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Salvation as liberation is a key theme in Liberation and Black Theology. I will point out later that the reading of Scripture can lead to the theme of freedom for poor and marginalized, which is the bringing of salvation into the present and the future. “Salvation is more than quantitative.” Salvation I will posit in Liberation and Black theologies is more than heaven bound or even heaven minded with no earthly good. Salvation is more than a guaranteed heaven but also a guaranteed earth with abundance, health, wholeness, peace and hope for everyone, particularly blacks in Black Theology.
Liberation Theology and Black Theology are both concerned with justice for people. While, Liberation Theology is concerned with freedom of Latin America, Black Theology is concerned with freedom for Blacks from dominant forces mainly white oppression. Black Theology is the tearing away of the systemic realities that keep blacks as slaves or servants of others. It is a living into the reality of true Salvation of hope as espoused by Jürgen Moltmann, which I will return to later. Black Theology is deeply concerned with racism and how race is used as a weapon or instrument of authority to restrict and restrain the black race and also encourage or uplift to change and transform society. It was used to inspire change in connecting the spiritual reality with social circumstances of blacks in America. Black Theology is an interpretation of Liberation Theology, putting into practice the tenets of Liberation Theology.
The second part of the statement is what gave rise to Black Theology? A close reading of the literature of the 1960’s shows that there were three influences or statements that sought to build the house of Black Theology. In the work as noted below often times quoting at length, “Black Liberation Theology is as much a theological response to three statements that came out during the 1960s, as it is a response to the general racial climate in the United States.” The three statements are surrounding Black Power, Black Manifesto and Joseph Washington comments about blacks in the United States.
“Black Power” was the first statement. It was released “on July 31, 1966, by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen (NCBC) and appeared as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times. It has been said that the statement was a response to the burgeoning Black Power movement, spearheaded by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a statement designed to ‘vindicate’ the young civil rights workers laboring in the rural south and to galvanize the left wing of the Southern-based civil rights movement and reassemble it within the province of Black Christians who lived in the urban North. In short, black clergy in the North sought to mediate the growing division between Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent philosophy and SNCC’s strident call for active black resistance to white oppression”.
The second statement was around the “Black Manifesto,” outlining of the way of response by blacks to the oppression of white dominant culture. The paper notes “that the second was the National Committee of Negro of Clergymen’s affirmation of Black Power, which set in motion a series of moves by black academics, laying the groundwork for a Black Theology of Liberation. A Detroit conference held in 1967 and organized by black grassroots addressed the role of churches and synagogues in alleviating the problems of the urban poor. From this conference, the “Black Manifesto” was released. This manifesto outlined economic grievances held by black Americans. They demanded $500,000,000, to be used to establish independent economic, social, and educational institutions for black Americans.”
The third and final statement being Joseph Washington’s rhetoric’s on Black and Black Religion. “Washington asserted that the theology of black religion was inadequate and only a ‘folk’ religion, lacking fundamental qualities necessary to be considered ‘true’ religion. In the preface to Black Religion, Washington makes his beliefs concerning black religion plain: “I believe, the religion of the Negro lacks the following: a sense of the historic Church, authentic roots in the Christian tradition, a meaningful theological frame of reference, a search for renewal, an ecumenical spirit, and a commitment to an inclusive Church.” Washington argues that Christianity in black communities is ‘pseudo-Christianity,’ a folk religion committed more to the emancipation of black people than establishing itself as a non-folk religion. Washington further made a damning charge, stating that the folk religion of black people is ‘dysfunctional.’ While black folk religion is dynamic and energetic, it is not particularly creative, nor does it contribute anything to larger Christendom”.
In summary, Black Power calling of blacks to greater consciousness in and of self and identity in society, the Black Manifesto outlining the appropriate response to be given to blacks to attain equity by those who were involved in colonization and the Joseph Washington’s comments demeaning blacks and denouncing their religious capacity for individual and institutional engagement were the statements that provided the framework for advocacy, inspiring the house of liberation called Black Theology. These three issues galvanized the blacks to address the socio-political realities of brothers and sisters in the 1960’s.
I turn now one of the sources of Black Theology, called Scripture. Scripture is the lens through which thinkers and agents of change of black theology use to view and appropriately respond to circumstances of black theology. Scripture is one of the methodological tools used by Black Theology, which mainly comes from references of liberation and justice in both the Old and New Testament. Scripture is the inspiration of a new society or new day for blacks as it was used by the early readers of the Bible. The references in Scripture are used to talk about and interpret the life of the poor or marginalized particularly the blacks in society.
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