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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Thumbnail sketch of “Black Liberation Theology” And Where It Came From

“The-ol-o-gy n. From the Greek theos, God + logos, word [[ The study of God]. For the Christian church, this is mainly centered around a systematic approach to doctrinal teachings called “Christology.” As one studies the person of Jesus Christ, such topics as the humanity of Jesus - the Deity of Jesus - the character of Jesus - the work of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus come before us. In the New Testament, one can find scripture after scripture that instructs us in how we, as Christians, should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, but not one scripture that holds us responsible for forcing others into accepting Christianity as some philosophical government-based system says they should. In short, we conform ourselves to the image of Christ, but we are not to be about the business of forcing conformation on others. We are to set an example, create a positive atmosphere of Jesus Christ and be a gentle encouragement for them to approach. Christianity is all about ones own personal relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While this relationship with Jesus will have major implications for our interactions with our church, government, political activism, and all other human relations, Christians not responsible for making the world fair, or gravity function. The acceptance of the necessity of Christ for the atonement of sin should remind us that misery, sickness, death and struggle are in this world because of man’s sin. Much of today's theology ignores this fact.
In essence, liberation theology explores the relationship between Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, theology, government and political activism. Particularly in areas of social justice, poverty and human rights. The main methodological innovation of liberation theology is to approach theology from the viewpoint of the economically poor and oppressed. According to this teaching, the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace. Consequently liberation theology is an interpretation of Christian faith through the suffering of the poor, their struggle and hope. It is also a critique of society (government) and faith and Christianity in general through the eyes of the poor. When one adds “Black” before the words “Liberation Theology” one reduces theology to God’s only interest being people of color. Black liberation theology marks as unimportant all concepts not connected with the black struggle in America. It also assumes that God must “Take from one, whites, so as to have to give to others, non-whites.” It is the same basic reasoning used in the communist/socialist ideology, only now, God becomes a respecter of persons based on the color of ones skin. Dr. Martin Luther King put his finger on this problem when he spoke of people being judged by the “content of ones character as opposed to the color of ones skin.” These nagging questions beg to be answered. Why would one feel more comfortable attending an Afro-centric church? Why attendance at a church that encourages blacks to separate themselves from the rest of American society? How can one claim to be part of the universal family of God and think this way? If this is a true church and legitimate theological view, how will it reach across all ethnic groups, as commanded in the great commission, and unite the people of all nations when it comes across as “black and angry?” The truth is black liberation theology has a great deal in common with the Black Power movement that also developed in the 1960s. One was revolutionary and theologically confused, the latter militant and radical.
In liberation theology, an unhealthy overemphasis is placed on those parts of the Bible where Jesus' mission is described not in terms of bringing peace (social order) but bringing a sword (social unrest), e.g. Matthew 10:34 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”, Luke 22:35-38And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.” and Matthew 26:51-52. “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” These passages are interpreted as a call to arms to carry out what proponents see as a Christian mission of justice -- literally understood by some to mean the overthrow of government if necessary. Liberation theology is an attempt by some to end what they perceive as “class struggle” by the marrying of Christianity and Communist/Socialist doctrine to form a church/government vehicle that will be the best for all of mankind. (NOTE: (This comes mainly from bad eschatology, “The belief that man can correct his own problems and establish a righteousness on earth that will entice Jesus to return and take His place on His throne to rule forever.”) Writer’s opinion being interjected.
The primary architect of Black Liberation Theology in North America is James Cone. A Protestant minister who grew up in Arkansas under the heavy hand of segregation, Cone observed first-hand the way white Christians treated blacks. Eventually Cone developed a “black theology” of liberation from oppression, racism, and poverty. Cone argued that the white church and white theologians had all failed in their duties to uphold biblical principles of helping the poor and marginalized of society. Because of this, it was no longer acceptable to leave the interpretation of the Bible to white Christians. Blacks must take responsibility for their own religion. In his book Black Theology and Black Power, Cone writes:
“A moral or theological appeal based on a white definition of morality or theology will serve as a detriment to our attainment of black freedom. The only option we blacks have is to fight in every way possible, so that we can create a definition of freedom based on our own history and culture. We must not expect white people to give us freedom. Freedom is not a gift, but a responsibility, and thus must be taken against the will of those who hold us in bondage.”
