Forums Spiritual Theology 4.1: God of the Oppressed

  • 4.1: God of the Oppressed

     Anonymous updated 10 months, 2 weeks ago 13 Members · 49 Posts
  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    November 30, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    Share an insight and a question that arose for you from your reading of James Cone, God of the Oppressed.

    Due: initial post by 12/2 and 2+ follow-up posts by 12/4

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I am working my way through God of the Oppressed. I took it on vacation last week and managed to work through the first three chapters. Last night I took a break and read the additional articles. Taken as a whole, Cone’s book was written in the 70’s, but much of what he discusses is still timely and relevant today. This is terribly heartbreaking.

    Over the summer I hosted a reading group on the book How to Be an Anti-racist. One of the members of the group talked about how she had been in protests and racial justice movements in the 70s and thought progress was being made. Her comments and experiences really helped inform my reading of Cone’s work. I am particularly intrigued by the discussion of religion being informed by culture. I think this is so true. I wonder what others think.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks for pointing out the chronology here, Christine. Yes, the original setting of the 70s (with the 60s and civil rights era) is important to keep in mind. And sadly, yes, the fact that this work is “still timely and relevant” ought to grab our attention more. It depends on who/where you are, but from where I am, it is clear that we have not made any progress, and if anything have regressed!

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    As a pastor who leads more as priest than theologian, I resonated with Cone’s question, “What difference does it make if one should ‘prove’ a philosophical point, if that point has nothing to do with spreading freedom throughout the land?” But it’s the last part of his question that I have been really chewing on. As I’ve been preaching about hope in the midst of a white awakening to racism, and an invigorating resistance to oppression by black people in America, and as I preach about hope in the midst of a global pandemic, how much of what I am preaching is connected to “the songs and tales of black slaves” which point us to actual freedom for “black, red, and brown people?”

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 6, 2020 at 11:02 am

      This is really powerful. How do we translate our theology to action on the ground that leads to freedom for the oppressed? I think that question is one that this book is causing me to wrestle with as well. If I’m honest, for a long time I studied theology because I wanted to be able to defend what I believe. That seems really hollow, empty, and selfish now. Thank you for raising this point!

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Great question, Rachael. How much of our theological imagination is shaped by non-white sources? For too many of us (myself included), too little.

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    The Liberation Theology raised by James Cone in the God of the Oppressed has made me think of the Gentrification and homelessness issues in my city of Denver. With the increase in gentrification, people of color are being forced out of neighborhoods that help so much historical and cultural value. I recently watched a few videos from Brother Jeff (as he goes by on Facebook) in which he walks by a few neighborhoods highlighting new housing and businesses. As he points out, these nice amenities and efforts aren’t for black people. One of his quotes “While we were killing on the block, white people were buying up the block” Buying as the property value was low to then flip and “clean up” in order for it to appeal to white folks. So part of my work in racial reconciliation is to mindful of supporting minority owned businesses, and really one could argue this is the way of Jesus as well in our modern time. To support and stand with the oppressed and marginalized.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 2, 2020 at 9:33 pm

      It’s awesome that you took the conversation of the theological and immediately made it practical. That is an awesome way to move forward with what we can do to not be so much a part of the problem.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 9:14 pm

      Is there anything going on in the city politics level that could be done to help combat these issues. From my friends who’ve worked on issues of gentrification and housing, its often not enough to just do things like support minority owned businesses but regulation in terms of affordable housing and limiting the kind of exploitative practices developers often do in coming in and demolishing then building expensive (financially inaccessible housing) needs to be done on the city/ local government level. I know we struggled with a lot of the same issues in Nashville, and it seems like almost all major cities in the US are dealing with the lack of affordable housing and gentrification.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 4, 2020 at 4:21 pm

        Thanks for sharing these points SueAnn. I do know there is a Group Living Code Amendment up for review right now in Denver. From what I know it would implement equitable, affordable and inclusive housing for all and address identified problems with the Denver zoning code. Pulled right from a digital pamphlet “The issues being addressed by this project have become
        even more urgent in the wake of the pandemic, job losses
        that are leading to a wave of evictions, the forthcoming
        loss of our existing community corrections resources, and
        our country’s long
        -overdue awakening to issues of equity.” As you said, local politics are important!

