by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
It’s rare to find a theologian who roots his or her research in the Gospel of Jesus and is unafraid to unpack the challenging social, economic and political implications. One of the best was Robert McAfee Brown, a theologian and activist who died in 2001. This week, I’ve been reading the excellent new Orbis Books collection, Robert McAfee Brown: Spiritual & Prophetic Writings (selected with an introduction by Paul Crowley) and feel inspired by his accessible wisdom all over again.
Brown’s theology and spirituality are consistently clear and unusually straightforward. They flow naturally from the Scriptures. I consider him one of the greatest theologians of the second half of the 20th century and recommend this book and all his books to anyone seeking a clear, biblically based, justice-oriented theology and spirituality.
Born in 1920, Brown was ordained a Presbyterian minister, served as a pastor and studied at Amherst College, University of Oxford, Columbia University, and Union Theological Seminary. He taught at Union Theological Seminary, Stanford University and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., where I first met him. He participated in a Freedom Ride, was an official Protestant observer of the Second Vatican Council, marched in Selma, Ala., and joined countless protests against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, and the U.S. wars in Central America. He published dozens of best-selling works, which I read and reread over the years, such as Theology in a New Key, Saying Yes and Saying No and Religion and Violence. He died in September 2001; his memoir, Reflections Over the Long Haul, was published several years later…