Sunday, December 23, 2007

James Cone And the Legitmizing of Black Theology

By: Rev. Angela Lee Price

At the height of the Black Power Movement at a time when strong voices where needed to speak truth to power regarding the African American predicament in America, the Lord put fire in the bones of theologian James H. Cone, using him as a trailblazing catalyst in the development of black theology. James Cone is currently the Charles A Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. James Cone spoke on the subject of the black church and success in the following video clip from Tavis Smiley's 2003 State of the Black Union IV, The Black Church: Relevant, Repressive, Or Reborn?

In 2006, James Cone caused a stir by declining an honorary degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center Commencement Exercises after discovering that “prosperity preacher” Eddie Long would deliver the commencement address. Cone’s legendary spirit of protest some 39 years has led him to become a major voice in social justice for people of color. At the penning of books, Black Theology and Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), he became known in black church and academic circles as the Father of Black Theology. Cone’s greatest accomplishment to systematic theology has been in successfully positioning black theology as a studied discipline within Christian theology.

James Cone in laying the foundation for legitimizing black theology called upon a range of Protestant theologians from Karl Bath to Jurgen Moltmann, and on the writings of Paul Tillich and others to prove that a theology rooted in the black experience was as legitimate as any. Cone based black theology upon a classical interpretation of the Christian faith. Black theologian Gayraud Wilmore in the book, Black Religion and Black Radicalism stated, “Cone showed how a radical but historically accurate exegesis of the biblical story leads to the conclusion that black power is an expression of the gospel in a particular situation of oppression” (Wilmore, p. 214).

Using terms like “being” and “nonbeing” with regard to white racism and black opposition to it, Cone found in the Protestant writings correlative ideas to argue that black theology was a theology of black liberation and that the message of the gospel was one of liberation. Cone wrote in a statement of the National Commission of Black Churches against the backdrop of the Black Manifesto in the late 1960’s:
Black people affirm their being. This affirmation is made in the whole experience of being black in the hostile American society. Black theology is not a gift of the Christian gospel dispensed to slaves, rather it is an appropriation which black slaves made of the gospel given by their white oppressors. Black theology has been nurtured, sustained and passed on in the black churches in their various ways of expression. Black theology has dealt with all the ultimate and violent issues of life and death for a people despised and degraded (Wilmore and Cone in Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979, p.100-102 found in Wilmore, Black Religion And Black Radicalism, p. 215).

Very early in his discourse, Cone answered the question, is black theology Christian theology? He wrote, “Black Theology is Christian theology precisely because it has the black predicament at its point of departure.” Wilmore stated, “But in an effort to lay the foundation for a systematic theology of black experience that met the requirement of universality, Cone added:

Being black in America has very little to do with your skin color. To be black means that your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are….Therefore, being reconciled to God does not mean that one’s skin is physically black. It essentially depends on the color of your heart, soul and mind (Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, p. 151 found in Wilmore, p. 217).
In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone also borrowed from Paul Tillich’s writings to further develop his position. Cone wrote, "The focus on blackness does not mean that only blacks suffer as victims in a racist society, but that blackness is an ontological symbol and a visible reality which best describes what oppression means in America…..Blackness, then, stands for all victims of oppression who realize that their humanity is inseparable from man’s liberation from whiteness (Cone, Black Theology of Liberation, p.27-28).

Cone was criticized for using orthodox Eurocentric Christian constructs in developing black theology and postulating Jesus was black and on the side of the oppressed. His critics believed he should have drawn upon the black church fathers, black history, and black culture for its genesis. Wilmore wrote:
To say that being black in America has little to do with skin color is true, but only a half-truth and capable of gross misunderstanding. It is possible to argue that in a world dominated by white power that is inextricable from white Christianity, being black, or identifiably “Negroid,” is a unique experience that has, since the contact of African peoples with the white Christian West, produced a unique religion – closely related to, but not exclusively bound by, the classic Christian tradition. That, in fact, is the reason for the emergence of a black theology. Simply being oppressed, or psychologically and politically in empathy with the dispossessed, does not deliver one into the experience of blackness any more than putting on a blindfold delivers one into the experience of being blind (Wilmore, 218).
In retrospect, however, Cone had only done in developing his thesis what white church fathers had done for centuries in borrowing upon the constructs and languages of other disciplines. The church fathers had done it in using philosophy to explain Christianity. Delores S. Williams made reference to the fact with regard to the atonement in her book Sisters In the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk. Williams wrote, “…theologians since the time of Ireanaeus and Origen have been trying to make the Christian idea of atonement believable by shaping theories about it in the language and thought of the people of a particular time….(Williams, p. 162)