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Great conversation here. Getting at the root causes of dispossession and displacement is really important. And there’s no way to do this work without actually physically showing up. We’ll be getting at some of these systemic/structural issues next month when we read Tom Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis, but it’s great that this is where your mind went, Brandon!

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    I am feeling much the way about this book so far that I felt about Thurman’s book, which is “why haven’t I read this sooner?” I am resonating so much with his blunt appraisal of White theologians, as I feel this deep sense in my own faith journey and that of my faith community, that it is long past time to listen and heed other perspectives and worldviews outside of the white, heteronormative one that always seems to dominate every aspect of our lives. We have always been called to listen to others and I do believe our own understanding of how to build God’s Kingdom on Earth is tied to it. As a person who identifies as White, I am struggling with my place in that, but have realized my place at this time is to listen without comment. My opinions are neither needed nor wanted, and that is OK, in fact it is good. As I said in small group today, it’s not my turn to talk.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 2, 2020 at 6:41 pm

      Right before our meeting today I happened to read that the Southern Baptist Convention declared Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality antithetical to the gospel. For me this just highlights the total insecurity of some of the white people in the world of American Christianity – they are so threatened by any kind of thought that challenges their own assumptions about race. I can only imagine what they think of James Cone! I’m with you – white people need to listen to others, even when – especially when – their way of thinking is different from their own.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 2, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      I think it is very admirable that you are in a place of listening, with a determined posture of listening to understand and not talk. My question for you is, when will it be your turn to talk again? How will you know when it is your turn?

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 3, 2020 at 8:28 pm

        This is the question I’m wrestling with. I want to first do no harm…but I also want to do good. I have made the mistake of speaking in support of things in the past before I’ve done the work to understand the community I am trying to support, so I think it’s something I’m going to need to risk at some point.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 11:52 am

      Thanks so much for this reflection, Sarah. It’s great to see how you are thinking about listening as a worthy act on its own, without the need for qualification or improvement by some kind of greater follow-up action.

      At the same time, I personally am not content with simply leaving it at “not my/your turn”! There’s a certain sadness I felt during our cohort call yesterday, as we discussed this matter in general and @katemarshall ‘s great question in particular. Because I think if we are for the liberation of all people, it would also behoove us to imagine the different ways we all can participate in that work. To stretch the “turn” metaphor, there are many other rides in the park!

      To expound on this, it may help to go back to Cone’s text, where I’d point out he is pushing back against a specific kind of theological hubris. He is calling out white theologians for their “tendency to speak as if they and they alone can set the rules for thinking about God” (xiv) and their persistence in “teaching blacks to be passive and nonviolent” (xv). In my own experience, the culture of Christian theology in North America, across denominational lines, is one that prizes unity above acrimony, too often to the detriment of marginalized peoples. As a POC, I know the applause and success that await me when I talk about reconciliation, peacemaking, the power of the gospel to cover over wrongs. Too often in the past, however, when I approached my work in that way, striving for unity over acrimony in service of a false peace, I have been complicit in (or worse, contributed to) the project of whiteness. Cone doesn’t want white people to stop doing theology altogether, he wants them (and I’d add BIPOCs steeped in whiteness) to stop the kind of toxic, paternalistic, chauvinistic theological work to which they seem to have a fatal attraction.

      I want to be careful not to moderate or over-nuance Cone here, but I think there is actually a lot (okay, maybe a bit) of room in Cone’s imagination for white people doing all kinds of incisive, humble, reparative theological work! And we need voices like yours to take part!

