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In 1992 when Walter Wink stated in his Engaging the Powers, “Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world,” he was more than right.1 Nowadays, we experience violence everywhere we breathe, walk, and look, even though not every violent case is visible or directly felt. In his statement, Wink was referring specifically to two aspects of violence that make us particularly uncomfortable or sad living in the twenty-first-century North American context. He made the statement in 1992, twenty-four years after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. A great deal had changed over those two decades, yet violence itself had not changed all that much! Violence still remains violence. Though when Wink discusses the violent ethos of the modern world, he does not have the Civil Rights Movement foremost in mind (yet still, he mentions King several times in his writing), his critical observation that our time and place is more permeated with violence is valid and helpful. The second thing that makes us sad is that Wink observes that human violence has become a more acceptable spirituality of the modern world. That is, with violence being a real part of our souls and lives, now we not only accept violence as a natural part of our life, but also in many cases approve the use of violence. Of course, in the twentieth century, including King’s era, violence in various forms was sanctioned in many ways, but now we see this tendency more elevated in everyday life. Indeed, the most dreadful thing about violence is that once we start accepting and approving violence as a natural or inevitable part of our lives, there is no remedy for violence except for more violent actions against another violence. Given the circumstance, we (must) ask. In a culture with such a violence-saturated ethos, where do we find hope and what message should be proclaimed? Specifically, what hope or message do we preachers have and will proclaim? When these urgent questions come to visit our troubled hearts, gratefully we may find King’s homiletic practice or his pastoral and prophetic message still applicable today for many a great benefit. I see at least three benefits or lessons from King that we can adopt in formulating the message of hope, justice, and reconciliation for our context.


Originally published as a book chapter in Festschrift for Dale Andrews, Ron Allen et al. eds. (Wipf & Stock, 2018)

Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.

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