Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 114

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 1 2015 Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race & American Politics By Peter Goodwin Heltzel. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. 288 pp. $35.00 hardcover. (This excellent review by Vincent Bacote is of a book that was published in 2009. Cultural Encounters did not offer a review of it at that time but believes the book is important enough for a review now even though it was published several years ago.) What vision of justice emerges from fidelity to Jesus? A survey of various Christian approaches to public life reveals that the answer varies. I have told students that some Christians are prone to vote Democrat or Republican out of concerns for justice expressed according to the priorities of different social agendas. African Americans have had concerns related to the pursuit of remedies to the legacy of racism, and white Evangelicals in recent decades have emphasized abortion and issues related to the family. Peter Heltzel observes that the parallel tracks of these two traditions may be beginning to merge in light of the emergence of a generation of Evangelicals who have a broader social agenda. Heltzel’s Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race & American Politics examines the history of Evangelical public engagement, broadly considered. As the subtitle makes clear, the lingering problem of race is a prominent thread throughout the book, and it is also central to the shifts Heltzel observes in Evangelicalism. In the first chapter, Heltzel makes the claim that “[p]rophetic black Christianity that had been tucked away within a white evangelical modernity gradually emerged to redirect evangelicalism to its deepest prophetic roots” (4). What follows traces the path to this development. The first two chapters look at Evangelicalism (which Heltzel defines according to the David Bebbington “quadrilateral” of Biblicism, conversionism, crucicentrism, and activism) as it has developed in the United States and as it has contended with race. In contrast to those who regard Evangelicalism as a predominantly white phenomenon, Heltzel regards the prophetic counter-tradition that emerges from black Christianity as a form of Evangelicalism that critiques the religion of the majority (particularly in the South) and calls for a form of fidelity to Christ that includes the pursuit of equality and reconciliation. Following the historical overview, Heltzel contrasts two prominent figures for each stream of public Christianity: Martin Luther King Jr. and Carl F. H. Henry. Heltzel first examines Martin Luther King Jr.’s theology of the cross. DOI: 116