Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jesus is black

Apparently Glenn Beck went off on liberation theology a few months ago. I honestly couldn't care less what he says. It did, however, result in a good article discussing black liberation theology in The Other Journal.

To be clear, I know very little about liberation theology, particularly about black liberation theology. I have an introduction to liberation theology I plan to read sometime soon, but I'm not well-informed here. What interested me was James Cone's idea that Jesus is black.

David Horstkoetter, the author of the linked article, says that Cone was talking about "ontological blackness", not skin pigmentation. As the Suffering Servant, Jesus is "an oppressed being" - and "if Jesus were living in the United States in 1970 when Cone wrote A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone is saying that Jesus would be black, not white. It was blacks who underwent (and arguably still do) the oppression, sexual humiliation, and lynching that are all too similar to Roman occupation and crucifixion." Historically, Jesus was Jewish - but, more importantly, he was God come to identify with humanity, particularly the poor, the sinful, and the outcast. He rejected wealth and good reputation in favor of a life of social inferiority and subjection to imperial power. Given the historical status of African Americans, it is easy to see Cone's point.

This is a powerful image to me. It brings Jesus into our time by using modern analogies. It has become easy for me, as a white American man, to forget that Jesus is of "The Other". I have all the privileges and luxuries of a Roman citizen in Jesus' day. How would I have reacted to Jesus, a poor, would-be Messiah from a Roman province? If Jesus came today rather than two thousand years ago, how would I react to him if he came as an African American man?

Jesus is black. Maybe I'll buy one of those "ethnic nativity scenes" for Christmas this year to help me remember.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.