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Session: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Political Economy
90 Minutes

In accordance with the theme for AAR 2021, “Religion, Poverty, and Inequality: Contemplating Our Collective Futures,” the Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit invites papers that interrogate the relationship between the political economy and better human and planetary futures. Toward this end, we invite papers that reflect on Martin Luther King’s vision of an equitable world and ethics framed in terms of political economy, such as political theology of money/transaction, the wealth gap, universal basic income, and economic infrastructures that stand in opposition to King’s notion of the beloved community. The papers may ask: How does the study of religion open new avenues for the analysis of poverty and growing inequalities? What do sacred texts say about the condition of the world’s poor as well as the status and responsibility of its wealthy? Papers should place King in conversation with other thinkers who propose other futures via a critique of current political economy that lead toward economic inequalities and social inequities.

Session: The Black Social Gospel Tradition and the “Spiritual Left.”
120 Minutes
Co-Sponsored with Black Theology Unit and Ethics Unit

In accordance with the theme for AAR 2021, “Religion, Poverty, and Inequality: Contemplating Our Collective Futures,” the Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit invites papers that examine theologies and ideologies that resist social inequalities and re-imagine different worlds and other futures. To achieve this goal, we seek proposals that place King in dialogue with a Black Social Gospel tradition and the rise of the spiritual left. The most recent Georgia senatorial race, for example, put on display a Black Social Gospel theology as performed in the ministry and politics of Rev. Raphael Warnock, who pastors a church once led by King. Issues such as universal healthcare, worker’s rights, political disenfranchisement, and equal education standards, are deemed as “radical” by the so-called “Christian right.” We invite papers to consider the “radical” and the “extreme” in the thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. How might reading King in the Black Social Gospel tradition and the spiritual left lend insight into a theology that imagines our collective future? We invite papers to reflect creatively on this theme and take up a host of issues that shed light on new ways of reading the Black Social Gospel and the spiritual left.

Mission Statement:

The work of this Unit is focused on creating conversations around the unique contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Christian theological tradition in the twentieth century and to the religious, cultural, political, and economic consequences of his work. We are particularly interested in the many facets of the Civil Rights Movement, of which King was a significant part. These explorations have included a focus on the role of women in the movement, the economic dimensions of King’s work, and his use of both the theological traditions and rhetoric of the Black Church. In all of our sessions we are interested in fostering inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to this project.

Method of Submission:




Hak Joon Lee, hjlee@fuller.edu

Leonard McKinnis, leonardm@illinois.edu


Steering Committee:

Valerie Miles-Tribble, macsvmt@gmail.com

Larry Perry, larry.perry@northwestern.edu

Montague Williams, montaguewilliams@pointloma.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 1 – Two 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2025