The Oppression of Black Liberation Theology
Black liberation theology finds its origin in Liberation theology in Centro- American struggle of the 1960’s. Liberation theology sees the Christian mission as bringing justice to oppressed people through political activism, solving their social and economic plight. In liberation theology they have divided the world into 2 groups, the oppressed and the oppressor. The poor are the oppressed and the rich are their oppressors.
Black liberation Theology is even more extreme. This theology was used by Marxist regimes to take over churches in Africa and Central America. They use “Christian” terminology they promote violence to overthrow governments and populations. It especially became popular in Nicaragua in the 1980’s with the pro-sandanista dictatorship. It used Marxist strategies to be an impetus for the people to rebel where violent revolution was used. In some churches Jesus was represented as Sandinista soldier identifying with the oppressed.
In this theological framework Jesus becomes a liberator of the oppressed masses which are black. This is in contrast to the word faith prosperity message preached by numerous black pastors today. Black Liberation theology describes Jesus as a poor black man who lived in oppression under “rich white people” which makes this particular view racially based, accentuating the tensions of being Black. The notion of “Blackness” is not merely a reference to skin color, but rather is a symbol of oppression that can be applied to all persons of color who have a history of oppression (except Whites, of course).” [“Wright's Black Liberation Theology” By Anthony B. Bradley assistant professor of theology at covenant theological, March 25, 2008]
By using Isa.61:1 which Jesus quoted in Luke 4 to explain his ministry, they make their case for liberating the oppressed. They isolate verses like this and breathe exaggerations into them.
Authentic Christianity transcends race and ethnicity. There is no black or white cultural value system in the Bible- there is a humanity system, recognizing that we are all made in the image of God, being sinners in need of redemption the same way- through Jesus Christ.
Jesus plus Marxism equals Black liberation theology and according to its teaching Jesus is against the oppressor (who happens to be white to this theology) because Jesus is a black man sent to free the oppressed (I thought Moses was sent to free the oppressed, Jesus was sent to set us free from SIN). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond or free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3 28).
To those who espouse this worldview and philosophy white greed is the problem (I didn’t know greed had a particular color attached to it). This theology embraced Marxism/humanism as the vehicle to correct the wrongs of the white oppressors. Marxism which is the very opposite of Christianity in its application. So it is not a marriage made in heaven. This theology is not found in the mainstream of the church but is on the fringe. Even the Vatican has condemned it twice. It has recently been publicized in the media because of the controversial statements of Rev. Wright, the pastor of presidential candidate Barak Obama.
Trinity United Church of Christ is now the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ, a megachurch with anywhere from 8-10,000 members. The United Church of Christ denomination was the first in America to ordain gays, and women as ministers. It is at the forefront of liberal churches that do not hold to the Scripture in a Christian manner (this is the church that presidential candidate Barak Obama and his family attends) [For more on this ask for our Mar/Apr. newsletter]
This church is a black nationalist church that is promoting “Black liberation Theology.” Jeremiah Wright credits James Cone as being a founder of “Black Theology” which Wright said forms the foundational beliefs of Wrights church. At best, their position is Black nationalism, in its extreme it is something to be concerned about. When Sean Hannity interviewed Rev. Wright on his program Hannity and Colmes, Rev. Wright repeatedly challenged Hannity saying: “Black liberation theology started with Jim Cone in 1968... Do you know liberation theology?” he was very defensive and continued to scold Hannity, ... How many books of Cone's have you read? How many books of Cone's have you read?” (Rev. Jeremiah Wright, explaining his Church to Sean Hannity, Fox News 3/1/07).
Let’s look at what Cones Black liberation Theology actually teaches. James Cone is one of the leading voices of this theology, he wrote that the United States was a white racist nation and the white church was the Antichrist for having supported slavery and segregation.
Cone: “The 'raceless' American Christ has a light skin, wavy brown hair, and sometimes - wonder of wonders - blue eyes. For whites to find him with big lips and kinky hair is as offensive as it was for the Pharisees to find him partying with tax-collectors. But whether whites want to hear it or not, Christ is black, baby, with all of the features which are so detestable to white society” (J. H. Cone, “The White Church and Black Power,” in G. S. Wilmore and J. H. Cone, Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979), pp.116-17.)
