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Martin Luther King The Prophetic Minister Of The South

2238 words - 9 pages

Walter Brueggemann writes, “Prophecy is born precisely in that moment when the emergence of social political reality is so radical and inexplicable that it has nothing less than a theological cause,” (B, 6). Not only do prophetic ministers grab hold of communities stuck in despair, but they also rally communities to keep reaching for a better future. Jeremiah, a prophetic minister of the Old Testament, delivered a message from the Lord to the Hebrew people who were struck with despair after their community had been split and one half destroyed. He wrote, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (Jer. 29:11). This is the true essence of a prophetic minister. I argue that Martin Luther King, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” illustrates prophetic ministry, as defined by Brueggemann, through criticizing the Christian community, attacking their royal consciousness, and bringing hope that a new consciousness will be brought forth. I will argue this by defining the prophetic ministry expressed by Brueggemann in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, analyzing King’s letter in light of this definition, and lastly comparing King’s prophetic ministry to the Old Testament, prophetic ministries of Jeremiah and Second Isaiah. By examining King’s letter through these relations, it is evident that King embraces the role of Brueggemann’s prophetic ministry.
According to Brueggemann, the goal of prophetic ministry is to encourage and stimulate an alternative consciousness than the governing culture. He argues that the main goals of this alternative consciousness are to provoke criticism of the community and to energize the community with hope for the future, (B, 3). Brueggemann analyzes the prophetic ministries of the Old Testament in order to depict the efforts to break royal consciousness. Royal consciousness can be described as the prevailing culture that prophetic ministry in turn criticizes and tries to break. Brueggemann gives the example of three fold culture of King Solomon which includes an economy of affluence, an oppressive social policy, and a turn to static religion. Israel became a consumer culture under King Solomon’s rule, and the Israelites no longer needed to depend on God for sustenance, (B, 26). With an economy of affluence came the presence of forced labor, which Brueggemann labels the oppressive social policy, (Brueggemann, 27). Lastly, Brueggemann characterizes the Solomonic reign with a static religion “in which God and his temple have become part of the royal landscape…,” (B, 28). While he illustrates royal consciousness in terms of Solomon’s reign of the Hebrew kingdom from 966 to 922 B.C., the main structure of royal consciousness can be seen and criticized in almost every culture. Israel was in a crisis of turning away from God, and the prophetic ministers of the Old Testament criticized the prevalent royal...

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