Most of the time, Cone was critical of the ideas of European theologians that were part of the American experience. He noted, for example, that many white Christians emphasized ideas like justification by faith and grace as central Christian themes. Against this he argued that, from the perspective of black Christians, the idea of liberation from oppression was much more important and had a much more immediate relevancy to their lives. Thus traditional, orthodox understanding of the scriptures was stood on it’s head. The story of the Jews’ liberation in the book of Exodus naturally figured prominently in Cone’s arguments. Cone also cited the prophets, many of whom were frequent critics of the status quo. The problem here is that often, because of their particular struggle and worldview, man will “put words” into the mouths of the prophets rather than hear the ones they really spoke. Black Liberation Theology as taught to the people in the African-American community seeks to find a way to make the gospel relevant to black people. It assumes that it is only black people who must struggle daily under the burden of poverty and oppression. It declares that it is all white people who are the enemies of black people. Another below quote is made by James Cone. He defines black liberation theology this way:
"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."
As stated before, black liberation theology deals primarily with the African-American community, and attempts to find a way to make Christianity real for blacks, otherwise they will reject it. Black Liberation Theology tries to explain Christianity in a matter of the here and now, versus the afterlife model. As such it is very "egocentric" (self-centered) both for the congregation as well as the pastors preaching this “another gospel.” The true Christian worldview is a "theocentric" (Christ-centered) view.
Marxist concepts for dealing with the doctrine of perpetual class struggle are also significant in all forms of liberation theology. Black liberation theology also emphasizes what proponents describe as individual self-actualization as part of God's divine purpose for humankind. They also teach expropriation of personal property as decided by this institution created by a marriage of church/government. In addition to teaching at some Roman Catholic universities and seminaries, liberation theologians can be found in more and more Protestant-oriented schools. They tend to have considerable contact with the poor and interpret sacred scripture partly based on their experiences in this context.
The traditional interpretation of Marxism/Communism holds that all large-scale industries and private properties should be expropriated and held by the state. Leon Trotsky even absolutely rejected any payment to the private owners. Trotsky was very adamant on the issue of not compensating private owners. Remember what was done to Dr. Zhivago in the movie of the same name?
Trotsky has written:
“The program of the equal distribution of the land thus presupposes the expropriation of all land, not only privately-owned land in general, or privately-owned peasant land, but even communal land.”
Expropriation - is the act of taking possession of an item of property from its owner in exchange for little or no compensation and irrespective of the wishes of the original owner. The term is used to refer to acts by a government. It is commonly referred to as the act of removing property from an owner especially by public authority - for example, expropriated the property of owners who lived in the path of the new highway. It is sometimes used in the context of redistribution - for example, taking wealth from the rich to feed the poor. Similar to Robin Hood. As one can see, this makes for very entertaining movies but very suspect motives of government authorities. Jesus Himself, while here on earth refused to be made a “divider” over men. Luke 12:14.
Self-actualization — a concept attributed to Kurt Goldstein, is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can. Working toward fulfilling our potential, toward becoming all that we are capable of becoming. In this scheme, the final stage of psychological development comes when the individual feels assured that his physiological, security, affiliation and affection, self-respect, and recognition needs have been satisfied. As these become dormant, he becomes filled with a desire to realize all of his potential for being an effective, creative, mature human being. "What a man can be, he must be." The main problem with this concept, is that it is NOT Biblical. Man is born lost, selfish, egocentric and is thoroughly decadent. He must have a standard of right and wrong established for him by a higher authority. This points back to original sin; man wanted to be his own source of good and evil, therefore he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus was cast out of the garden. This is the central failure of liberation theology. The proponents of liberation theology assume to know the beginning from the end and therefore are able to judge what is good for the Goose and what is good for the Gander.
Conclusion: True Christian Theology teaches that we are all God's children — black or white, rich or poor. However, the Black Liberation theology teachings do not grasp [loving thy neighbor as thyself.] The religious left leaning of the Black liberation theology movement has caused them to leave their first love and replace it with a social approach to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They forgot that “Yesterday, today, forever Jesus is the same.”(Hebrews 13:8). “If any one says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20).

Rev. Edward Anthony BTh.
Impact Ministries Inc.
Pensacola, FL. 32534