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Monday, August 22, 2011

The fight of faith. . .

The truth of our particular struggle pushes us beyond ourselves to the truth of other struggles…. Human beings are made for each other and no people can realize their full humanity except as they participate in its realization for others. The Jesus of the biblical and black traditions is not a theological concept but a liberating presence in the lives of the poor in their fight for dignity and worth (pp. xii-xiii).

God of the Oppressed
James Cone

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Father of BLT

Chris said...

NOT bacon, lettuce and tomato:)

Larry James said...

Black Liberation Theology is not a dirty word, folks. It is a legitimate paradigm for framing and interpreting the text of Scripture. Every bit as sound, more so in my view, as what I grew up on in the "Restoration Movement." In that mileu we focused on the wrong target--restoring the ancient church. Flawed focus. We should have kept our eyes on Jesus and the implications of God's dramatic dive to the bottom of the human experience, much as Cone does.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no you didn't!

Chris said...

So you think the Marxist BLT has as their focus Jesus?
The sooner black theologians stop thinking of themselves as victims, the better off they will be.

If I were you I would stop your nonsense about BLT. This is the 21st century and we have a black president.

It seems to me you are closer to Marxism than any other system. I don't think Marxism spends much time focusing on Jesus.

rcorum said...

I would love for someone to explain the following quote from Cone in his 1984 book "For My People."

"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."

From the little that I have read from Cone it seems to me that following his theology bringing different ethnic groups under the banner of Christ would be for all practical purposes impossible.

Posts like this are one reason why I would love to share a cup of coffee with you the next time you are in the Memphis area. You defend these men, but you seem to me to be so different in your own outlook.

Larry James said...

RC,if I'm ever up your way, I'll contact you. And, of course, the road runs to Dallas as well! Cone is misunderstood, most often by those who don't understand or appreciate the use he makes of "blackness" as a sociological and theological construct for interpreting scripture and life. He argues in so many words, again and again, that he must read the Bible through his "blackness" in terms of experience, values and hope. He also appreciates and argues the same for other groups of oppressed and marginalized persons--Asians, Latinos, women, Native Americans, etc. It is just that, being a black person, he does theology from that platform. He would also understand that people like us do theology from a platform of "whiteness" since that is our experience, etc. As an example, I had Dr. Cone in a class in seminary, the subject "Black Liberation Theology." I had a cup of coffee with him to discuss the experience I had had in my church in Shreveport, LA 1973-1975, thoroughly racist and full of conflict because of my preaching about it as evil. I was ready to cast the whole deal into the pit. Cone advised me that from my position my only option was to "love the sinners." So, I really can see Cone's work and word leading to ecumenical action and cooperation. To ignore the influence of "black" on the experience and theology of that part of the church is folly. Same could be said for other parts of the body. Recognition of my reality is the start of unity, not the end. We aren't all going to be the same after all. What Cone says about Marx and capitalism should not be construed to mean that he is a Marxist, only that the Bible doesn't envision a capitalist society or economy like that which dominates our age. If you think about the Law, the prophets and the NT, I think you can see that he is correct--too much provision for wealth redistribution (Jubilee, etc) and forgivenss of debt. . .too much community that affected economics (Acts 2-4), and even a good bit of "class consciousness" prompted by the brother of Jesus (the book of James is really not about baptism or the battle betw faith and works, it is an economic tract for a very poor church oppressed by wealthy land owners it seems who cause a good deal of suffering in that early group of churches in Judea). That is all that Cone means. He would argue that overlaying scripture with capitalism is largely anachronistic and likely contorts the texts we might select for such an exercise. Cone is brilliant and his use of his own ethnic experience that he honestly and openly brings to the text of the Bible is very creative and very useful in motivating folks to act boldly, humbly and with courage in the face of oppression and discrimination. At the same time, his approach if most instructive to me about what my black brothers and sisters have been through. Lots of people who comment here just don't understand. And, as you have seen, I haven't been to successful in helping them.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

It could as easily be said of you that you are closer to libertarian capitalism than to Jesus. You start with your political and economic beliefs and interpret everything through that lens. I hate to break this to you, but the Bible does not provide a ringing endorsement for your views.

chris said...

The book of James has five chapters, the first four talks about a variety of things. The fifth talks about the rich Jews and their oppression and the eventual distruction of Jerusalem. I would not go as far to say this was the theme of the entire book, just a small part.

chris said...