      There are many differences between race and gender, so please forgive the imperfect analogy, but in the same way that womanist theologians don’t need me telling them how to do their work, Cone doesn’t want white theologians telling the world what a theology of hope ought to look like. It’s a call to reimagine the work of theology, one that we all need to do each in our own way. And for those with eyes to see, there is an astonishingly open, wide field of play and work to which we are all invited. The problem is that our theological imaginations are so skewed and limited (or to use Willie Jennings’ term, “diseased”), and we think there is only one way to do theology, which happens to be racist, rapacious, colonizing, hopelessly condescending, etc. Cone says white theologians have been singularly egregious in this regard. For too long, they have propounded a theology that is supposedly universal, definitive, orthodox, and not concerned with liberal preoccupations like identity politics or social location or critical theory. It presents itself as big-t Theology, when it happens to be merely western and white theology.

      To play with the metaphor once more, it may indeed be true that it’s no longer your “turn” at “the ride.” It’s probably also true that we need to shut down the whole ride once and for all. This is hard, though, because for too long, it has been the main attraction in the park. And many fret that if we shut down this one ride, the whole park will go bankrupt.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 3, 2020 at 2:24 pm

        I really appreciate your reading of Cone as “a call to reimagine the work of theology, one that we all need to do each in our own way. And for those with eyes to see, there is an astonishingly open, wide field of play and work to which we are all invited.”

        One thing I’m wrestling with is how to even imagine a theology that is liberated from the constructs of whiteness. The pressures of white normativity and supremacy are everywhere, limiting our imaginations, as you say. I’m grieved when I realize how difficult it is for me to imagine a robust way to think about God that isn’t complicit with or in reaction to whiteness. So I’m eager to see more and more people join in that work of imagination, to come to that open, wide field of play of envisioning a theology that is truly liberative for us all.

        • Anonymous

          Deleted User
          December 3, 2020 at 5:07 pm

          Yes, agreed, Yising! I love the way you and Sarah and others are wrestling with these questions, and how it creates possibilities for our various questions and struggles to overlap (not toward the elision or erasure of particularities, but for the sake of a larger, more expansive whole). And this is why (not a critique but affirmation of Sarah’s comment!) the last thing I want someone to walk away with is, “It’s not my turn period.” But rather, how great would it be, if the takeaway for all of us was, “It’s not my turn to perpetuate whiteness and white theology, instead I’m going to _____,” which can be another way of saying, “It’s not my turn to command attention or center stage,” and which when put that way ought really not be the thing that’s attractive to us anyway. In part, this is why I love my area of study so much (American history, with a focus on the history of race and Christianity). It is decidedly *not* theology, it bypasses the danger of theological hubris, though there are plenty of other pitfalls.

          All that to say, to your point about imagining “a theology that is liberated from the constructs of whiteness,” it is truly difficult, but it’s exactly what I see Cone trying to do, which is why our conversation interacting with his work is so important.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 3, 2020 at 9:10 pm

        Thank you so much, Peter. This is really important to consider. I definitely appreciate this as I know my point was an oversimplification. As white person who was raised in a progressive environment, hubris for me looks like “I am on the side of the oppressed so my opinion MUST be helpful here.” when perhaps I have not done the work of listening first. Your point about the type of theology and hubris being the issue is one I definitely want to think about more as I grow in my understanding of when it is my turn to speak. I know there will be times when it is not only ok to speak up, but absolutely necessary and how to find that balance without speaking over or for is something I am still learning. This will be a really helpful lens with which to approach the rest of the book. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to be in this fellowship and the space to wrestle with these questions.

        • Anonymous

          Deleted User
          December 8, 2020 at 5:47 pm

          Thank YOU, Sarah. I already see a lot of complexity, seriousness, and thoughtful engagement in both your original post and reply here. There is so much for all of us to learn and think about, and yet we have to find ways to embody faithful action today, which is why doing this work in community can be so helpful, and also why I’m grateful for the ways you are wrestling with these questions!