Furthermore, Cone did lay an African American foundation when he wrote, "Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, and Denmark Vesey are examples of free persons. They realized that freedom and death were inseparable. The mythic value of their existence for the black community is incalculable, because they represent the personification of the possibility of being in the midst of nonbeing – the ability to be black in the presence of whiteness (Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, p. 102). "

The significant contribution of theologian James Cone to systematic theology has been his efforts in legitimizing black theology. The preponderance of what has been written over the past 39 years on black theology recognizes his contributions in this area. Cone borrowed upon the motifs of Black Nationalist Malcolm X and others in developing black theology “by any means necessary.” Since his fight was against the Euro-centric Christian establishment, he used the foundations of that establishment, in the writings of Protestant theologians and church fathers, to say that black theology deserved its rightful place with the halls of academia.

Cone did not mix words in A Black Theology of Liberation, nor in his others works for that matter, in communicating the horrific role Euro-centric institutions and religion played in supporting white racism and oppressing people of color. Cone was extremely militant for example in saying Jesus was black. I agree with Gayraud Wilmore that perhaps Cone should have drawn more upon the poor black community, ancestors like W.E.B. DuBois, David Walker, Richard Allen, Sojourner Truth, and others, and our African heritage in pouring the foundation for his two-story building of faith and reason. His critics, like Henry H. Mitchell, failed to come up with solutions that eclipsed Cone’s efforts. So, to the extent that black liberation theology is currently studied in most major American universities, Christian colleges, and historically black colleges and universities, Cone’s strategy worked brilliantly.
A research paper excerpt. This paper originally written to satisfy requirements for a Christian Theology class at Simmons College of Kentucky, Fall 2007.

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jesus Saves Ministries Gives Thanks to the Lord With Photo Journal

By: Min. Angela Lee Price

The Bible says, in 1 Chronicles 16:8, "Give thanks unto the Lord, and call upon His name. Make known His deeds among the people." As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we remember the birth of Jesus Saves Ministries just two short years ago. We thank God for all that His has done through and for this ministry. It is our prayer that this Jesus Saves Ministries Photo Journal featuring events, contributing writers, supporters, and people I've interviewed on WLOU Radio the past couple of years, nationally-known theologians, speakers, as well as local Christians, political and civic leaders, pastors, ministers, policy makers, and gospel artists will encourage and inspire you in the Lord.

About Jesus Saves Ministries:
Jesus Saves Ministries was founded on August 12, 2005. Our mission is to share God's love by addressing topics of interest to the Black Church and African American communities nationwide through this internet ministry, and by presenting Christian workshops, seminars, conferences, and special events. Secondly, our mission is to raise public awareness of aberrant and heretical teachings, cults, and the occult. Jesus Saves Ministries consists of the Jesus Saves Newsletter, Jesus Saves Ministries Blog, and Jesus Saves Events.

Jesus Saves Newsletter:
I am editor of Jesus Saves Newsletter. The newsletter features contributing writers, pastors, and preachers, addressing important topics like the Don Imus controversay, Hurricane Katrina, voting rights, health, wealth, and prosperity, cults, economic empowerment and more. The newsletter is distributed monthly to churches, ministries, colleges, businesses, and organizations, both locally and nationally, via e-mail and regular mail. Tell others about the Jesus Saves Newsletter. It is easy to become a subscriber and it is free at

Jesus Saves Ministries Blog:
In January 2006, we launched this blog on the internet. Many of the articles in the newsletter are on this blog. The blog makes it convenient to post comments, send post to your distributions, view audio clips, and link to other websites. Add this blog to your favorites and spread the word about the Jesus Saves Ministries Blog.

Jesus Saves Ministries Events:
Jesus Saves Ministries has partnered wtih Louisville area churches, ministries, schools, and agencies to present a variety of events, Black History programs, empowerment summits, an honorary awards dinner, awards gala, Christian play, Bible trivia contest, women in ministry forum, career workshop, and several gospel events.

