May 3, 2008


A Fiery Theology Under Fire (MICHAEL POWELL, 5/04/08, NY Times)

As a young, black and decidedly liberal theologian, James H. Cone saw his faith imperiled.

“Christianity was seen as the white man’s religion,” he said. “I wanted to say: ‘No! The Christian Gospel is not the white man’s religion. It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free.’ But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness.”

Dr. Cone, a founding father of black liberation theology, allowed himself a chuckle. “You might say we took our Christianity from Martin and our emphasis on blackness from Malcolm,” he said.

Black liberation theology was, in a sense, a brilliant flanking maneuver. For a black audience, its theology spoke to the centrality of the slave and segregation experience, arguing that God had a special place in his heart for the black oppressed. These theologians held that liberation should come on earth rather than in the hereafter, and demanded that black pastors speak as prophetic militants, critiquing the nation’s white-run social structures.

Black liberation theology “gives special privilege to the oppressed,” said Gary Dorrien, a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Oops, he misspoke himself slightly there. The special privilege is, by definition, to blacks, the ones being liberated. And it is this divergence from the belief that all men are created equal--a belief that MLK was very careful to adhere to--that makes the theology literally unAmerican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2008 9:36 PM
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