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 4, 2020 at 10:31 am

        I agree with this a lot, Peter. I appreciate your casting a vision for “other rides in the park.” I agree with Sarah that it is time white people do far more listening than before – but I think what Cone/Choi are pointing out is far more important: HOW we listen- which is to say – question the paradigms through which we listen. I have found this to be where the real challenge is – realizing the ways in which I want/expect POC to conform to the (white) norms I was raised with. But when I have conversations with POC in my faith community and family, what I hear them saying is, “Don’t step so far back that you’re essentially silent/absent. Listen, but you still have a role in this.” For me personally, my gifts as a pastor are less as an original, theological thinker, and more as someone who listens and learns, and then applies these ideas in an accessible (I hope) way to the community. I am very actively working to identify the white-supremacy values that underlie my thinking, and then making those visible, tangible changes in the way we lead and teach at my church. I think all of us white folks – no matter our field, profession, or family make up, have a place here.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 6, 2020 at 10:11 am

        Thanks for this Peter. The question I am wrestling with is how do we profess Christian unity between all peoples of faith (which for me is a central aspect of the Gospel) while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of marginalized people? Is it too “white” to want POC and whites (for example) to be together in the same space worshipping our Lord in unity? I feel like what is being implied in what I am reading is that when whites proclaim universality, they are doing so at the expense of marginalized people. If this is so, then it brings me full circle to my initial question. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

        • Anonymous

          Deleted User
          December 8, 2020 at 5:58 pm

          In large part, it may be helpful to talk about what being “together in the same space worshipping our Lord in unity” means, what it looks like, and whether it’s possible to do while the oppressed are still being oppressed in that very moment. Too often, without realizing it, the status quo (even in supposedly multiethnic churches) is a Sunday worship gathering that centers white preachers, white music, in a white space, espousing a theology of whiteness and white supremacy. It doesn’t make it better (maybe it actually makes it worse!) when it’s white preachers talking about de-centering whiteness in the very moment they re-center their own voices. I certainly don’t think this is what you’re talking about, in which case the question of “what is the work required to create an altogether different space and culture” becomes important.

          • Anonymous

            Deleted User
            December 9, 2020 at 1:48 am

            Thanks so much Peter.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 6, 2020 at 11:05 am

      Thank you for saying this. If there is one thing about myself that this book and this course in general have helped me identify, is that I don’t need to always have a response. Sometimes I need to stop, say nothing, and practice deep, transformative listening. This is REALLY hard for me, but it’s necessary in this moment.

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    I’m really loving reading James Cone, but this book is certainly challenging. On the one hand, the majority of what he has to say rings true to me – the gospel is good news for the oppressed, and any reading of the gospel that is not good news for the oppressed cannot be called the gospel. On the other hand, his text leaves me wondering what place my local church can have in the gospel story. Our church is predominantly white and middle class. Cone writes, “It is important to point out that Jesus does not promise to include the poor in the Kingdom along with others who may be rich and learned. His promise is that the Kingdom belongs to the poor alone.” (72) It is clear that rich white people must undergo a conversion in order to take part in the Kingdom. But does this mean selling everything you have and giving it to the poor, as Jesus instructs the rich man? To be honest I think the issue of class presents a bigger challenge than that of race. By unlearning white supremacist indoctrination we can “escape” whiteness to a certain extent. But unless you’re willing to give up your possessions, you can’t “escape” your wealth. This is a big question for me as I continue to read through the book, and one that is very relevant to how I can authentically minister to the people that I am in community with.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 4, 2020 at 2:33 pm

      Jessica – I think that one of the things that I am dealing with is the need to separate whiteness from the color of our skin. For example, I look at Candace Owens. She argues from a standpoint of perpetuating systemic white supremacy while she herself is Black. At the same time, I was married to a white woman for years, and for many of those years, we were poor and on welfare — thus making it feel as though white supremacy wasn’t a reality because we lived as a white family and were living in a minority-like situation.

      I think more than the color of your skin is the mentality, and understanding that is an important step.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      Excellent conversation here, and we will need to keep talking about this: can we separate race and class? how so, and/or to what extent? If whiteness is a construct and ideology, which is easier? to give up your possessions or give up the most fundamental notions of who you are in the world? I don’t have any clear answers here, but grateful for these questions.

