued to guide us over the last fifteen years. Our mission then (and now) was to encourage churches, divinity schools, and Christian leaders to wrestle with real issues in our culture, our theologies, and our community practices. Our hope (then and now) was that this dialogue would help our readers to be sharp interpreters of the culture and that it would shape us toward being thinkers and practitioners who embody and pursue love, justice, and peace.
In 2017, we face a very different cultural/political moment than when the journal first began. And yet, with the election and ascendency of Donald Trump to the presidency, the abrupt shift toward an “America first” mentality, and the emboldening of racism, sexism, environmental assault, and corporate exploitation, our work at TOJ now seems more pressing than ever.
As a staff we’ve felt a pressing need to say something, to clearly and unequivocally register our dismay and offer guidance for what to do next. But we have also grappled with how best to offer such a response in this particularly chaotic moment. We have felt the same shock, confusion, and uncertainty that so many others have expressed; and as a journal, we are gravely concerned about the trajectory of a presidential and congressional agenda that appears regressive and destructive with respect to health care, environmental protections, affirmative action policies, and international relations.
Perhaps most disturbing to many of us here at TOJ, however, has been the failure of the church to generate and coalesce around sustained movements of social and political alternatives in the face of this threat. We have struggled to understand how so many evangelicals and Catholics could square their own devotion to life with an individual so out of step with the message of the gospel. We have also been perplexed by Christians on the left who have not pushed harder to come together to create communities determined by the collective good rather than the deep sense of individualism that is so characteristic of a society of choice.
Perhaps now more than ever, we desperately need a movement rooted in collective hope and a defiance to empire. To that end, we have a deep theological heritage to draw from, one that has a long and rich tradition of embracing its prophetic voice in the face of oppressive and hegemonic regimes. When German theological institutions signed off on the war efforts of WW1, Karl Barth uttered a defiant theology of refusal, insisting that God stood over and against state politics. Mary Daly revealed and critiqued the ways that patriarchy infused itself in theological discourse, opening up ways of theologizing otherwise. And James Cone, who grew up in the Jim Crow South and experienced the white theological institutions of the United States, asserted the blackness of Jesus as one way to disrupt white supremacy’s theological foundations. Christian theology, when at its best, is a discourse of resistance, and this is the history we aim to draw on in our present moment.
Like many of you, we have been moved to action: to march, to contact our representatives in Congress, to donate to causes, and to use our voices. The new administration has signaled its intent to be ruthless and to circumnavigate traditional institutions and the constraints of law and the Constitution. The need for a movement of resistance–here and now–is real and essential.
But while the Trump presidency is deeply disturbing, we also believe it is time for the church to begin leading a movement that addresses so many of the underlying issues that brought us here in the first place–an abiding faith in neoliberalism that has ushered in a new Gilded Age; a political theory of democracy that sees voting as the primary mode of political engagement; the inability to grapple with or acknowledge institutional racism; and a worship of a debt-driven capitalism that views our bodies as a resource to exploit for profit.
We do not know what the next four years will bring for the world politically, economically, or religiously. Too much is shifting; too much is uncertain. But we do know that Trump has emerged as a symptom of deeper cultural concerns. And as we have tried to do for the last fifteen years, we hope to continue offering you theology, art, and creative writing that is prophetic, resistant, and forceful, work that points the way toward love, justice, and peace.