BLACK THEOLOGY TRIES TO EVEN THE SCORE
In last week’s Editorial, “Christianity and Racism” (Journal, April 26, 2018), I stated that Dr. King said, in effect, that the Christians of Birmingham wanted to know why he was there. He said he was there because injustice was there. He said in a diatribe that he was like the Apostle Paul and other prophets who left his little village in Tarsus to carry the Gospel of Jesus to every little hamlet in the Graeco Roman world.
Today the message of liberation and equality is being put forth by Reverend Barber of South Carolina.
Otherwise, we are confronted with prosperity ministers seeking to survive by getting rich. The extreme message of Preachers like Nat Turner who believed that God had given him a divine message and challenge to free the Slaves with violence.
Turner took up arms and recruited men to carry out the chore of killing White folks in the pursuit of freedom. The action did not end well, and though he killed some Whites including his slave masters, he and his small band of liberators were hung in traditional Southern style, publicly.
The lynchings were public events where the community was invited. Whites would get dressed up in their Sunday best. School was let out at times for the children to go and watch. Trees were the most well-known vehicles for hangings but history will tell that street lamps, bridges, and even in the court’s yard. As late as the 1960’s there were recorded hangings in various parts of this country.
Christianity and Racism are real life partners as evidenced by the fact that the infamous Ku Klux Klan was formed as a Christian organization. The Klan openly recruited in the churches of the South. They were backed up by the fact that there is no place in the holy Bible where Jesus opposes slavery. “Slaves obey your master” is a favorite Christian refrain.
Barack Obama acknowledged the power of God by his leanings and messages during his term as the ﬁrst Black President of the United States. When he sang during services for the Divine Nine who were killed in their church, he acknowledged God as leader of his life. He and his family were criticized for attending Jeremiah Wrights’ United Christian Church in Chicago, as Reverend Wright was an extremist in his racial beliefs. Barack believed that we were all children of God and should be treated as such, but Blacks weren’t treated equally.
In the 1960’s a group of Black Theologians declared that the Christianity that White men had established in the New World was exactly the opposite of what Jesus Christ taught. Led by James Cone the Black Power advocates believed that there needed to be a realignment in the Black, White relationship. Cone wrote, “I believe Black Power is the most important development in American life in this Century.”
Black power means that Black people want to determine their own destiny on their own terms. Like Albert Camus, a French philosopher, author, and journalist, said “It is better to die standing up than to live on one’s knees. Camus said the Slave wants freedom now. “This is deﬁned as the Slave is willing to risk death because he considers these rights more important than himself. Therefore, he is acting in the name of certain values which he considers are common to himself for all men.
Cone deﬁnes his extremism by quoting a Langston Hughes poem. “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why Democracy means everybody but me.” White racists reply to the question of Black Power by saying that now the Black man is free, he can vote and go to school. Cone and Black Power Theologians implie that the lack of equality in these various rights to freedom and justice was built into the absence of Black folks rights in the Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence. There is still a ﬁght to get equal rights to vote, an education, and even equality to employment as evidenced by Doctor King’s death ﬁghting for the garbage workers in Memphis Tennessee.
Realtors were advised to not sell to Blacks in certain neighborhoods because that could result in their children attending better schools, gaining better skills and better jobs, and beginning to feel entitled to these rights. In medicine, Blacks suffered The Tuskegee Experiment and other experiments to determine if Blacks would react any different than Whites to certain illnesses. In the law, the inequality of rights is well known.
In a recent case, a young White male killed four people by driving drunk. He received a minor punishment by the Courts saying he was too afﬂuent to be punished. In another case a young White male was given a six month sentence after a rape in broad open daylight with numerous witnesses. This case was called the afﬂuenza defense.
In every ﬁeld there seems to be a privilege for Whites, while it is not granted to Blacks.
Redlining kept Blacks out of certain neighborhoods. Young men are sitting in jail because their families can’t raise the bail. They can’t afford the testing that would make a difference in their case. Marijuana has sent thousands of young Black men to prison while it is now legal and no one is going to jail.
Today there are more young Black men in jail and Prison than in Colleges and Universities, Where are the Evangelicals and where are the Christian activists?
[Extracted from the booklet, Christianity and Racism, The Great Conﬂict, by Joe C. Hopkins.]