“To talk about justice, one has to read the story (the biblical narrative) and immerse yourself in the story” says Tim Mackie, the creative director for The Bible Project, on Friday Night at the Upper House on the campus of UW-Madison. This was the first of three events for the Kingdom Justice Summit this weekend.
Mackie along with Propaganda, a Los Angeles native rapper and spoken-word poet, were invited to discuss the theology of justice. The two sat down for 90 minutes and talked about what it means for be about kingdom justice as the church.
Propaganda prefaced the whole discussion with an analogy of salt in a glass of water and how someone cannot point to the salt, but they know it’s there. And in the same way there is not one instance in the scriptures that defines justice, but we know it’s there because of the narrative.
The conversation began with Mackie, a professor of biblical studies at Western Seminary, explaining how the night will approach the idea of kingdom justice when he says, “It’s hard to be patient in culturally charged moments, but we need to be patient at the feet of the Master.”
Propaganda and Mackie made their way through Genesis to show how justice has always been. They created a rhythm of how the discussion would flow. Mackie read the scriptures and gave context and Propaganda added additional commentary. This format allowed for an authentic conversation to emerge, but the scriptures being the focal point of it all.
One of the main ideas that was returned to throughout the night is the purpose and order that God gave to humans through relationships. Propaganda described the relationships as horizontal, vertical, and cultivation – meaning how humans relate to each other, their Creator, and the land.
This pursues the idea that the church needs to treat people as image-bearers of Christ. Propaganda says bluntly, “If it’s happening to my neighbor, an image- bearer, I need to jump into this.” This leads to being like Jesus in actions.
Mackie jumped on to this idea as they go through Genesis 18, where justice is first mentioned in the scriptures when God speaks to Abraham. The verse is Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
Mackie highlighted the way of the Lord is justice, is righteousness. Propaganda added to that: “Look at the cross, the way of the Lord is to make your problems, His problems.” Their ideas came together so effortlessly, and the audience responded very positively.
They continued through the Bible to show that God has a history of subverting situations and people to show His justice. Propaganda shared the story of Moses birth as a way that God flipped cultural norms by using seven women to save the life of Moses, who in so saved a generation of Israelites. Mackie spoke to how God would turn dynamics to give the disenfranchised a name and subvert cultural norms again and again throughout the Bible.
The dialogue concluded with Propaganda and Mackie expressing the same sentiment that for justice to be lived out, the church must personally engage, do the way of the Lord, and give up power.
The event was a thoughtful way to start the Kingdom Justice Summit. The way Mackie and Propaganda worked together to share theology within their gifts was clear. Mackie, a teaching pastor and the co-founder of the Bible Project, used his gift of teaching. Propaganda, a rapper signed to Humble Beast Records, was able to use abstract, but precise language to communicate the Gospel.
Propaganda ended the night with sharing one of his spoken word poems that gave the audience a little taste of what to expect for the concert he will be having at the Upper House on Saturday.
Propaganda brought all the ideas of the night together when he said “The way the Father has beautifully made us is to do justice”