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    I stand in skepticism about Cone’s less than uplifting view of “white theologians” and simultaneously stand challenged by a new perspective. Cone says that, “The problem with white men, especially white theologians, is their tendency to speak as if they and they alone can set the rules for thinking about God.” This kind of black and white narrative is hard for me to agree with. Perhaps it is because I am brown and not black, but I see little connection between many modern white people’s theology and their whiteness. I do not see how their explanation of the good news changes when it comes from a stance of privilege or not, because I am surrounded by latinos who also do not stand in privilege and their explanation is the same. At the same time as I recognize all this, I am challenged by Cone’s perspective, coming so uniquely and so passionately from the traditions and history of black people in America. He sees the world through the eyes of an oppressed people, and I have to pay attention to how that changes his view of God and the gospel. My question so far is this; if the question of the oppressed in the land is at the core of the gospel, what does liberation of the oppressed mean? Or what does Cone mean by it?

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      I think that’s a good question. It reminds me of something that my college pastor used to always say to us which is “you can’t be free ‘from’ you can only be free ‘to’ ” and I think thats what we have to imagine liberation with and as, tying it to last unit’s The Very Good Gospel, I think that liberation is shalom! Now what shalom looks like and is, is quite broad and big, and will manifest in a lot of different ways but I do think that it goes back to the bigger idea of shalom.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

        Thank you, SueAnn. Yes, I believe wholeheartedly that the goal is Shalom. The question is how to get there, and for me, the question is, “will we get there by the marginalized marginalizing the voices of the oppressor?” As Peter mentioned, it will be interesting to get to chapter 10 on reconciliation to see how this all ties in.

        I think a big portion of it is actually what you said – separating white people’s theology from their whiteness. As an Asian American, I held to a lot of the theology that was oppressive, because it fit in with where I was. I was a part of a group earlier and when I started to do this work based on my own racist views, I was informed that because I am Asian, that’s not the focus – we were “working on dismantling white supremacy.” Just because we aren’t white, doesn’t mean that we don’t hold to and affirm white ideology and power, and we aren’t given a pass just because of the color of our skin.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      Good questions here, Eric. In part, it has to do with context. When is the question being asked, who is asking the question? Is there such a thing as racialized theology today? Was there such a thing as racialized slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries? Was there such a thing as racialized colonization and empire building? Again, we might answer each of these questions differently, and how we answer these questions will impact how we think not only about the problem of race but also the problem of theology.

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 2, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    I’m a third of the way through God of the Oppressed and thinking a lot about Cone’s contrast of white and Black theologies’ paradigms for the concept of truth. Cone asserts that while “White theologians built logical systems; black folks told tales.” (God of the Oppressed, 50) Black Christians cared less about the academic study of Scripture or any attempt to arrive at a “scientific” truth, but rather “The truth of the story was dependent upon whether the people received that extra strength to go one more mile in their struggle to survive and whether they received the courage to strive one more time to right the wrongs in this world.” (55)

    Throughout the course of this program, I’m realizing how the classic academic disciplines I’ve learned are becoming strained as I wander deeper into theological study. Using methods of scientific research and historical criticism & analysis in studying Scripture is admirable, but I unsure of how often these methods truly offer the oppressed “that extra strength to go one more mile.” All of this is helping me articulate a bit more of the questions I’ve been circling towards throughout the course of this program. How much of theology and theological education as we know it is actually helpful for the people I claim to want to serve? Is participating in most institutions of theological education just submitting myself further to white hegemony over Christianity? What of theology as an academic discipline is still worth pursuing and preserving in our current moment, if anything at all?

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 3:56 pm

      I studied Gender Studies in college, and I remember feeling similarly about feminist theory – some of it was so esoteric that I could not see how it could ever practically help someone dealing with sexism in the real world. However, I also got to read writers like bell hooks, who do a wonderful job of translating theory into plain words that have practical applications. I think that the academic practice of theology remains relevant, but only insomuch as it can be translated for a general audience. We need folks who can do the esoteric work of translating ancient languages and interpreting complex literature, but I think they should also be trained to address the “real world” and its problems. Theologians of color seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to this, and others should learn from them.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 3, 2020 at 4:56 pm