Today, Cone is a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, he stands by that view, but clarifies that he doesn't believe that whites individually are the Antichrist.
Cones Black theology and Black power is the treatise for many involved in this worldview. On.p.31 “a theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression” This would be like the Jewish apostles keeping the gospel to only Jews under the Roman jurisdiction.
Cone defines liberation as the “emancipation of black people from
white oppression by whatever means black people deem necessary” —selective
buying, boycotting, marching, even rebellion (Cone, Theology, 6).
Cone: “Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community. Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.” (James Cone, quoted in “Divine Racism: The Unacknowledged Threshold Issue for Black Theology,” by William R. Jones in African-American Religious Thought: An Anthology, edited by Cornel West and Eddie Glaube (Westminster John Knox Press).
Cone: “For white people, God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ means that God has made black people a beautiful people; and if they are going to be in relationship with God, they must enter by means of their black brothers, who are a manifestation of God’s presence on earth. The assumption that one can know God without knowing blackness is the basic heresy of the white churches. They want God without blackness, Christ without obedience, love without death. What they fail to realize is that in America, God’s revelation on earth has always been black, red, or some other shocking shade, but never white. Whiteness, as revealed in the history of America, is the expression of what is wrong with man. It is a symbol of man’s depravity. God cannot be white even though white churches have portrayed him as white. When we look at what whiteness has done to the minds of men in this country, we can see clearly what the New Testament meant when it spoke of the principalities and powers. To speak of Satan and his powers becomes not just a way of speaking but a fact of reality. When we can see a people who are controlled by an ideology of whiteness, then we know what reconciliation must mean. The coming of Christ means a denial of what we thought we were. It means destroying the white devil in us. Reconciliation to God means that white people are prepared to deny themselves (whiteness), take up the cross (blackness) and follow Christ (black ghetto).” (James Cone, from Black Theology and Black Power, quoted in The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity by Thabiti M. Anyabwile (Orbis), p.150. [Emphasis and underline mine]
Cone: “What else can the crucifixion mean except that God, the Holy One of Israel, became identified with the victims of oppression? What else can the resurrection mean except that God’s victory in Christ is the poor person’s victory over poverty?” (Cone, Speaking the Truth; p. 6)
Is this what the crucifixion is about? Or is it about our sin, all of mankinds sin, whether we are black, white, yellow, red; all being forgiven and united by the cross if we believe in the true gospel message and preach the Christ of the Scriptures. Cone has said the resurrection of Christ means the liberation of all people, relating it to physical deliverance from oppression ( The Moody Handbook of Theology p.598). This is not biblical Christianity by any stretch.
“To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people!” (Black Theology and Black Power, pp. 139-140). They believe that Blacks are God’s “Chosen People,” that Jesus was a black man-- I have yet to see a scripture that says this in the Bible. Jesus was a Jew; He was Semitic.
Black Liberation theology blames the problems on the white man. Most would consider this a reversal as white racism.
Stuck in the past as if there has been no progress between races since the early 60’s in America.
Cone: “The time has come for white America to be silent and listen to black people. . . . All white men are responsible for white oppression. . . . Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man ‘the devil.’ The white structure of this American society, personified in every racist, must be at least part of what the New Testament meant by the demonic forces” (Black Theology and Black Power, pp. 39-41]
Many of the statements are similar to what the Black Muslim movement teaches. Elijah Mohammed wrote: “You will agree with me that the whole Caucasian race is a race of devils” (Message to the Black Man p.23).
In an interview, Cone, when he was asked which church most embodied his message, “I would point to that church (Trinity) first.” Cone also said he thought that Wright's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, would continue the tradition” (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/31079.html)
The March 22 edition of World Magazine reported an endorsement of Cones Liberation theology was posted on “talking points” listed on Trinity's website (they were taken down). “The vision statement of Trinity United Church of Christ is based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone's book Black Power and Black Theology” (http://www.worldmag.com/articles/13850). In fact Cone’s book was recommended as required reading for Trinity parishioners who wished to more thoroughly understand the church’s theology and mission (it was then removed from the site.)
