Hi. Welcome to our corner of the internet. We’re happy you’re here.
We are a group of scholars, thinkers, and activists whose paths crossed five years ago, the start of what would turn out to be a long-lasting “fellowship” of friendship and support. (Yes, there is a strong Lord of the Rings fandom among us.) We all attended Christian universities or colleges as undergraduates, and went on to pursue advanced degrees, joining the world of academia for either a passing moment or as a lifelong endeavor. We are mostly in our late 20s, with a few respected elders in their early 30s. Beyond that, we have a wide range of contexts, from the Pacific Northwest to Louisiana to Maine, where some live in the big cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, or Boston while others reside in small towns in the Midwest or the Texas plains.
As diverse graduate students, raised in the church, we have been participants in two different conversations -- an academic conversation about social equity and justice and a spiritual conversation about the values of Christianity -- that are not always intelligible to one another. With many Americans expressing a hope for dialogue and bridge-building, we are exploring the possibilities and limits of pursuing conversation at the intersection of politics and faith.
Our title One Spoke is a bit of a play on words, unearthed from a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor killed during World War II, in which he describes how we are called to actively oppose evil, driving a “spoke” into the wheel of injustice. Far too often, the Christian emphasis on compassion and mercy has limited us and given rise to the assumption that Christians only passively respond to injustice. We disagree. We believe that Christians must lead the fight to make this world a better place, which includes not only standing up in defense of the vulnerable, the weak, and the downtrodden, but also trying to combat the systems that create these problems in the first place.
But One Spoke also refers to the act of speaking, of striving to communicate more effectively, putting words to our thoughts and values. From the Bible, we know that speaking is an act of creation; God speaks to call things into being, to heal people from sickness, and to bring the dead to life. Most of us are grad students in the humanities, where discursive analysis is a major part of our scholarship: What is being said? Who is being included or excluded by our words? Where are the deeper connections, and how are they revealed and shared? As the nature of the current political, social, and cultural landscape unfolds after November's election, many of us felt especially that we had not found the courage or the voice to begin communicating with our largely white Christian communities about our commitments to social justice. Through this blog, we strive to explain how the tools and perspectives of academia can actually help people better live out the demands of their faith in the public sphere. By attempting to “translate” between Christian and academic vocabulary, we also hope that our blog will be useful for academics whose exposure to Christianity might otherwise have been somewhat one-dimensional.
The friends and writers who gather in conversation on this blog do not always agree with each other on the best way to pursue justice, and part of what we wrestle with is how to respond when our faith commitments give rise to different political perspectives. But we still talk and laugh and love each other. As we work through these difficult questions together, we hope also to pursue a deeper and broader understanding of the kinds of politics that might arise out of a Christian worldview. Conversations about religion and politics often provide only a few, narrow snapshots of what it looks like to be a Christian in the world, and we are searching for a greater variety of Christian practices in our communities. We know we still have much to learn -- but we also hope that by speaking up, we can promote dialogue, justice, and greater respect for the dignity of each human person.