Black Liberation Theology

I have refrained from commenting extensively on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy because this is an election year, and I avoid partisan questions. Until now, the Rev. Wright has been closely aligned with the Democratic front-runner.

Two recent events, however, now lead me to speak out about him. First, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has denounced Wright’s radical teachings. Second, Rev. Wright has raised questions that go far beyond the current political campaign. Specifically, he is a proponent of black liberation theology, a radical movement that emerged some 40 years ago.

One of the founders of black liberation theology is a mentor of Rev. Wright. He is James Cone, author of a 1969 book titled Black Theology and Black Power. The book presents Jesus as a liberator who identified with poor and oppressed peoples. Cone links the Christian faith with the African-American struggle for full equality.

Among Cone’s more radical teachings: God is against white people. My friend Mike Gerson, the columnist, quotes Cone as saying, “Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.” Jesus, Cone declares, did not come for all, but only for the poor and the oppressed.   

Clearly, these beliefs are inconsistent with biblical teaching. Jesus was concerned, of course, about the rights of the oppressed, but He also made it clear that the Good News is for everybody-male and female, Jew and Gentile, and even the Roman soldiers who nailed Him to the cross.

I had always written off black liberation theology as a movement embraced only by isolated radicals. You can imagine how surprised I was to read in the New York Times this week that perhaps a quarter of all black pastors are followers of this movement.


It is hard for me to believe the New York Times is correct about all this. But if it is, I hope African-American leaders will recognize liberation theology for what it is: Marxism that failed everywhere it has been tried; and a theology that brings about not reconciliation, but further alienation.

Now, as a white man, I obviously cannot understand all the feelings in the black community. But having worked in the prisons with so many African-Americans and with so many black pastors over 30 years, I do have some appreciation for the anger and resentment they feel over America’s treatment of their ancestors and of them-rightly so. But their hope should be in the orthodox Gospel, not a chimera like liberation theology.

If the Times is correct, this is sad and frightening news. Black liberation theology is no more than secular liberalism once again invading the [body of Christ] — and, like all such movements, it will only end up betraying its followers.

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