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Black Liberation Theology and the Lucrative Business of Perpetual Victimhood — Part One

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As we await the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, including the rioting if the jury gets it “wrong,” we are faced yet again with the question: Under what circumstances would anyone stipulate that the oppression of Blacks has come to an end?

The short, and still most accurate, answer is that it will likely not be anytime within the next decade, under any circumstances at all. Moreover, I will argue that under the current theological paradigm, that day will never come.

By way of explanation, one could argue that the reason for this is that perpetuating Black Victimhood is a lucrative business for the likes of the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, as well as a steady stream of patients for “racial trauma counselors” like Kyle Howard and others of his ilk. Much like sex, oppression sells. Then too, so much can be extracted from people if only they can be made to feel guilty or somehow responsible.

How unreasonable this sort of argument is can be shown by claiming, for purposes of argument, that people like James Dobson really – deep down inside – do not want solutions to the problems with the family he has identified because the dysfunctional family is a lucrative business for him. After organizations such as Focus on the Family succeed in solving the problems they have set for themselves, a lot of people are going to be unemployed. For organizations like this, the dysfunctional family is the gift that keeps giving. Of course, Focus on the Family could, like the March of Dimes and others, simply repurpose — but that is probably more difficult.

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A more rational, and charitable, claim would be that, although men like Sharpton and Jackson have been able to derive lucrative careers from it; the oppression narrative is not a grift. Adherents are genuine, true believers in this mythopoeic, grounding narrative, which like all such groundings, is theological in nature. Specifically, the grounding narrative, or theological paradigm, is Black Theology, that school of theological thought, within the stream of liberation theology to which James H. Cone gave systematic expression, beginning with Black Theology and Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970).

In Black Theology as Cone conceived it, God exists with and identifies with, the oppressed. This is true of all liberation theologies, but for liberationist theologians, there is not a universal theology. Liberationist theologies do not reason from a divinely inspired text as orthodox theologies do. The theological center of any liberationist theology is experience. Philosophically speaking, no two people can have the same experience of an event, even though they both are present at the same event. Theological statements, therefore, being rooted in experience, are not of universal application. As no two individuals can have the same experience, no two races can have the same experience. (Voddie Baucham’s concept of ethnic Gnosticism comes to mind.) Oppressed Blacks must have their own unique theology of liberation since the black experience of oppression is not the experience of oppressed Latin Americans, among whom the first liberation theologies were crafted.

That said, however, since no people have been as uniquely oppressed as Blacks have been, then if God exists and identifies with the oppressed, then God exists particularly with Blacks and so is not the God of oppressing Whites; He cannot be, by definition. Think of it the way Dr. Cone puts it (paraphrased): The God of the white men running the slave ship simply cannot be the God of the black slaves down in the hold. In liberation theology, it cannot be that Oppressor and Oppressed are in a relationship with the same God. And if in existing, moving, and having His being among the oppressed, God must be existing, moving and having His being among Blacks, then God Himself is black. Dr. Cone describes God’s “Blackness” in this way:

The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience, or God is a God of racism…The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God’s own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering…. Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity. (A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 63-64)

Now if, as Dr. Cone says, “God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering” then, quite logically, if one is truly to know God and be in a relationship with God, then one must be in a condition of humiliation and suffering. In other words, if God is a God only of the oppressed, and you wish to be in a relationship with God, then you must be one of the oppressed. Logically, if you wish to maintain that relationship with God, then you must always be one of the oppressed. If ever you cease being one of the oppressed, then you cease to be in relation with that God who is God only of the oppressed.

It’s easy to see how LeBron James, sitting in his Beverly Hills mansion can think he’s among the oppressed, hunted down like dogs, while a homeless white man, watching his mattress lit on fire by Antifa thugs is a  privileged white oppressor.

Go to Part Two >>

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