faith in action

Church and Society Welcomes Summer Intern Philemon Abel

New GBCS theological intern shares his background, interest and motivation for Civil and Human Rights advocacy work.

Philemon Abel intern
GBCS Theological Intern Philemon Abel is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Duke University's School of Divinity

From an early age, I’ve had a strong passion for both my faith and politics. I remember celebrating Obama’s election and writing an article about it in my middle school newspaper, naïvely full of hope that the racism and injustice I learned about in my history classes was finally over. This hope came crashing down just a few years later as more and more Black names became hashtags in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

When my young optimism was shattered, I began picking up the pieces by digging deeper into this country’s history and politics, beyond what was taught in the textbooks. I learned how embedded racism was into the fabric of the nation’s founding, and became very pessimistic about the country being able to redeem itself.

At the same time, I went through a period of questioning my faith. I was born and raised Christian. My grandfather founded and pastored the Baptist church I attended growing up until he passed away in 2005. My earliest memory is of him baptizing me just before my 4th birthday. I went to Sunday school every week, and to youth night most Wednesdays for a large part of my childhood. But as I interacted with peers from different faith backgrounds outside of church, I began to wonder if I was only Christian because my family was Christian. This pondering led me to explore the history and philosophy of my faith, and a deeper understanding of who Christ was as a person in history.

The deep dives into my faith and into America’s political history merged when I attended Williams College. My Political Science major was full of classes cross-listed with Africana Studies and Religion. I spent my free time in Christian community, participating and leading many Bible studies concerned with the intersections of faith and justice.

I learned that God was concerned with justice, and that justice is a prevailing theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus did not just want for us to have spiritual salvation, but material salvation as well. Seeking the Kingdom of God and praying for God’s will to be “done on earth as it is in Heaven” means seeking justice for all of God’s creation. I learned that God is needed for our nation to have any hope of redemption from its historical and current sins.

I chose to work with the GBCS because I resonated greatly with its call to be a prophetic voice for the Church and for the Nation. I look forward to analyzing our nation’s policy decisions from a theological lens and gain experience on how to organize and mobilize faith and secular groups to seek justice for the least of us in our society.