        Jessica, I appreciate your value for practically helping people thrive in the world. I think I’ve actually been less concerned about the practical tools theology can offer us, and more concerned about whether the current paradigms of theology and academia as a whole are white supremacist and/or colonial in nature. I’m specifically interested in ministering to immigrants and children of immigrants, so I often think about whether the theology I am learning — and in turn offering to others — is actually a path towards assimilating to whiteness and internalizing colonial attitudes. As a child of immigrants, this was certainly my experience with much of the American church. There are plenty of people out there who can offer more intelligent and eloquent critiques of academia and its relationship to white colonialism; I won’t attempt that here. But with those ideas in mind, I find myself uncertain about whether or not participating in academic institutions (even as I am actively doing so!) is beneficial for me and any others seeking a decolonized Christianity. Curious about what you and others might think of this! I’m certainly open to more optimistic views than what I currently have.

        • Anonymous

          Deleted User
          December 3, 2020 at 9:29 pm

          I do not think that participating in existing academic institutions will actually help anyone looking to seek a decolonized Christianity and this is something I tell all my friends who are kind of on the similar road as you in me in wanting to decolonize our faith. I think that seminary and other institutions can offer us other tools that can help us in our journey, but no one should go to seminary with the goal of decolonizing because those systems are inherently colonial and exist to perpetuate themselves, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t offer you something or help you in another way–it just isn’t the place that decolonization happens. In the words of Audre Lorde- The masters tools will not bring down the master’s house.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 6:14 pm

      These are such good questions, Yising. The answers are, of course, complex and varied. I wonder if it comes down to a matter of *calling* – what is God calling us to? It will look different for each one of us, even if there are shared and overlapping features.

      It does seem to me worth pointing out that James Cone is himself an academic theologian, doing this work and raising these questions from inside a (white) academic institution. In some ways, he was able to talk and write about these things in a different (not better) way than others living out their calling in different ways. I hope it’s not a copout to say that there are some very pressing, difficult questions about vocation involved in answering these good questions you are raising!

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 3, 2020 at 9:44 am

    In God of the Oppressed, James Cone boils down the “right questions” to one basic question: “What has the gospel to do with the oppressed of the land and their struggle for liberation? Any theologian who fails to place that question at the center of his or her work has ignored the essence of the gospel” (9)

    This is a question that I have been asking for many years, maybe since I became a Christian which is what does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to offer to people, to my parents, to my family, to my Taiwanese American community, and to the people of Taiwan? Ethnically Chinese people do not have a hegemonic nor an antagonistic relationship towards Christianity, and Taiwan has less than 5% Christian population, most of whom are aboriginal indigenous people and not ethnically Chinese. I know what Christianity offers to the aboriginal community as a marginalized, oppressed, and colonized group—a sense of identity, worth, and liberation.

    My friends have recently started a Taiwanese reading group and we talked about the aboriginal communities and the first Han Chinese settlements and Dutch colonization and Taiwan’s settler colonialism. We compared and contrasted Han Chinese supremacy with whiteness and the colonization of indigenous peoples in the United States. All this brings me back to the question of – why should Taiwanese people desire the gospel? Some do, and a lot of Taiwanese independence activists are Christians, both Han Chinese and Aboriginal Taiwanese. The spiritual practice that allows the marginalized to believe in their dignity and redemption as well as the practice that makes those in power to humble themselves is important, but the taking up of this cross is not something I see being powerful or desirable for those already who have power and comfort. I see how a very Western-centric imported Christianity from the US offers power to people in my local context by giving them access to global capital and whiteness, and that it is the most popular evangelization technique. These are very different Christs, different Christianities, but they are all mixed with and among each other in this very small Christian community.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      SueAnn, I have really appreciated hearing your perspective on this. My husband is 2nd generation born in the US from a Chinese family and my mother in law is terrified to set foot in a church because of what she was taught as a child at church, largely based on the colonialization of people and the use of faith to oppress. American Christianity has been so harmful in so many ways, and I love hearing your thoughts on how it might be restorative.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 4, 2020 at 10:51 am

      Great job identifying the key question in Cone: “What does liberation for my people look like?” And as you reflect, oh wow, there are so many entangled challenges: Han Chinese supremacy, the import/export of western Christianity + whiteness, the allure of a bastardized/syncretistic Christianity from the West facing the prospect of further dissolution in Asia, and the difference between liberation and empowerment. And maybe the one I’m most curious about, at what point does “empowerment” become anti-liberation?