The book of James has five chapters, the first four talks about a variety of things. The fifth talks about the rich Jews and their oppression and the eventual distruction of Jerusalem. I would not go as far to say this was the theme of the entire book, just a small part.

Larry James said...

Not accurate, Chris: James 1:2-12 is about suffering caused largely by those who are rich (9-10); 1:27 outlines our mission as disciples as being concerned about the poor and remainly morally pure; 2:1-13 is about discrimination based on class--note verse 6 on the role of the rich in oppressing the poor; 2:14-17 is about how faith goes to work, not in baptism or ceremony, but in providiing clothing and food for the poor; chapters 3-4 are about bedrock community values in the face of oppression, largely economic--things get loud and out of hand when folks are suffering--so lots of advice to that context in these chapters; chapter 5 is about the rich and more about the suffering they can cause (5:1-12) and the responsibility of the oppressed to endure. Not exactly as you suggest, Chris.

Anonymous said...

Besides, Chris, James is not the whole of the Bible. My point is that you criticize Cone and others for their willingness to explore 'left wing' ideas and their relationship to the Bible, but you routinely assume or argue that 'right wing' ideas are supported by the Bible, and it just isn't so. You do the same thing yourself that you chastise so vehemently in Cone - freely mix your own politics and the Bible.

Anonymous said...

ITS A DIRTY PHRASE IN THE MAINSTREAM....ONLY THE IGNORANT AND THEIR HANDLER/MANIPULATORSS BELIEVE THIS SOCIAL/POLITICAL SYSTEM THINLY CLOAKED AS CHRISTIANITY IS SIGNIFICANT

Anonymous said...

Pardon me again for failing to properly address my least comment to the REV. Larry James. Consider this as an appendage to that comment

Anonymous said...

People who leave comments in all caps are scary, and usually just trying to make up in form for what's lacking in substance.

Anonymous said...

BE VERY SCARED

Chris said...

Chapter 3 is teaching against gossip, chapter 4 is against worldliness in the church as well making plans without considering the will of God, but where is the oppression?

The book of James teaches that faith without works Is dead
and it illustrate it by saying that one must do more than saying ,"Be warm and filled," to a poor person. You must give him what he needs. The Apostle Paul talked a lot about faith in contrast to James talking about works. It takes both!

Oh, and by the way, Martin Luther didn't think much about the book of James because he was a faith only guy.

Anonymous said...

James Cone, a founder of Black Liberation Theology, "refuses to accept (a) God who does not belong to the black community." Cone said, "Whites must give back what they took. . .give back your job or your money." This in reality is an effort "to punish the oppressor;” to grab power.
Identifying what to control, linking the methods to Marxism, and then creating victims is modus operandi for completely changing America's thrust of individual achievement and personal responsibility into a country of social justice built on a perversion of Christianity. BLT centers on the notion of collective salvation in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus and individual salvation.

Larry James said...

Anon 9:12, you type from a canned source really well. The point of view you quote is ill-informed, and inadequate, to say nothing of being wrong. Have you read a word Cone has written?

Anonymous said...

Rev Larry James - using an outside source does not invalidate the truth of the statement.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Why so obsessed with James? How about the rest of the Bible? And are you suggesting we ignore James because ML didn't care for it? I'm really having trouble following you at this point.

Larry James said...

Anon 8:18, acutally it does if the source is biased and misrepresents the subject under consideration.

Chris said...

Anon. 9:35

My comments on the book of James is an answer to the gross misrepresentation that LJ gave it in his comments of 8:24.

It is not a book about the oppression of a poor church by wealthy landowners.

I think the theme could be summarized in one word-"Perfection". The theme is stated in verse 4 of chapter 1..."that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."

There follows "golden nugget " after golden nugget of how we should conduct our lives. To name a few.

1.Christians should strive to be perfect through patience.

2.pray for wisdom.

3.do not doubt the Lord.

4.do not be doubleminded.

5. The perfection of Christ exalts one of low social status.

6. Every good gift comes from above.

7. Every man should be slow to speak,slow to wrath.

8.Be doers and not heaters only.

9.control your tongue.

10. Visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.

11.do not respect persons.

12.faith without works is dead.

