Pastoral Perspective — On Prevailing Perseverance Upon Confluence of Critical World Crises

As excerpted from a Time Magazine piece on the twentieth century theologian Karl Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963 regarding his counsel to students of theology nearly a century before now:

“[Barth] recalls that… he [had] advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper—and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’”

The article goes on to give us more of Barth’s thoughts on journalists and their place in the world:

“Newspapers, he says, are so important that ‘I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church – in that order. Journalists form public opinion. They hold terribly important positions. Nevertheless, a theologian should never be formed by the world around [them] – either East or West. [One] should make [one’s] vocation to show both East and West that they can live without a clash. Where the peace of God is proclaimed, there is peace on earth… implicit. Have we forgotten the Christmas message?’” (1)

Visions of Christmas in July 2020? What better way to observe summertime for me this week during a global pandemic with international mass protests’ civil unrest and worldwide economic uncertainty than myself visiting the N Jersey shore on an uncrowded socially distanced Fathers’ Day weekend with two of my daughters and son-in-law (J.G., Ph.D.’20), saying goodbye to past frequent oceanside jaunts from Princeton seminary days, giving thanks for blessings in celebration of commencements followed by their pending imminent move while grieving in lament, missing anticipatedly the loss of proximate opportunity for such respite and times of refreshing in the near future!

Having a daughter attending college presently studying journalism, and another one whose most recent degree in divinity involves pastoral studies in practical theology, the eminent 20th century pastoral theologian’s wise words of counsel bear witness prominently on my mind for our own present day and time of ill, evil, and dread in the new millennium. Present leaders of prominent theological institutions in our nation’s land forthrightly offer forthtelling prophetic thoughts and sobering sentiments of late.

“When the President and other national leaders became aware of the deadly nature of COVID-19, where was the urgent effort to marshal national resources to create the necessary tests and the PPE that we knew we would need? Where was the effort to bring the country together to create a united front against this deadly disease? Where was the spirit of international cooperation to foster collaboration with other countries when facing a global pandemic? These are not only political questions; they are moral questions — questions with life and death in the balance.” (2)

I grow tired these days of popularized nonsensical responses unduly influenced by polarizing politicized propaganda in the face of the staggering confluence of critical crises our world is experiencing today. In the midst of these cross streams of debating rejoinders, I judge they will eventually prove to be unhelpful remarks even and especially when issued from positions of authority over us. In and through the cacophony of belabored discussions, beloved, we shall not cease nor desist in the call for moral leadership to rise above, to stand up for the cause of the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the afflicted, the marginalized, the needy, and the most vulnerable among us.

I pray the Lord deliver—save us from our own selves, from ignorance, from incompetence, from apathy, from neglect, from inaction, from senselessness, from stupidity, from hopelessness, from resignation, from disease, from evil, from death. O Lord, in your mercy…. maranatha • even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly

May the better angels of our nature prevail, preside, and persevere by providence of providential provision for all humanity.

In the grip of grace, for justice and peace,

—Pastor Rex Espiritu



[2] — Craig Barnes, Princeton Theological Seminary • Greg Jones, Duke Divinity School • Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary • Jan Love, Candler School of Theology – Emory University • Greg Sterling, Yale Divinity School • Emilie Townes, Vanderbilt Divinity School

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