The Theo-Ethics of Howard Thurman: Reconciliation and Beyond
Robinson, Jacob Gordon
As an essential tenet of Christianity, reconciliation is not merely a doctrine or theological concept, but an ethic manifested in the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of those professing to be followers of the religion of Jesus. As a mediatory ethic, reconciliation aims not only to repair troubled relationships but also promotes integrative and cooperative forms of human relatedness. Yet, due to shallow and “cheap” conceptions which have failed to address the socio-political issues affecting the marginalized and disinherited in society, reconciliation has been relegated to the periphery of theological and ethical discourses. In order to effectively address the various forms of separatism and divisiveness in society and the Church due to race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, political affiliation, etc., reconciliation needs to be reconceived in a more robust manner in order to address the troubled forms of human relatedness on interpersonal, collective, and socio-political levels. As an exemplar in reconciliation praxis (theory and practice), Howard Thurman’s life, scholarship, and teachings serve as moral biography in the development of a holistic conception of reconciliation. Based upon religious experience and the love-ethic of Jesus (love God, love self, love neighbor, and love enemy), Howard Thurman’s theo-ethic of reconciliation becomes a moral imperative necessary in the transition toward the teleological goals of justice, peace, harmony, and wholeness. By attending to the various forms of division within Christianity, a theo-ethic of reconciliation becomes a witness to the possibilities of peaceful and cooperative ends in society.