Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation
In his stirring new book, Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Ph.D., paints a prophetic picture of an evangelical Christianity that eschews a majority mentality and instead fights against racism, inequality, and injustice, embracing the concerns of the poor and marginalized, just as Jesus did.
Placing society’s needs front and center, Rev. Heltzel calls for radical change and collective activism modeled on God’s love and justice.
In particular, Rev. Heltzel explores the social forms that love and justice can take as religious communities join together to build “beloved cities.” He proclaims the importance of “improvising for justice” — likening the church’s prophetic ministry to jazz music — and develops a biblical theology of shalom justice. His vision draws inspiration from the black freedom struggle and the lives of Sojourner Truth, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King Jr. Pulsing with hope and beauty, Resurrection City compels evangelical Christians to begin “a global movement for love and justice” that truly embodies the kingdom of God.
Resurrection City calls the church to embody Christ’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” Resurrection City is a symbol of heaven, but was also an encampment for justice in the revolutionary sixties. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally killed on April 4, 1968, Civil Rights leaders continued his Poor People’s Campaign by building a city of protest for the poor on the National Mall in Washington DC, called Resurrection City. This historic community bore prophetic witness to the coming City of God.
Inspired by the black freedom struggle, Rev. Heltzel re-imagines the future of Christianity through improvisation, the heart and soul of creative music. Jazz musicians can improvise because they are so rooted in musical traditions and know the standards intimately. This grounding allows for the freedom to create something that is both continuous with the past and open to a new future. Like improvisational jazz music, prophetic Christians create an arena for various voices to come together in an ongoing continuity that is always new.
Rev. Heltzel offers a clarion call for the church to improvise for justice today, bearing prophetic witness to Christ and the Kingdom of God.