Black Liberation Theology, in its Founder's WordsThe Rev. James H. Cone founded black liberation theology, which has roots in 1960s civil-rights activism. In an interview with Terry Gross, he explains the movement — and comments on controversial sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's longtime minister and a black liberation theology proponent.
James Cone: Black liberation theologian says the overriding message of Old Testament prophets — and Jesus Christ — is "a condemnation of the nation and of the religious [establishment] ... for oppressing the poor."
Courtesy Union Theological Seminary
The Rev. James Cone is the founder of black liberation theology. In an interview with Terry Gross, Cone explains the movement, which has roots in 1960s civil-rights activism and draws inspiration from both the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, as "mainly a theology that sees God as concerned with the poor and the weak."
Cone also comments on controversial remarks made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former minister and a black liberation theology proponent.
In a now-famous 2003 sermon, Wright charged that an ingrained, abiding racism in American society is at fault for many of the troubles African-Americans face, and he thundered, "No, no, no, not God bless America! God damn America — that's in the Bible — for killing innocent people."
Cone explains that at the core of black liberation theology is an effort — in a white-dominated society, in which black has been defined as evil — to make the gospel relevant to the life and struggles of American blacks, and to help black people learn to love themselves. It's an attempt, he says "to teach people how to be both unapologetically black and Christian at the same time."
Cone's books include Black Theology and Black Power, God of the Oppressed, and Risks of Faith. He teaches at Manhattan's Union Theological Seminary.