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Theta Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Celebrates 85th Anniversary

Below are pictures and an article on the 85th Anniversary Celebration of Theta Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. About 250 people attended the celebration on November 10th, including Congressman John Yarmuth and his wife Kathy along with Congressman James Clyburn, from Columbia, South Carolina, the Majority Whip and 3rd ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, who is a fraternity member; City Councilman David Tandy also a fraternity member as well as Councilwoman Judith Green joined local and surrounding chapters’ members for the black tie gala held at the Galt House in downtown Louisville.

Awards were presented to several fraternity members. My brother Rev. Michael Lee (photo above), the chapter Vice Basileus received the Superior Service Award. I am so proud of the work his is doing in lifting up Jesus Christ within the Omega organization and throughout the community. Michael is an associate minister and the Sunday School Superintendent at Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He has been featured several times in the Jesus Saves Newsletter and on this blog.


Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Handkerchiefs And The Stuff Miracles Are Made Of

Rev. Angela Lee Price

You see them everyday on cable television early in the morning and in the wee hours of the night, the prosperity prophets peddling their products. It seems there is a "free" product for every situation, for every "going through," and it appears handkerchiefs are the stuff miracles are made of this holiday season. There is...

  1. Don Stewart and his green "Miracle Prosperity" handkerchief. He says if you make a vow of tithe of $1,000 or $500 and he will get 'Pookie' out of jail. I say that if you had $1,000, you could get 'Pookie' out of jail yourself.
  2. The screaming Kerney Thomas and his Personal Prayer Package. His is the red "Blood of Jesus" handkerchief. Hmm...He needs to talk to Don Stewart so that they can get their colors straight. Which is it, the red hanky or the green one? I bet a few Deltas and AKAs could have some fun with this one.
  3. Paul Lewis and his Miracle Olive Oil Soap. Won't a bar of pure shea butter soap and a bottle of olive oil do?
  4. Peter Popoff and his Miracle Spring Water. Popoff got caught several years ago lying at one of his crusades about personal prophecies. It wasn't God talking to him afterall, but his wife talking to him through a hearing aid concealed in his ear. He is back and on BET. Lie to me once, shame on you. Lie to me twice, shame on me!

Judging from all I've seen on television lately, it would appear that this is the stuff miracles are made of the holiday season! The cable television prophets often quote Acts 19:11-12 to support their claims that handkerchiefs can heal you, that handkerchiefs can bring you financial blessings, "God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and evil spirits would go out of them."

However, read down a little further in that chapter. You will discover that the seven sons of Sceva tried to do the same thing, but "...the evil spirit said to them 'I know Jesus, and I know about Paul, but you-who are you?' The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off " (Acts 19: 15-16).

Don't call on the "seven sons of Sceva," and their miracle products. Be careful when preachers tell you that you need certain objects, handkerchiefs, soaps, oils to give you what only God can give. It's a trick of the enemy that diverts your attention away from God and on to man. And as much as I disagree with the Catholic faith on some issues, I don't see Catholic priests on television peddling holy water and anointing oil. Praise God for that!

Call on Jesus Christ and the whole counsel of His Word. Call Him up, as the seniors use to say, and tell'em what you want. He is a miracle worker! He will pick you up, turn you around, and place your feet on solid ground. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths." Turn off the television, open the door to the Word of God, and Jesus will come in.

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

Friday, December 07, 2007

St. Stephen Church Temple Choir Debuts CD, God Is Able

Rev. Angela Lee Price

As a radio personality who has played a lot of music in the Louisville, Kentucky market over 25 years, from contemporary R&B to classic R&B to jazz to blues to gospel, I know good music when I hear it. That is why I am so pleased and blessed to introduce to you the debut CD, God Is Able by the St. Stephen Church Temple Choir under the direction of Joe Leavell.

The long-awaited, much-anticipated debut gospel CD by the St. Stephen Church Temple Choir entitled, God Is Able is scheduled to be released later this month. I have listened to the entire CD. Simply said, I love it! It is anointed, beautifully arranged, and awe-inspiring! It is mature in variety, pace, and arrangement, and should appeal to gospel music lovers of all ages.

God Is Able offers something for every gospel music lover's taste, from traditional to contemporary. The Temple Choir's harmony is superb. This choir is one of the most talented choirs I have heard. A few of my personal favorites include, Let's Praise Him, Use Me, and God Is Able. I love the slow songs as well. There isn't a bad song on the CD really. The CD features nationally-known vocalists and song writers Joe Pace, Patrick Lundy, Darius Brooks, Lecresia Campbell, Justin Savage, Issac Williams, Oscar Williams, Rick Robinson, and others.