      There is a lot to unpack here, SueAnn! Thanks so much.

      • Anonymous

        Deleted User
        December 9, 2020 at 1:39 am

        I think that generally when we use the term “empowerment” we are talking about those with less power getting more power. I do think that a part of liberation is empowerment but what kind of power and how they are empowered matters. I also think we have to realize that in certain circumstances we have different social positions and therefore different responsibilities. While I am a minority and lack social power in the US, I am part of the Han majority in Taiwan and experience the privileges of the majority, one does not erase the reality of the other. Our power / social status / privileges are not universal or absolute but shifting due to context and circumstances and that’s very important to take into consideration.

        I also think that in our differentiation of power we have to look to Jesus, how he humbled himself as it says in Philippians but also, he will sit enthroned in power and every knee will bow and tongue shall confess– his road to glory and power was through humility. I think many times, we take down one dictator just to put another in its place and we have to be very careful in our journey as oppressed peoples not to become that which we are trying to fight–which is where the spiritual journey and path is so essential, we must continue to hold ourselves accountable to those around us in our communities.

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 3, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    For much of my own life, I have been surrounded by, if not white people, the Japanese-American community, who has historically benefitted from being seen as the “model minority.” I remember seeing homeless people on the street, and being raised to believe that they were there because they simply did not want to work hard; not that systems existed that pushed them to places where they could not be successful.

    “Your grandparents were released from the internment camps with only $25 and a bus ticket and the whole country against them because of Pearl Harbor and WWII,” they would tell me. “Yet they worked hard and got back on their feet. Anything is possible with hard work.”

    It wasn’t specifically said that the Black and Mexican homeless men that we would see out on the streets of East Los Angeles didn’t want to work hard, but the conversations surrounding welfare reform and immigration made those connections in our family for me with the resonating message: work hard and make something of yourself or you’ll end up on the street.

    I didn’t truly understand the idea of power structures and oppression until I came out and began my transition 3 years ago. In fact, much of what I have learned in light of racial injustice came from my work two years ago with the Reformation Project. Knowing that there is a lot of hesitancy and victim mentality that is perpetuated on the part of the conservative Evangelical Church, a lot of the work that I feel led to do is centered around the question of how to best reconcile the two communities together so that lasting change can happen.

    That being said, I confess that I am still struggling with the tone that Cone has laid out here, which seems to prioritize the voices of the Black community in faith without leaving room for white voices — which in my view, seems to only perpetuate the inequality by shifting the power from the White community to the Black community. From what I have been experiencing and reading, the goal that I feel is most important is to dismantle structures of power so that we can bring about equality and end the injustices in our world. How is that something we can best accomplish, while also realizing that some of us are still burdened with the baggage that we bring from our more conservative backgrounds?

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 3, 2020 at 8:24 pm

      I really appreciate the perspective you bring here and the importance of tone in how we perceive someone’s message. It really does point out the need for an invitational faith that would allow many perspectives to be at the table. I wrestle with that because I certainly raised with biases against anyone who was not super progressive. I appreciate the perspective you bring and the need for all of God’s people to be in conversation.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 4, 2020 at 11:14 am

      Many great points here, Ellie, especially about the primary goal being the dismantling of pervasive systemic oppression. A few scattered thoughts;

      On tone: I wonder if it may be helpful to separate the question of tone from other questions you’re raising, like the one about leaving/making room for white voices. The latter is one we need to put as much energy as possible into addressing. Tone seems to me to be trickier, governed by too many different cultural norms, multivalent meanings, and therefore subject to all kinds of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

      On reconciliation, James Baldwin’s oft-quoted response comes to mind: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