The Trinity website claims that God is not pleased with “America's economic mal-distribution.” Jeremiah Wright promotes the idea of massive wealth redistribution called “economic parity.” Black liberation theologians use Marxism as an ethical framework for the black church because Marxist thought is predicated on a system of oppressor class (whites) versus victim class (blacks). (Referenced from Victimology in Black Liberation Theology.” Anthony B. Bradley is a research fellow at the Acton Institute)
Anthony Bradley states: For black liberation theologians Sunday is uniquely tied to redefining their sense of being human within a context of marginalization. “Black people who have been humiliated and oppressed by the structures of White society six days of the week gather together each Sunday morning in order to experience another definition of their humanity,” says James Cone in his book Speaking the Truth (1999). (Wright's Black Liberation Theology By Anthony B. Bradley March 25, 2008).
Trinity United Church of Christ --THE MINISTRY
“The Center for African Biblical Studies is AFRICAN-CENTERED...seeking to implement and promote Bible Study from an African perspective.” We are an African people, and we remain “true to our native land”, the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.”
A Christian church will normally say it is Christ centered not African centered (in large letters). If one is actually a Bible student they would know Africa is not the cradle of civilization (neither is America). The Middle east area of Iraq/ Iran/ Israel is. It is clearly mentioned in Gen.1-15. It is a fact that Africa has contributed some great thinkers and theologians, especially in the early centuries but they had nothing to say of this theology in the early church when all Christians were persecuted.
Slavery was a practiced in numerous cultures, many were made slaves by being captured in war. Even in Israel there was slavery, though they were to treat them more humanely and were treated far better than the Greeks, Roman or slaves of other nations. A servant whose master maimed him (or her), causing the loss of an eye or even a tooth, was to be freed (Exodus 21:26). Israel was told to give a slave's release in the seventh year allowing a choice of indefinite slavery. (Exodus 21:6) The year of Jubilee allowed the slaves to go free (Leviticus 25:40). During New Testament times there were still slaves. The church did not receive a commandment to remove this custom inherited in Judaism, but the gospel of did give equality and justice and the master was to have love of man in his master to servant relationship. A spiritual brotherhood was practiced with believing slaves to believing masters. The apostle Paul wrote: "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, .... ye all are one man in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The Christian slaves and masters are both exhorted in Paul's letters to live Christ like lives and make their relations one to another base on love. "Bondservants (be obedient unto .... your masters,… with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart.... doing the will of God from the heart… as bondservants of Christ .... that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And, you masters .... giving up threatening: .... knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:5-9). In other words God is no respecter of persons.
Because of the Rev. Wright controversy, numerous churches and ministers have expressed concern. Rob Shenck of the National Clergy council personally admonished Wright, telling him what he is teaching is contrary to the gospel and he needs to abandon it. It should be noted that the majority of black churches today and should not be connected to the same Black liberation theology espoused through the 60’s and 70’s.
Black Liberation theology churches are not a help to the Black Christian community because they diminish the message of the gospel and divide people by race upholding black nationalism over the cross of Christ that is supposed to unite us all.
Just as the prosperity gospel has influenced the Black church the wrong way, these ARE POLITICAL ORIENTED CHURCHES THAT USE the Bible for their agenda. They major on suffering and oppression to unite the Black people against a common enemy. In the case of Rev. Wright, the blacks against the white oppressors in the government and elsewhere. The government is then considered the problem and is evil, unable to do any good. There is no way out of this conflict unless there is a complete reversal. Much like the Palestinian demands to Israel (who they label as occupiers and oppressors), it is all or nothing. Whether all who embrace liberation theology see it in this manner is hard to say.
Those who have adopted it in America may have had the intention to help but it has done the opposite by encouraging a victim mentality among the black community. It fosters and us against them mentality and distorts the reality of true progress that has been made. Years after the Civil Rights Act, they do not want to recognize any substantial change, so it does nor diminish but continues racial tension that has certainly diminished.
Our Mar/ April newsletter was about the Spiritual beliefs of Barak Obama and black liberation theology- it is available upon request.