Dividing the Kingdom
When Columbia Theological Seminary began this journal a little over a decade ago, we committed to two goals. First, we would bring theological reflection to bear on vital contemporary topics in ways that are accessible to laity. And, second, we would attempt to model productive theological conversation in both tone and format. We’re proud of the work we’ve done in this regard.
The 2016 presidential campaigns and the election of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States has placed us in a difficult spot.
On the one hand, this topic, if any, surely warrants theological reflection. Regardless of theological creed or political persuasion, I think all of us have experienced the campaign, election, and transition as a series of social whiplashes: each day’s news cycle dramatically replaces yesterday’s and things we thought were settled (shared commitments to the common good, standards for respectful and thoughtful political engagement, national sovereignty, facts. . .) turn out to be in question. Our need for thoughtful and incisive theological reflection and social analysis is great.
On the other hand, the campaign, election, and transition have revealed just how difficult respectful and productive conversation is. When seemingly self-evident standards for such conversation are dismissed as “political correctness,” when there is vituperative disagreement even on what we disagree about, and when—above all—the forces of racism, classism, and gender bias have animated deep and regressive animosities, the very modes of conversation which the Christian faith demands of us and upon which democracies rely have been called into question, if not outright rejected.
How are we to offer theological reflection and also model productive conversation on such a topic and at such a time?
In light of these tensions, this edition of @ this point has pursued a different format in the hope that theological reflection and social analysis might lead back to respectful and productive conversation. This edition, therefore, offers a set of eight short reflections on the topic. These reflections come from a range of scholars—four from CTS and four from institutions around the U.S.—that have thought deeply, incisively, and, we believe, wisely. We’ve paired these reflections by theme and offer each pair (with a short introduction) in one of the sections of the journal usually reserved for its lead essay and responses. We’ve offered a sermon preached by one of CTS’s own, Associate Professor of Theology Martha Moore-Keish, in lieu of a reply. And we’ve generated a series of online resources (essays, prayers, letters, sermons, etc.) on the topic in lieu of our typical curricula. Where we have not modeled conversation here, we hope that we have at least provided resources for readers to have the very types of conversations we would otherwise model.
This edition could not have come about without the hard work of a number of people and organizations that need to be recognized here. The editorial board saw the wisdom of taking the format of this edition in a different direction and guided it into existence. Ginny Seibel, an MATS student at CTS, did the hard work of seeking out and collating resources for the “From this point forward” section of the journal. Various board members of the Niebuhr Society offered us essays. Dave True and Carl Raschke, editors of the journal Political Theology, not only offered to post these essays in their own online version of that journal but to publicize this journal there as well. And each of the writers in this journal gave up work they were already doing during a busy time to offer their reflections. I’m grateful to all of these folks and glad that I have been able to work with—and learn from—them.
As the seminary and its constituencies, the wider church, U.S. society, and, indeed, the whole world move into this new time, we hope this edition will offer insight, utility, and hope.
On behalf of the Editorial Board,