13. The person who had "faith only" is no better than a demon.

14. By works a person is justified and not by faith only.

15. As a body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.

16. The. tongue is full of deadly poison.

17.Be subject to God, resist the devil

18.Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

19. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.

20. Say, "if the Lord will, we shall do this or that."

21. If you know to do good, and do it not, to you it is sin."

Chapter 5 is addressed to the wealthy Sadducean aristocracy in Jerusalem who had slain the Messiah.

Verse 3, "ye have laid up your treasure in the last days." This refers to the siege of Jerusalem in which the wealthy Sadduceans lost all their wealth and more than a million were murdered. This was "the last days" of the Jewish commonwealth. ( until May,1948)

And no, I don't believe the Jewish state is theirs forever since they forfeited that right by disobedience, however, I favor the Jews over Palestine.

This is only a part of the many "nuggets" of James.

Anonymous said...

When you use facts to challenge a liberal you are often informed that you just don't understand. What is amazing is that the issues we are debating are printed in millions of copies of Scripture and there's probably one sitting on a shelf near most of us right now. So read James. Find out that Larry is simply wrong about its emphasis on economic oppression. Then ask why it is that the liberal solution to life's problems is the redistribution of wealth. Not a call to faith, not a call to disciplined living. Just a series of schemes to take cash from those who work and give it to those who don't.

Larry James said...

Anon 3:15, good advice. And, I believe my interpretation that accounts for the social realities of the early community whom James addresses is correct both exegetically and historically. The advice re suffering early in the letter is about suffering of oppression and how to manage it, respond to it. The advice about harmony among others is intended to counter the pain and noise and frustration created by an unjust society. The words about receiving the poor and the rich relate to the overall theme of the letter. The characterization of the rich as oppressors in chapter 5 provides the essential context for understanding the whole--it is the background music or mural for the whole. Church members in the US today read scripture thru middle class, suburban filters and any word or voice that speaks to justice and equity systemically as a matter of concern to people of faith is rejected out of hand as socialist, communist or pagan. At best these clear texts become pretexts for charity with no eye to the injustice that shapes and limits millions around the world.

Anonymous said...

Rev Larry James, You sellout the Christian belief system to promote your minority obsessed Coneism. Coneism plays well to some minority groups, but is in no way indicative of mainstream Christian belief. I do enjoy using the REV appendage on your name as it correctly identifies you with minorities similiarily identified.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:37:

"Reverend (Rev.)" is used widely throughout the Christian community, by Episcopalians and Methodists, among others. Your statement that "it correctly identifies [Larry] with minorities similiarily identified" is simultaneously bizarre, just wrong, and frankly makes you sound racist. But somehow I doubt you care.

Anonymous said...

BINGO! We have a winner- the race card has been played.

Anonymous said...

More like Anon 5:37 played the racist card.

chris said...

"...any word or voice that speaks to justice and equity systemically as a matter of concern to people of faith is rejected out of hand as socialist, communist or pagan..."

Larry, I have noticed that most of the people you really admire most happen to be either socialist or communist. James Cone, Saul Alinsky, Van Jones and Jim Wallis come to mind and I'm sure there are more.

Communism is far from dead. Tonight I saw a documentary called "Agenda." The communist have been on a course since the 1930's to make America a communist country, not by revolution but from changing our culture from the inside. It is truly frightening. They started out with over 40 objectives and most of them have been realized.

By promoting these men, you are promoting their agenda. Now if you really want to see poverty, just let the communist take over. Most of the poverty of the world is caused by socialist/communist governments. We would have a lot less poverty now if our government would get out of the way.

Just think about how much our culture has changed in the last 40 years. A good teacher was fired the other day for talking against same sex marriage. Some schools have started saying a pledge to the world instead of to the flag. Obama has ties to ACORN and no matter what he says, he was a close friend of the terrorist guy who bombed the pentagon.

The communists are especially active in our public schools through the teachers unions. One has to be very careful to monitor what their children are learning these days. If I had children of school age I would be very hesitant about sending them to public school.

Of course another place the commies are active in is the media and Hollywood. The media doesn't even bother to cover it up anymore.

Now you will not hear them call themselves communist or socialist. The word now is "progressive." When you hear that, it's another word for communist/socialist.

Another word which means the same as communist is "social justice." You might want to strike that from your vocabulary.

cheers,

belinda said...

