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On Liberation Theology

Anthony Bradley 31 March 2008 No Comment

Editors Note:

In multiple articles Saturday and Monday, The Chicago Tribune has at great length avoided the fundamental inquiry into Black Liberation Theology. Here is a clear, pointed description from Theology Professor, Anthony Bradley, sorely missed from the Tribune article.

Black Liberation Is Marxist Liberation

One of the pillars of Obama’s home church, Trinity United Church of Christ, is “economic parity.” On the website, Trinity claims that God is not pleased with “America’s economic mal-distribution.” Among all of controversial comments by Jeremiah Wright the idea of massive wealth redistribution is the most alarming. The code language “economic parity” and references to “mal-distribution” is nothing more than channeling the twisted economic views of Karl Marx. Black liberation theologians have explicitly stated a preference for Marxism as an ethical framework for the black church because Marxist thought is predicated on a system of oppressor class (whites) versus victim class (blacks).

Black Liberation theologians James Cone and Cornel West have worked diligently to embed Marxist thought into the black church since the 1970s. For Cone, Marxism best addressed remedies to the condition of Blacks as victims of White oppression. In For My People, Cone explains that “the Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are.”

In God of the Oppressed, Cone said that Marx’s chief contribution is “his disclosure of the ideological character of bourgeois thought, indicating the connections between the ‘ruling material force of society’ and the ‘ruling intellectual’ force.” Marx’s thought is useful and attractive to Cone because it allows Black theologians to critique racism in America on the basis of power and revolution.

For Cone, integrating Marx into Black theology helps theologians see just how much social perceptions determine theological questions and conclusions. Moreover, these questions and answers are “largely a reflection of the material condition of a given society.”

In 1979, Cornel West offered a critical integration of Marxism and Black theology in his essay, “Black Theology and Marxist Thought” because of the shared human experience of oppressed peoples as victims. West sees a strong correlation between Black theology and Marxist thought because “both focus on the plight of the exploited, oppressed and degraded peoples of the world, their relative powerlessness and possible empowerment.” This common focus prompts West to call for “a serious dialogue between Black theologians and Marxist thinkers”–a dialogue that centers on the possibility of “mutually arrived-at political action.”

In his book Prophesy Deliverance, West believes that by working together, Marxists and Black theologians can spearhead much-needed social change for those who are victims of oppression. He appreciates Marxism for its “notions of class struggle, social contradictions, historical specificity, and dialectical developments in history” that explain the role of power and wealth in bourgeois capitalist societies. A common perspective among Marxist thinkers is that bourgeois capitalism creates and perpetuates ruling-class domination–which, for Black theologians in America, means the domination and victimization of Blacks by Whites. American has been over run by “White racism within mainstream establishment churches and religious agencies,” writes West.

Perhaps it is the Marxism imbedded in Obama’s attending Trinity Church that should raise red flags. “Economic parity” and “distribution” language implies things like government-coerced wealth redistribution, perpetual minimum wage increases, government subsidized health care for all, and the like. One of the priorities listed on Obama’s campaign website reads, “Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.”

Black Liberation Theology, originally intended to help the black community, may have actually hurt many blacks by promoting racial tension, victimology, and Marxism which ultimately leads to more oppression. As the failed “War on Poverty” has exposed, the best way to keep the blacks perpetually enslaved to government as “daddy” is to preach victimology, Marxism, and seduce blacks into thinking that upward mobility is someone else’s responsibility in a free society.

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Anthony B. Bradley is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, and assistant professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. His PhD dissertation is titled, “Victimology in Black Liberation Theology.”

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