Reflections

A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from Yale Divinity School

Spring 2020 | Hard Times, Gospel Values

When we planned this issue more than a year ago, we did so out of a concern about the growing economic gap in American society. There are many studies that demonstrate the rapid growth in wealth among the 1 percent and the decrease in wealth of the lower 90 percent. A number of essays here – e.g., Marilyn Kendrix’s article and the sidebar – point to various findings. As a Christian and a New Testament scholar by training, my motives were biblically based (see John Collins’ article). My concern was that our nation had struck a Faustian deal that privileged the accumulation of wealth over the concern for human beings. Simply put, I could not square the contrasting beatitude and woe in Luke (“Blessed are the poor … Woe to you who are rich”) with what I saw occurring in American society.

These concerns have taken on a much greater sense of urgency with the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the articles in this issue had been submitted before this pandemic became world news and certainly before it became a pressing concern in America. Now we are faced with the largest week of unemployment claims on record. If this has not yet affected your own family, it probably will; it has already affected ours. Similarly and even more poignantly, we are deeply concerned about the healthcare system and about who will have access to it… 

We need to address the current situation structurally. It will not be enough to address it individually. We need to be advocates for just policies that support all equitably. I am hoping that our political representatives craft legislation to support our economy that will protect jobs and not permit corporations to use tax dollars to enrich stockholders. We need to find ways to expand our health system to care for the avalanche of sick that now seems certain to come. There should not be a distinction between those who can pay and those who cannot. Care should be predicated on human need. We need to make certain that those who live on the margins have food to eat. The logistics required by each of these statements are staggering, but we have to find some ways to address these issues as a society. - Gregory E. Sterling

Read the full article From the Dean’s Desk - Spring 2020

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The capitalism of today shapes people in profound ways that rival the influence of religion on them. Religion has the capacity to direct life conduct in a thoroughgoing manner and thereby...

Willie Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at YDS. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale, 2010) won an...