Yes, dear readers, I’m still pissed over this media hyped bullshit surrounding Wright and Liberation theology. There really is no other word for it. Oh, and maybe “stupid as a brick” works also. The thing is, as much as Sean Hannity, the rest of Fox News and other conservatives are to blame, so are the other media outlets. There seems to be an entire breakdown in journalistic ethics, among other things. When a loud voice is lazy, no one can afford it.
I feel some what compelled to explain Cone, so that out of context quotes like such are put back into their context:
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.
Remember everyone, nothing is intelligible without context. There must be a frame work to interpret through, literary or historical, otherwise these are meaningless symbols on the page.
The first thing that the media, and others on blogs who simply copy and paste from the pitiful Spengler article, do not seem to grasp the idea of understanding their subject. Ask a theologian who is aware of Cone on a competent level and immediately ontology and Tillichian symbolism will surface. By the way, Cone footnotes Tillich a lot in A Black Theology of Liberation. (You can read up on ‘ole grab-ass here if you need to.)
In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone makes the claim that Jesus was black. However, this rightly understood means that Jesus is ontologically black today. See the quote below:
If Jesus is the Suffering Servant of God, he is an oppressed being who has taken on that very form of human existence that is responsible for human misery. What we need to ask is this: ‘What is the form of humanity that accounts for human suffering in our society? What is it, except blackness?’ If Christ is truly the Suffering Servant of God who takes upon himself the suffering of his people, thereby reestablishing the covenant of God, the he must be black.
…But some whites will ask, ‘Does black theology believe that Jesus was really black?’ It seems to me that the literal color of Jesu is irrelevant as are the different shades of blackness in America. Generally speaking, blacks are not oppressed on the basis of the depths of their blackness. ‘Light’ blacks are oppressed just as much as “dark” blacks. But as it happens, Jesus was not white in any sense of the word, literally or theologically. Therefore, Alber Cleage is not too far wrong when he describes Jesus as a black Jew; and he is certainly on solid theological grounds when he describes Christ as the Black Messiah.
James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 20th Anniversary Edition, 122-123.
Here is where Tillich comes into play: “Jesus is black” is a symbol – a concrete reality that points or mediates something transcendent. Jesus was a Jew severely oppressed by the Romans. However, if Jesus were in 1970 USA when Cone wrote A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone is saying that Jesus would be black, not white. It was blacks who underwent (and arguably still do) the oppression, sexual humiliation and lynching that are all too similar to Roman occupation and crucifixion.
See? Not that hard. People quoting just need to care to read.
So the implications that follow from such a statement are, that the white church is not following Jesus and in fact, the white person needs to become ontologically black – not in skin per se, remember this is symbolism, but in action (praxis). I’ve heard Cone mention that Dietrich Bonhoeffer would fit the description of an ontologically black while a literal white man. Blackness is not relegated to skin pigmentation, its deeper than that (although those with dark pigmentation find they are oppressed because of their skin in America).
Now, one might say, this merely looks like moving one’s social location, and indeed it is that, but more. Cone has made the argument in class that liberation theology is not responding to the question of believer/unbeliever, but instead oppressed/oppressor. Therefore, the “white church” or “white god” takes on a whole new meaning. And quite honestly, it should. When the white authorities look the other way, or involved themselves, in lynching on Saturday and then on Sunday went to church all dressed up, one would think that would cause quite a stir – to be the oppressor and yet identify as if one is Jesus, the one who was oppressed? That is the wrong kind of scandalous. To such a life style that lives so blindly, liberation theology and the suffering of Jesus is rightly a scandal, a scandal as the cross should be. The status quo is the white god that kills to keep populations down. What kind of Christianity is that? Is that actually Christianity at all?
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of J. Kameron Carter’s critique of Cone and I think the move that Carter makes puts out a more fruitful ecclesiology. He has a book coming out soon, but for any of you anxious to see some other work, check out Carter’s article “Christology, or Redeeming Whiteness: A Response to Jame’s Perkinson’s Appropriation of Black Theology”:
This brings us to an alternative scriptural interpretation of the meaning of baptism and, thus, an alternative for understanding Perkinson’s claim that the problem of racism “is as deep as the body one inhabits.” That alternative is this: Baptism is induction into a different mode of being in the world, one that surpasses the mode of being whose nodal points are the hegemonic and the counterhegemonic. Christ, under this alternative, does not symbolize the existential possibility of receiving the other into oneself so that one no longer lives hegemonically. He does not symbolize how whites can be “redeemed” by expanding their existential horizons so that “black pain and power [might be] at work” in them. For, in actuality, this is not immersion into the other at all. It is the other being subsumed into the constituting “I,” an “I” that has chosen, in an egalitarian gesture, to expand its borders from being a “mom and pop” store to being a shopping mall. Inhabiting or being received into Christ’s actual body in such a way that one lays no claim to naming oneself and, therefore, in which one holds nothing of oneself back in self-possession-this is what baptism represents in this second alternative. Baptism in this second alternative involves handing oneself over to God in Christ so as to receive oneself back as gift. This is the deeper meaning of Christ’s baptism, which cannot be severed from the event of the Cross.