At the Niebuhr Forum on Religion in Public Life at Elmhurst College on September 22, the Reverend Al Sharpton called for a renewed focus on social justice in religion.
Sharpton, a Baptist minister and a leading figure in the battle for civil rights, talked about Reinhold Niebuhr’s theory that Christian faith and social activism are inextricably linked. A New York City native, Sharpton described how his own faith became entwined with social activism after reading Niebuhr’s writings as an adolescent.
In his lecture, punctuated with moments of humor, Sharpton spoke of the abject “piousness” he sees in today’s Christian congregations and argued for a return to a faith that places social activism at the center of Christian morality.
“I’m required by my faith to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” he said. “Jesus never stood for anyone but the outcast.”
Sharpton is the founder and president of the National Action Network, a not-for-profit civil rights organization headquartered in New York City, with more than 60 chapters nationwide. He is the host of PoliticsNation, a program on MSNBC that analyzes the top political and social news of the day, and of Keepin’ It Real, a nationally syndicated radio show.
The Niebuhr Forum on Religion in Public Life at Elmhurst College is an opportunity for scholars, civic leaders and public intellectuals from diverse fields to address the role and impact of religion on the common good.