Black Power & Black Theology Part II

[Part I here]

Black power takes a myriad of forms throughout society in politics, culture, and education. As a theologian, James Cone goes on to explain the nature of Black power in the Church. As we learn to expect, in his mind there is a Black church and a White church. As we saw earlier, the process of the slave liberating himself from the devastating dehumanization and forcing the oppressor to recognize his God given image is the heart of Black power. Mr Cone states bluntly, “I contend that such a spirit is not merely compatible with Christianity; in America in the latter twentieth century it is Christianity.” He extends the liberation vocabulary to the Church as a whole, saying that the Church is composed of those called by God to share in his liberating activity. There are three activities that mark the modern (NT) Church: preaching (kerygma), service (diakonia), and fellowship (koinonia). Each is a weapon against white racism from both the Black and White perspective. From the viewpoint of the formerly oppressed, the preaching of the gospel is a message of freedom. Freedom from racism – Christ has conquered it; Freedom from oppression – Christ has freed you; Freedom from dwelling in one’s current circumstances – the Christ has set you free. It is, Cone says, the message of Black Power.

The White church fails in its Gospel mission in the latter two aspects of being the Church, service and fellowship. It fails to render services of liberation to the previously enslaved or to be the manifestation of the new society. Cone points to the failure of the White church to reach out in reconciliation (contra his earlier proclamation that Black power meant having nothing to do with Whites and their church) or to engage in true, equality-based fellowship. He sees the failure of the White church to radically follow Christ in obedience as unique to them (again, contra to his exclamation that many blacks have failed to grasp their freedom from enslavement.) In fact, to finally warn blacks away from engagement with the White church, the Antichrist is identified as the white Christian body.

The Antichrist..as in one most evil.

Is there hope then for a change in the White church that might lead to reconciliation between the races? Cone responds in the affirmative and with cautious theological support. In order for this chasm to be bridged, the White church must be willing to turn to a radical obedience of Christ and die. Whites must be willing to die to self and old ideas of the superiority and righteousness. They must be willing to die to their own status and follow Christ into radical identification with the poor and the oppressed, so much so that they themselves feel crack of the oppressor’s whip on their own backs. The whites who want reconciliation must be willing to join the others proclaiming Black Power. He must be both the agent of and the object of liberation.

Black theology is actively integrated with life as opposed to the overly scholastic theology of the greater White church. It is an encompassing worldview that instructs the follower in how to interact with a fallen world that appears to actively work against the black man’s liberation. Cone sees (in 1969) that the White church refuses to participate in this reconciling era and in that refusal, little hope for the future of black-white relations.

One thought on “Black Power & Black Theology Part II”

Comments are closed.