There was a decent summary piece on Black Liberation Theology in the New York Times yesterday. It attempts to locate Dr. Wright within the historical movement of Black Liberation Theology, and in order to do so, James Cone and Gary Dorrien, both professors at Union, are interviewed. Its worth a quick read and it is certainly better than much of what the media has put out so far.
Interestingly, the article covers two specific subjects that I want to make sure are addressed — one normally ignored, and the other, a focal point for controversy. The first is the acknowledgement of Catholic Liberation theology in the discussion of Black Liberation theology:
Even as Dr. Cone and others such as the Rev. William A. Jones at Bethany Baptist in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, crafted a theology of black liberation, Catholic theologians in Central and South America crafted their own liberation theology, arguing that God placed the impoverished peasants closest to his heart.
There is little evidence that one liberationist talked to another; rather, these were cornstalks rising in a fertile and revolutionary field. “These were remarkable similar arguments, that oppressed people have their own way of hearing the Gospel,” said Dr. Dorrien of the Union Theological Seminary.
On this note, I’ve got a copied picture of Dorothy Sölle, Jürgen Moltmann, Gustavo Guitérrez, James Cone, and Christopher Morse from years ago taken here at Union - Cone still had his fro and some were wearing plaid. And after seeing this picture last year, I asked Dorrien, since Guitérrez spent a year at Union in the early 70s (hence the picture), if there was much talk then between Guitérrez and Cone, and Dorrien said the same thing then as he was quoted in the article, “there seemed to have been little talk, if at all.” I suppose this shows how far Liberation theology has come today, where there seems to be a lot of conversation. However, I am also wary that the article does not spend enough time on the Marxist aside. It seems that still today Marxism is a loaded term and to have such a small mention might have been irresponsible.
The second issue addressed in the article are Wright’s comments concerning AIDS as understood by Cone:
Dr. Cone, the black liberation theology theorist, has known Mr. Wright for decades and says he much admires his provocations. But when Mr. Wright opined recently that the United States government may have used AIDS as a form of biological warfare against black people (Mr. Wright notes, correctly, that the United States has tried biological warfare on foreign nations), Dr. Cone winced.
“I don’t believe that,” Dr. Cone says. “But I will say that when blacks look at what government has done to black people, the eugenics and the syphilis, it’s easy to get angry.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: I hope our government didn’t introduce AIDS, but its not like the United States has a track record that says the contrary. I don’t want to believe it happened, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the other abuses that the United State pulled, which was so similar to the Nazi doctors in concentration camps. With all this in mind, no wonder liberation theology operates through a hermeneutic of suspicion.