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A Black Theology of Liberation (Ethics and Society) Paperback – November 1, 1990

3.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Paperback, November 1, 1990
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Editorial Reviews


Twenty years ago, when the civil rights and "Black Power" movements were at their peak, James Cone introduced a revolutionary theology based on the African-American experience of oppression and the quest for liberation. The book brought a new perspective to theology in the United States. Cone contends that theology grows out of the experience of the community; the community itself defines what God means. Western European theology serves the oppressors; therefore theology for African-Americans should validate their struggle for liberation and justice. In seven brief chapters, he argues passionately that God must be on the side of oppressed black people and develops the concept of a black God, noting: "To say God is Creator means ... I am black because God is black!" The anniversary edition recognizes Cone's contribution to U.S. theology with a 50-page section of critical reflections by six leading theologians including Gayraud Wilmore, Robert McAfee Brown and Rosemary Radford Reuther. Cone responds to these commentaries in an afterword. The foreword points out Cone's influence on Latin American liberation theology. The interplay among text, commentaries, afterword and preface provides a lively discussion and analysis of developments in black liberation theology over the past two decades. The book should be read for the clarity with which it demonstrates the relationship between theology, oppression and liberation, and for its historic importance in raising the consciousness of its readers about the possibility of viewing God from a black perspective. Anyone concerned about U.S. social history, liberation theology and racism will find the book of interest. It is particularly suitable for university and seminary libraries. -- From Independent Publisher

About the Author

James H. Cone is Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. His many books include Black Theology and Black Power, God of the Oppressed, The Spirituals and the Blues, and Martin & Malcolm & America.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ethics and Society
  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books; 20 Anv edition (November 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0883446855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0883446850
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is Cone's second book on black theology. Here he fleshes out his idea of liberation and revolution in a theological treatise. True Christians are those who join Jesus "in his fight for the liberation for humankind" (3). True liberation is one of any means necessary because it is a theology of survival. It's a theology of survival because oppressed blacks have their very existence threatened merely by being alive. Cone's theology is about self-assertion in the face of nonbeing; it's about doing theology different than whites and asserting the terms of your existence in the face of the oppressor. Here, this is Cone's world. He defines the game and also the rules. There are no outside views allowed in without his permission. In fact, one cannot even properly `do' theology if it doesn't arise from an oppressed bias (how this meshes with Cone's communally invented theology is unclear, however; cf. 1); Further, "whites are in no position whatever to question the legitimacy of black theology" (8); "the oppressor is in no position to understand the methods which the oppressed use in liberation (`oppressor meaning those who disagree with Cone; cf. 10); those outside of the black community "cannot tell the community what is or is not true and expect the community to take it seriously" (41); "The function of theology is that of analyzing the meaning of that liberation for the oppressed so they can know that their struggle for political, social, and economic justice is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any message that is not related to the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology" (v).Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Cone offers a radical reexamination of Christianity from the perspective of an oppressed Black community, dealing primarily with the notion that "white" theology cannot be accepted by African Americans, unless it can be directly related to "black" freedom from oppression. "Black" and "White" do not necessarily relate to skin pigmentation but to "one's attitude and action toward the liberation of the oppressed black people from white racism". Blackness is thus "an ontological symbol for all people who participate in the liberation of man from oppression". Seen in this light, "blackness" can be attributed to people who do not have black skin but who do work for the liberation of African Americans. By contrast, "whiteness" in Cone's thought symbolizes the ethnocentric activity of "madmen sick with their own self-concept" and thus blind to that which ails them and oppresses others. Whiteness, in Cone's view, symbolizes sickness and oppression, and White theology is therefore viewed as a theological extension of that sickness and oppression. Cone emphasizes that there is a very close relationship between black theology and what has been termed "black power". Cone says that black power is a phrase that represents both black freedom and black self-determination "wherein black people no longer view themselves as without human dignity but as men, human beings with the ability to carve out their own destiny." Cone's theology asks the question, "What does the Christian gospel have to say to powerless black men whose existence is threatened daily by the insidious tentacles of white power?" He says Black Theology is derived from "...common experience among black people in America that Black Theology elevates as the supreme test of truth".Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
James Hal Cone (born 1938) is the founder of Black Liberation Theology, a Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, and author of books such as Black Theology and Black Power, God of the Oppressed, Black Theology: A Documentary History, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1970 book, "It is my contention that Christianity is essentially a religion of liberation... Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in the society is not Christ's message... Christian theology must become Black Theology, a theology that is unreservedly identified with the goals of the oppressed community and seeking to interpret the divine character of their struggle for liberation."

For Cone, the role of Black Theology is to tell black people to focus on their own self-determination as a community by preparing to do anything which the community believes to be necessary for its existence. (Pg. 41) Black Theology "rejects the tendency of classical Christianity to appeal to divine providence." (Pg. 44) Black Theology is only concerned with that tradition of Christianity "which is usable in the black liberation struggle." (Pg. 74)

He argues that the wrath of God is the love of God in regard to "the forces against his liberation of the oppressed." (Pg. 133) Moreover, Black Theology is suspicious of people who appeal to a universal, ideal humanity, because "the oppressors are ardent lovers of humanity." (Pg. 156)

Cone's book is more than 40 years old; but while some of its tone may seem to have been a "product of its time," other insights are still a piercing as they were in 1970.
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