Chris, you do realize that "communism" was in the Bible, Acts 2? it just didn't have a negative connotation. in the 50's a lot of Hollywood were members of the communist party. then Eisenhower (a republican) outlawed it. we tend to outlaw and banish things that we're afraid of.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, Chris, you need to get another tune. It is absurd to think that communism did not effectively die along with the Soviet Union. The days of and need for Red baiting and McCarthyism are gone. If you think any significant aspect of the modern US is "communist," you are not living in the real world. And equating the phrases "progressive" and "social justice" with this dead ideology is just a paranoid delusion.

rcorum said...

I not sure why I want to continue this, but I think both sides have said some things that deserve some kind of challenge. Chris, when you write I always get the feeling that you are simply saying the words of others. Larry, you write often about the middle class reading their bibles through their suburban filters. Of course we do, but is it only the poor who can read the bible through pure filters. My biggest complaint with Cone is not that he is a communist. In fact I am feel sure that he cares deeply about those whom he writes. My complaint that he always seems to make only victims. We still live in a country where people can rise above the role of victim. Some people, and I would put Cone in this group, could not function well without a victim mentality. Larry, sometimes I feel as though you bent on making middle class folk feel guilty. I am more than willing to fess up to the sins of my fathers, but I don't feel guilty about being a part of the middle class, and I don't begrudge the wealthy. If you find multiple generations floundering in poverty there is plenty of blame to go around, and at some point doesn't some of the blame rest on a legacy of poor decisions. I ran across an old book written in 1910 titled "The White Man's Burden." In the book, published in Birmingham, AL. the author spends a significant amount of time making a strong case for the progress that African-Americans made in spite of hatred and racism on the part of Whites. I wonder sometimes if all of the government programs designed to help people actually in many cases keep people in a perpetual state of want and make them victims. Just my thoughts. Even though many of you strongly disagree with Larry remember that he takes on all comers.

chris said...

Belinda,

There is absolutely no comparison between the so called communism in Acts 2 and that of today.

The Christians retained the means of production, it was a communism of distribution and not of production. They still retained private property.

There was no command of Christ or of the apostles to sell all their goods and distribute to the poor, it was voluntary. What's more, the experiment failed, it lasted only a short time.

The Christians enjoyed fellowship from house to house, communists spread terror from house to house. Christians praise God, communists blaspheme, Christians love, communists hate, Christians give, communists take.

See any difference?

If you google the book, "The Naked Communist" published in 1958, you can read 45 goals of the Communist Party.They planned to achieve these goals by infiltrating and tearing down the culture and not by a bloody revolution. Check how many have been achieved.

Also google the DVD "Agenda, Grinding America Down." After you do this, tell me that the communists are not alive and thriving in the USA.

chris said...

Belinda,

There is absolutely no comparison between the so called communism in Acts 2 and that of today.

The Christians retained the means of production, it was a communism of distribution and not of production. They still retained private property.

There was no command of Christ or of the apostles to sell all their goods and distribute to the poor, it was voluntary. What's more, the experiment failed, it lasted only a short time.

The Christians enjoyed fellowship from house to house, communists spread terror from house to house. Christians praise God, communists blaspheme, Christians love, communists hate, Christians give, communists take.

See any difference?

If you google the book, "The Naked Communist" published in 1958, you can read 45 goals of the Communist Party.They planned to achieve these goals by infiltrating and tearing down the culture and not by a bloody revolution. Check how many have been achieved.

Also google the DVD "Agenda, Grinding America Down." After you do this, tell me that the communists are not alive and thriving in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Googled it, Chris. "The film equates all political and social liberals with Stalinist Communism and Nazism." Doesn't sound very open minded or neutral.

Chris said...

One doesn't have to be a communist to promote their agenda. For example, communist are behind the environmental movement which causes major disruptions in the business world with all the rules and regulations. However, the average person who is concerned with the environment is not a communist.

Anonymous said...

As usual, Chris, you are baffling. "Communist are behind the environmental movement", but "the average person who is concerned with the environment is not a communist." Yet you continually equate things with just such tenuous "connections" (I'll just assume there is one for the moment) and deride anyone in Group B because of some alleged connection to Group A, even while admitting most of Group B is not even aware of any (alleged) connection. Like Glenn Beck, you just draw lines on a chalk board and assert connections, whether they make any sense or not, and regardless of whether there is any evidence or not. And like Beck, it really, truly, just sounds paranoid.

