Title (US): “The Dangerous Sermon -

An analysis of the spoken word

at the crossroads of theology and

politics in the United States”.

Title (DK): "Den Farlige Prædiken! -

En analyse af det talte ord

i krydsfeltet mellem teologi og politik i USA".

Author: Anne Charlotte Roel Adams.

Institution: University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Year published: 2021.​


The world has seen renewed tendencies for theologians, preachers, artists, and public speakers to substantiate political statements and attitudes using Christian values. The title of this thesis: “The Dangerous Sermon - An analysis of the spoken word at the crossroads of theology and politics in the United States,” is also its purpose. That is; to examine the relationship between the political dimension of the sermon and the spoken word. For why exactly does theology have anything to contribute in inflamed political matters? How can Bible texts help to shed light on contemporary societal issues? Based on two different sermons and a single poem held in recent times in the United States the thesis will explore the central question: What makes a sermon dangerous? The three keynote speakers are: Martin Luther King II, Amanda Gorman and William J. Barber II. Common to the three speeches is that all three are held by African Americans and that they relate theologically to current political issues. Thus, the three keynote speeches are situated at the crossroads between theology and politics. A mini analysis of Robert F. Kennedy’s speech on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King II is offered merely to give historical perspective. Based on the above three keynote speeches the thesis systematically examines the speakers’ biblical use, rhetorical devices, and understanding of theology as a tool for arguing politically. Concerning African American rhetoric the expertise of American theologian and writer, Richard Alan Lischer, will be applied and more generically on rhetoric also the Rev. Dr. Fred B. Craddock’s insights. In order to qualify the many perspectives on the issue at hand the thesis’ main points will be examined by methodically using the African American author and theologian, Frank A. Thomas’ concept, “Moral Imagination”, from his book from 2018: “How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon”. Hence Thomas’ Moral Imagination is this thesis' primary homiletical orientation and leading method.​

The four key elements of “Moral Imagination” Thomas uses to signify a dangerous sermon are:

  1. Envision equality and represent it by one’s physical presence.
  2. ​Empathy as a catalyst or bridge to create opportunities to overcome the past and make new decisions for peace and justice.
  3. ​Wisdom and truth in ancient texts, the wisdom of the ages.
  4. The language of poetry and art that lifts and elevates by touching the emotive chords of wonder, hope, and mystery.

In conjunction with Frank A. Thomas the results of the thesis’ findings will then be discussed by using the American homilitician, John S. McClure, and the Asian theologian and feminist, Kwok Pui-lan, and her approach to postcolonial preaching along with other great thinkers. The author of this thesis suggests adding a fifth element: The sermon’s spiritually inspired je ne sais quoi. To offer perspective a parable involving a preacher and a homeless African woman will be put into context of Thomas’ four “Moral Imagination” elements, before reaching the thesis’ final conclusion. All in search of answers to the thesis’ key question: What makes the spoken word, in the form of a sermon or a poem, dangerous?

(1) Thomas 2018: s. 45, 81. The four elements of Thomas’ “Moral Imagination” are here quoted in their totality.​​

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