As the American left continues to seek a coherent way to articulate its moral priorities in these days of political stalemates and widening income gaps, it might look to the most unlikely of places — the academy — for guidance and inspiration. At elite universities and seminaries thrives a constituency of African American intellectuals who fiercely contend that the American conversation needs to stay focused on justice — specifically, for those whom the Bible calls “the least of these.”
Cornel West, who was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest, is perhaps the most visible. But there is also James Cone of the Union Theological Seminary, whom the New Yorker profiled in 2008 as an intellectual influence on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — the controversial pastor emeritus of President Obama’s church in Chicago. And there is Eddie Glaude of Princeton, who last year wrote a red-hot essay for the Huffington Post called “The Black Church is Dead.”

And there is Obery Hendricks, a Bible professor at Union whose book, “The Universe Bends Toward Justice,” was published this month. (The title borrows from an often-used phrase by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.). In a series of interconnected essays on subjects ranging from gospel music to supply-side economics, Hendricks rails against the conventional hypocrisies in public moral and religious discourse.

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