The Washington Times - October 23, 2008, 06:44PM


Earlier this year most of America was introduced for the first time to black liberation theology through Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  And, many were left with the wrong impression about it. It seems that, if you put the words “black” and “liberation,” in the same sentence, many white people might recall images from the 1960’s of young black men wearing black berets and gloves screaming Black Power or the riots. Some might even think it is an anti-American separatist religious movement. Then if you add an animated African American Minister who bellowed, “Goddamn America” from his pulpit as Rev. Wright did, the result is fear and misunderstanding as to exactly what it is about.

Having been personally exposed to black liberation theology, I can tell you that it is nothing to fear and should not be considered as an extreme ideology that propagates hate for white people or America. In a national Public Radio interview the definitive authority on the subject, Rev. James Cone of Union Theological Seminary in New York, and the founder of black liberation theology said, “it is a movement which has roots in 1960s civil-rights activism and draws inspiration from both the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, as mainly a theology that sees God as concerned with the poor and oppressed.”  I compare it to the Old Testament stories of God delivering the Jews from bondage.

At the heart of black liberation theology is and effort according to Dr. Cone, “to make the Gospel relevant to the lives and struggles of Black people.”  Christian theology was used as a tool to enslave African people and devalue their humanity. As a young child, I actually believed that all of the historic figures in the Christian Bible were white. If it were not for my enlightened parents who told me that the biblical figures were actually people of color, I could have easily lived a great deal of my life thinking that the God in the Bible did not care about my plight as a young black boy at all.

Remember, Christians are taught that, “man was made in the image and likeness of God“. What impact do you think this statement has on a young black child when he/she sees that all the historic people in the bible depicted as white Europeans?  So black liberation theology is also about uplifting the self-image and value of black people. And, the Black Church, which is the social cornerstone of the black community, is the perfect place for that message. After all, Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America.  For the most part, most whites go to white churches and most blacks go to black churches.

Now when Pastor Wright exploded on to national scene, pundits, campaigners and the media scrambled to find out what black liberation theology was. Many supposed experts were consulted and some just took the concept and twisted it or misrepresented it for their purpose or gain, which is unfortunate. The bottom line about black liberation theology is that it is a tool for healing, uplifting and a counter to centuries of dehumanizing blacks in this country by social and religious institutions.  

Finally, it is important that we attempt to understand concepts, ideologies and philosophies that are part of the unique experience of a particular group. Black liberation theology is one of those concepts. I fear that in the waning days of this presidential campaign, some agents of division will try to resurface the discussion of black liberation theology and Pastor Wright to undermine Barack Obama’s campaign. It is my hope that people will learn more about the subject and understand that it is nothing to fear.

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