Judge speaks on citizenship responsibility at Cumberland

Xavier Smith • Feb 27, 2018 at 8:31 PM

Cumberland University welcomed Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen on Tuesday as a part of the university’s continued celebration of Black History Month.

Griffen is a circuit judge for Pulaski County Fifth Division Circuit Court and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since 1979, Griffen has actively devoted himself to law, public policy and ministry and regularly speaks and writes about legal ethics, religion, social justice, cultural competency, inclusion and public policy. 

The lecture, titled “Socially Responsible Citizenship,” was based on Griffen’s latest book, “Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope.”

“I’d like to expand on some of the observations in that book in an effort to invite you and persuade you to embrace what I call prophetic citizenship, that is bottomed on a fierce hope in and for democracy,” Griffen said.

“I believe the best and highest future for this nation and its role in the world lies in us holding fast to what I call prophetic hope, despite the dystopian mindset that challenges core beliefs about the meaning and value of justice, inclusion and freedom in the society.”

Griffen’s lecture was an hour-long discussion about society, social justice, history and the intersections of those realms and their impact on the world. Griffen’s speech featured a heavy discussion about Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on society and how his words were often used for someone’s own personal gain, without context or execution.

“Our leaders pimp Dr. King’s moral authority for their own benefit at every opportunity. Everybody quotes King. He’s the person who everybody quotes and nobody listens to. We quote him. We hold him up, and then we disregard him. They question the relevancy of his teachings, while pimping his name,” he said.

Griffen said despite how society may appear, this isn’t the worst time in world history.

“I think as disheartening as our age is, it is important to remember that we have been here before. Humanity has seen this before. We are not the first people to live in a time of intense racial and religious discord. Has there ever been a time when humans did not argue?” he said. “What we are the first, however, is that we are the first to witness so much divisiveness in real time on a constant basis. We are the first humans to live when it is possible to know within minutes about tragedies that happen around the world.”

Griffen discussed several tactics he believed would make for a better society and more social responsible citizenship, which included thinking and exploring outside of society’s “box,” questioning everything and engaging in more civil discourse.

Griffen’s sermons and other essays may be found on the websites of New Millennium Church, Ethics Daily at ethicsdaily.com, and on his blogs, Justice is a Verb! and Wendell Griffen on Cultural Competency.

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