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How Do We Americans Work Out Our American Identity? (Review)

By       Message Thomas Farrell     Permalink
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Christian scriptures were for the most part written by Jews. The Jews who were fervent followers of the executed Jew known as the historical Jesus got into fierce debates with their fellow Jews because of certain claims that the followers of the executed Jesus were making. Out of those fierce debates emerged sharp denunciations by the followers of Jesus of their fellow Jews who resisted their claims. The sharp denunciations were written up in Christian scripture, with tragic results for Jews persecuted by Christians over the centuries, including the Holocaust.

So King's own personal repudiation of Christian supersessionism is similar to the Second Vatican Council's formal repudiation of Christian supersessionism in the document titled NOSTRA AETATE.

Next, I want to say that I really like the way that King closes on such a deep personal note about himself:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!" (page 182)

No wonder he was moved to tears. In light of King's tragic assassination the next day, this is a deeply moving passage even to read.

King's final speech exemplifies the theology of personalism that he studied at Boston University. As Miller knows, Rufus Burrow, Jr., has explained the American Protestant theology of personalism in his two books: PERSONALISM: A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1999) and GOD AND HUMAN DIGNITY: THE PERSONALISM, THEOLOGY, AND ETHICS OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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