      I also look forward to bringing in chapter 10 of Cone into this conversation, especially his interrogation of the notion of reconciliation. He writes, “Garnet’s reply to Maria Chapman’s attack on his perspective should be stamped on the consciousness of all blacks [and everyone else, I’d add] who are optimistic about black-white reconciliation.” The entire response should be read and taken seriously (the block quote on p 220), but this part especially haunts me: “…I do not hesitate to say that your abolitionism is abject slavery.” Too often, the peace or reconciliation the white church offers is “abject slavery,” which makes reconciliation difficult if not impossible. To be clear, I’m not hearing this from you or anyone else here, but it will be necessary for us to define not only reconciliation but the sins and conflicts that require reconciliation.

      Let’s keep talking and unpacking these questions!

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 3, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    I am struck by the relevance and resonance of Cone’s “God of the Oppressed” for the moment we find ourselves in. I found his observation of the white response to the Detroit insurrection of 1967 quite familiar. Cone writes, “The most sensitive whites merely said: “We deplore the riots but sympathize with the reason for the riots.” This was tantamount to saying: “Of course we raped your women, lynched your men, and ghettoized the minds of your children and you have a right to be upset; but that is no reason for you to burn our buildings. If you people keep acting like that, we will never give you your freedom.” These words have an all too familiar ring to them. This is almost verbatim what I have heard many white people say about the Minneapolis uprising after the senseless murder of George Floyd. These words, echoed by many white people, assume a posture of superiority over black bodies. These words assume that black people’s freedom is dependent upon how peacefully or graciously they protest. It seems lost on white people that they have been guilty of burning, looting, and destroying black culture and black bodies for centuries.

    As I reflect on these words, I cannot help but to wonder how we as a society move forward. I cannot help but to wonder whether James Cone was really endorsing continued violence and looting, or whether he was making a more complex point. This question haunts me because of where we find ourselves as a society. How do I respond? I don’t want to center my voice in this conversation, and yet I want to have input. There are no easy answers here.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 4, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Jeffrey, I can relate from having conversations with certain people that “It seems lost on white people that they have been guilty of burning, looting, and destroying black culture and black bodies for centuries.” To your question of how do we move forward? I choose to believe, at the risk of sounding naive, that we as individuals have power. Our lives, choices, and conversations can lead people towards change. We can push forward towards togetherness and broadening our perspectives and expanding the perspectives of others.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 6:20 pm

      Excellent points here, Jeffrey. You are making a concerted effort to really understand the words, and not just the words themselves but where they were coming from. I think you are right that Cone’s critique of non-violence need not be taken to mean a simple and clarion call to violence. If he is calling out the weak, facile nature of our caricatures of non-violence, what does a true confrontation of violence, the full scope of white violence, look like? Really great insights here, thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    December 5, 2020 at 1:15 am

    I’ve been focusing on video classes and reading. And why did I know late that I had a great Forum? This is sorry for everyone in this class, so I’m late, but I’m going to participate in this forum and look at the past.

    I feel that the black liberation theologian James Cone tells us very well about God’s love for others. James Cone says, “Even if you understood God very well, what good is this tradition if it had nothing to do with the liberation of society’s slaves and the poor?” In other words, confessing Christ and following Christ are things that cannot be separated. I was able to find God’s love for his creation at the center of the theory that James Cone had. God’s creative activity was love. We can confirm God’s love for the creatures in the Garden of Eden. And the love was confirmed through Jesus. Jesus, who thoroughly hated sin and taught the disciples of love, is the completion of love. And the Holy Spirit, which we studied and thought together in this class, is also calling on the community to practice Jesus’ love. As such, God’s love is concentrated on others. This love is in line with the voice of the struggle of love that James Cone claimed for black men’s liberation. Cone’s voice gave us a good look at the reality we didn’t know and didn’t want to face. And Cone’s theology still applies to our reality. We expect and ponder how God, who saves us from oppression, will use us as a tool to suppress and liberate us.

    • Anonymous

      Deleted User
      December 8, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you, Jaeseol. You are getting to the heart of the issue for Cone, which is love. It seems to me that for Cone, liberation is love, and love is liberation.

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