It really must be hard thinking - sorry, knowing - you have all the answers, and no one will listen except those who already believe.

chris said...

Anon. 12:55

Take a look at the 45 declared goals of the Communist Party to take over America. They were published in the Congressional Record in 1963. Go ahead, I will wait:)

Check out 24, 25, 26,28, 29,30,36, 38 and 40.

for example, take 24, 26 and 28. There are people who would agree with these but would not be a communist. (They would probably be a liberal Democrat) However, they would be helping the Party achieve their goals.

belinda said...

Chris, do not tell me about communism. Have you ever been to a communist/socialist country, i.e., Russia, China, Israel? My husband is Russian - he only moved here (for good) in 1999. The majority of things I was told/taught about communism were so far removed from the actual truth. I went to a private school. When I was in the 9th grade, we even had a 6-week course on communism. Russians have always been able to own their own property. They are college educated. They are able to go to a doctor without having to worry if they can afford it or not. The more I've learned - from an ACTUAL communist - I believe at times we are fed lies to make things seem better in the U.S. We have to create enemies of everyone else so we always look like we're the best. I'm glad I live here, but we lose sight that things could be even better.

Larry James said...

RC, thanks for your comments. I must say that the whole notion of "victimization" is largely projected onto folks who are simply asking for relief and rights. Here in our building I spend every day with very low-income persons, many disabled. I never hear or observe a "victims mentality." It seems to me that the default position or response to and against honest inquiry about justice, fairness and human rights is this claim that the poor operate out of a victims' mentality. Sorry, but that is informed by stereotypical understands of and regard for the poor. Yesterday I had lunch with three gentlemen who collectively have spent over 50 years locked up in prison for crimes they didn't commit. DNA evidence exonerated them. Not once have they, truly victims of an unjust, racist system, claimed that position. I just don't meet people like you describe. So, as I say, the notion of victimization is a projected construct invented as a defense against the hard truth of injurious unjustice.

chris said...

Belinda,

First of all, Israel is a Parliamentary Democracy and yes, I have traveled there many times. I have also been to East Berlin way back when it was a divided city. Not a pretty picture.

I have a Russian sister-in-law who now lives in this country.

When Stalin was in power, he introduced collectivsation. There was little or no private property. It worked pretty good for a time until there was a famine. He also had a series of purges. There is really no way of estimating the number of people who died or were murdered under his reign, but some say 20,000,000 is a low number.

That was only the Soviet Union, not to mention the MILLIONS who have died in Communist China, North Korea, Cuba, North Vietnam (before it was one country)

These are all documented facts.
My "nephew" who lives in Russia still has to "look over his shoulder" because he is not exactly a fan of Putin.

rcorum said...

Larry, let me try to do a little better job in expressing my feelings. Our country should do everything in our power to help anyone who is disabled or wrongly convicted of a crime. I wasn't talking about people who fall into categories like that. I am talking more about women who have child after child outside of marriage and expect the government to support them. That is not a figment of my imagination, and when you learn their story you realize that this has been a multi generational problem. At what point does it become their problem? I really find it hard to believe that you seem to leave no room for victimization to be at least part of the equation. As far as the wrongly convicted men. They are not only victims, they should be able to sue the pants off the State of Texas. No need to respond. I continue to learn from you and know that you care deeply for the people you serve.

belinda said...

Chris, i think you're an idiot. you totally have no understanding. that's okay. ignorance is bliss. why do you even read Larry's blog? you never agree with anything he posts. like me with Faux news - i don't agree with them so i just don't turn them on.

chris said...

Belinda dear, why am I an idiot?

You seem to have no understanding oc communism, in spite of your 6 week course.

Anonymous said...

Belinda is the poster child for liberalism. She spews empty arguments and is surprised when someone disagrees. Name-calling is her only option.

Chris said...

Belinda, I don't agree with PMSNBC much either, but you can't beat Al Sharpton for entertainment value.

belinda said...

No, i'm not surprised when someone disagrees. what i am surprised by is the folks that read this blog when they pretty much disagree with everything Larry posts and stands for.
my 6-week course in communism - I'm married to a Russian, lived there until 1991 when Yeltsin took over. don't try to tell me what's going on - i have someone that lived and worked for the Russian government for over 20 years.
YES, i'm proud to be a "liberal." just like Jesus Christ.