William A. Walker III

Pastor, Professor, Theologian, Spiritual Director

Category: Personal

My Book: A Theology of the Drug War

My first monograph, A Theology of the Drug War: Globalization, Violence and Salvation, will be released November 15, 2019. Here is the publisher’s page and Amazon page.

Those who have been following my work for any length of time knows that this has been in the making for a while. I began writing one of the chapters in 2011! With all that’s happened at the border and with theCentral American refuge and asylum-seeker crisis at the southern border of the United States in the past several years, however, a number of updates have been made to reflect these developments. Still, the majority of the book remains focused on trends that have been observable for at least a decade — as far as the economic and political side of the research is concerned. Theologically, my hope is that what I set forth remains sound and timely no matter how the drug war might change.

A less expensive paperback and ebook version should be available soon! I owe a big thanks to many people who I mention in the preface, but I’m especially grateful recently to the those who offered brief reviews and endorsements below and on the book itself.

Overview

This book is a political and theological reflection on the violence and injustice that has taken place in Mexico and Central America since 2006 as a result of the drug war. In order to understand and respond to this conflict in the age of globalization, William A. Walker III combines the work of philosopher Enrique Dussel and theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar to develop a theology of the drug war that transcends both a Eurocentric conception of the world and a merely political account of salvation. Walker also highlights examples of Christian and church-based approaches to practicing neighborliness and resistance to drug trade-related violence, challenging both Christians and non-Christians to participate in the creation of a more just and merciful society.

Reviews and Endorsements:

Under the duress of the current political context, A Theology of the Drug War is a much-needed contribution. Bill Walker goes beyond the reductionist materiality in liberationist analysis and employs decolonial frameworks to unveil problems ignored by superficial readings of the “US-Mexico” drug war. Walker’s transmodern approach to the theology of salvation opens what have been unimagined avenues of inquiry and commitment, not only for our current context, but also for the generations to come. This is a must read for the academic and church guilds interested in decolonial and postcolonial theologies, border studies, American domestic and foreign policy, international relations, Latin-American and Latinx studies, liberation theologies, religion and conflict studies, and global ethics.

Santiago Slabodsky, Hofstra University

What does it mean to speak of ‘salvation’ amidst the horrors of the ‘drug war’ in Mexico? Walker addresses this pressing question, combining acute cultural analysis with sophisticated theological reflections. Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and on concrete examples of nonviolent resistance, Walker presents a vision of salvation that is neither simply spiritual nor simply political, neither simply otherworldly nor simply thisworldly. It is rather Incarnational, illustrating the ways that God suffers not simply with, but for, the victims of exploitation and violence.

William T. Cavanaugh, DePaul University

We are living in a world overwhelmed with global economic forces bigger than ourselves. Even so, Walker unfolds the call of every Christian to solidarity with the suffering. Delving deep into the theologies of Dussel, Sobrino, Moltmann, Balthasar and many others, his Theology of the Drug War sculpts a political theology of both neighborliness and resistance that can shape our churches for this new political moment. Stunning in scope and potent for our times, I see this book as a testament for what could be.

David Fitch, Northern Seminary, Chicago

Perhaps here is the book that many have been missing and waiting for, a political theology of our time and our very day, a theology that is thoroughly theological, not a sociology in disguise, but a theology that is deeply immersed in the sufferings of our globalizing world, especially in its typically North American form, the human sufferings of the drug war along the Mexican border, but also a theology that mediates context and concern in a methodologically sound way proper to theology. Walker has produced a book that is thoroughly theological and thoroughly political, a theology that is neither premodern nor postmodern but transmodern, a theology that integrates the politics of imperialism and eschatology of transcendence, a theology that takes seriously the suffering of the poor in history as elaborated in the ethics and theologies of Enrique Dussell, Jon Sobrino, and Ignacio Ellacuria, but also takes just as seriously the aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar with its emphasis on contemplating things with “the eyes of faith.” I heartily and proudly recommend this book to anyone searching for an inspiring synthesis of faith and politics for our time, a faith seeking understanding in our very challenging and confusing world. A deeply personal, spiritual, erudite, and sophisticated book.

Anselm K. Min, Claremont Graduate University

Life Update: A New Job in Austin

Many who know me are already aware of this most recent development in my life, but I wanted to take some time to elaborate on another professional transition in my life that is especially exciting. As of this past month, Whitney, Liam and Roy and I have moved back to Austin, which is where Whitney and I met and have spent much of our lives. It is home to many of our extended family members and to many more lifelong friends. This by itself makes the change particularly meaningful. Baylor University and Truett Seminary will always be in my life, and we are already missing Waco — which, by the way, was a cool and desirable place to live long before Chip and Joanna said so! I intend to continue teaching at Baylor part-time as a lecturer in theology and ethics, both at Truett on occasion and in the business school, just as I have done for the past two years.

Apart from our history and long-term relationships in Austin, I also feel uniquely suited for my new professional role at Christ Church as their Director of Vocation. We have defined vocation as the way someone is specifically called, shaped and gifted to love God and others in a particular season of life and work. In this job, I will be overseeing an area of the church’s ministry where whole-life discipleship and mission intersect, which we’re calling vocational formation. I find this focus intriguing and fitting for several reasons…

My doctoral research and writing was in philosophy of religion, but more specifically theology, ethics and society, or what in some circles gets called political theology. This just means that I’m interested in exploring the relationship between the Church and the world and how Christians understand God’s mission in the public sphere — socially, culturally and politically — and our responsibility and participation in that mission.

The first class I taught at Baylor was in the Interdisciplinary Core program and was entitled “Examined Life.” As suggested by the title, the main purpose of the class was for first-year students at Baylor to begin to discover what the “good life” looks like — intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. This was a team-taught course in the Honors College with several other faculty members, and I was one of the instructors in the social dimension. Discerning one’s calling and vocation was a big theme throughout the course, as well as learning about important social issues and wellness practices for flourishing in college and appreciating the significance of a liberal arts education.

This past year, I’ve been teaching another course at Baylor as well called Christian Ethics Applied to Business, in which I’ve been drawing significantly on some of the work done by Seattle Pacific University’s Center for Integrity in Business. In addition, I became a certified spiritual director last month and just stepped down from my position as the Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation at Truett Seminary. This was a two-year training program and learning environment for me to grow in and practice the art of listening to and accompanying others as they seek God’s will for their lives and work in the church as well as the world.

Finally, while I’ve been a pastoral minister in a congregational setting before, most extensively at Saint Peter’s in Charleston, I have not been actively functioning in this capacity since 2017. And yet, I haven’t been able to let go of a sense of calling to local church leadership. Dayspring Baptist Church has been our community and place of worship for these past two years. I think it’s a model Christian congregation for how to integrate contemplative, liturgical and sacramental life together in a way that still flows outward and engages the community. For some reason, though, I’ve continued to be drawn to the Anglican world and the mission of the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others in which I am ordained, and of which Christ Church of Austin is a part.

In sum, I saw where this new opportunity had the potential to bring together three major streams that I have been swimming in for several years now: Christian theological and social ethics, spiritual formation/direction and ministry in the local church. As Director of Vocation, I will occasionally teach, preach and serve as a priest, but my primary responsibility is to educate, equip and mobilize Christ Church members for aligning their daily life and work with God’s purposes — whether in the marketplace, at home, in healthcare, entertainment, science, education, the neighborhood, the arts, or government and politics. This is a big job that requires a whole community to accomplish it. Thankfully, the church is already well on their way, and I just get to join them. If your’e in the Austin area or ever visiting and want to learn more, let me know!

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