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Black Power and American Theology – Excerpt

I really do not try hard to think about matters of injustice and oppression. I was once that scared little boy growing up in a place where cries went unheard and bruises went unseen. Today, I have one of the greatest opportunities afforded to few human beings – a free education at an institution of Higher Learning. Many people have helped me along the way, including individuals from specific churches. The following excerpt addresses the Church as a whole. I acknowledge the scattered few who follow Jesus by imitating his actions and liberating the oppressed. 

James Cone wrote this book in 1969 when racism was more blatant and easily identifiable. Today, the conditions that racism has created in America still remain. The call to the church in 1969 is just as convicting and relevant to the Church today. The book primarily looks at Black-White relations in the US from the 1960s, but in 2012 many more oppressed people groups have been added to the list.

Black Power and American Theology

 In a culture which rewards “patriots” and punishes “dissenters,” it is difficult to be prophetic and easy to perform one’s duties in the light of the nation as a whole. This was true for the state church of  Germany during the Third Reich, and it is true now of the white church in America as blacks begin to question seriously their place in this society. It is always much easier to point to the good amid the evil as a means of rationalizing one’s failure to call into question the evil itself. It is easier to identify with the oppressor as he throws sops to the poor than to align oneself with the problems of the poor as he endures oppression. Moreover, the moral and religious implications of any act of risk are always sufficiently cloudy to make it impossible to be certain of right action. Because man is finite, he can never reach that state of security in which he is free of anxiety when he makes moral decisions. This allows the irresponsible religious man to grasp a false kind of religious and political security by equating law and order with Christian morality [immigration laws]. If someone calls his attention to the inhumanity of the political system toward others, he can always explain his loyalty to the state by suggesting that this system is the least evil of any other existing political state. He can also point to the lack of clarity regarding the issues, whether they concern race relations or the war in Vietnam. This will enable him to compartmentalize the various segments of the societal powers so that he can rely on other disciplines to give the word on the appropriate course of action. This seems to characterize the style of many religious thinkers as they respond to the race problem in America.

More often, however, theologians simply ignore the problem of color in America. Any theologian involved in professional societies can observe that few have attempted to deal seriously with the problem of racism in America. It is much easier to deal with the textual problems associated with some biblical book or to deal “objectively” with a religious phenomenon than it is to ask about the task of theology in the current disintegration of society. It would seem that it is time for theology to make a radical break with its identity with the world by seeking to bring the problem of color the revolutionary implications of the gospel of Christ. It is time for theology to leave its ivory tower and join the real issues, which deal with the dehumanization of blacks in America. It is time for theologians to relate their work to life-and-death issues, and in so doing to execute its function of bringing the Church to a recognition of its task in the world.

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One thought on “Black Power and American Theology – Excerpt

  1. Pingback: A Personal Prayer of Repentance | The Tattered Rose

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