Talented local vocalists Joe Leavell, Sherman Bush, Minister Ton'ya Triplett, Sharron Sales, and Jason Clayborn bring a wealth of experience and vocal ability to this debut Temple Choir project. Exhortationists St. Stephen Church Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby, and St. Stephen Church Sanctuary Choir Director Minister Ton'ya Triplett testify of God's ability to save, deliver, and set free. This CD should have you shoutin' and rejoicing in Jesus Christ, because truly, God is able!

God Is Able, the first single from the CD, debuts on 1350 WLOU and around the country next week. Listen for it and consider adding this anointed new CD to your gospel music collection this holiday season.

Effective January 9, 2008, the CD will be available for purchase as follows:
  • 1/9/2008 Immediately following Wednesday Night Bible Study on the St. Stephen Church Louisville Campus (a reception & cd signing will follow the service)
  • 1/9/2008 Better Days West Records in Lyles Mall @ 26th & Broadway
  • 1/9/2008 online at: all orders will ship within 48 hours
  • 1/16/2008 Immediately following Wednesday Night Bible Study on the Indiana Campus (a reception & cd signing will follow the service)
To listen to sample selections of God Is Able, go to the Temple Choir website at

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Reconciliation of Liberation

By: Rev. Angela Lee Price

An esteemed theologian and preeminent scholar, Rev. Dr. J. Deotis Roberts is best known as a founder of Black Theology or the Black Liberation Movement. Black Theology and Black Liberation reached its peak in America at the height of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Its proponents sought to present Jesus Christ and Christian theology through the lenses of black culture and the black religious experience as a means to overcome the effects of slavery and institutional racism in order to liberate the minds and change the dire circumstances of oppressed people of color. Roberts, more so than James Cone, who is known as the father of Black Liberation Theology, offered a more biblical approach to black liberation by including reconciliation, a Biblical mandate, as a necessary component of liberation.

I conducted a brief radio interview with Dr. Roberts on 1350 WLOU the morning of May 17, 2007 wherein Roberts elaborated on the impact his travels abroad in the early 1960’s had on shaping his theological perspective on the reconciliation of liberation:

Angela: ...So, as you began to experience the diversities within cultures and the peoples that you came in contact with, that helped to shape and mold how you perceived theology…?

Dr. Roberts: Yes,…in the middle 1960’s I had a world tour of the religions in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. So, I knew about cultures other than my own long before the black theology movement emerged. For example, I was moved by my time in Japan. I spent two months in India in the middle ‘60’s and I saw the poverty and need there before I began to address the situation in the U.S.

I was drawn back to this country when I was studying abroad because Martin Luther King was beginning to address the civil rights problems we had, and I wanted to come back and join that movement. So, all that happened prior to the emergence of black power. That led into my position. I wanted to bring the King and Civil Rights Movement experience to the Black Power Movement. That was a dimension that I had because of my age and my involvement prior to the Black Power Movement. Both came together in my thoughts and that’s the reason why liberation and reconciliation were addressed. Cone addressed liberation, and I thought that was not sufficient because of my experience and knowledge, so I began to bring the two together. That’s the genesis of that dialogue.
Dr. J. Deotis Roberts set himself apart from black theologians by advocating reconciliation as a component of black liberation. The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “…God…has given us a ministry of reconciliation.” We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

Roberts penned his best-known book, Liberation and Reconciliation: A Black Theology in 1971 in response to James Cone’s A Black Theology of Liberation, published in 1970. Roberts asserted that reconciliation was the “balancing” component of liberation. On the reconciliation of liberation, Roberts wrote in the preface of second edition of Liberation and Reconciliation: A Black Theology, page xiii:

"...the balance between liberation and reconciliation remains essential in our pluralistic society....Dr. King's warning, that we either learn to live together as friends or die as fools, is obvious for all thoughtful people. When reconciliation is elevated to its proper ethical level and Christian understanding, it requires serious attention to liberation from social injustices. It cannot be conceived as mere sentimentality or ‘cheap grace.’ Reconciliation requires repentance, forgiveness, and cross-bearing. Thus, I would opt for maintaining a balance between liberation and reconciliation."

Although an advocate for reconciliation, Roberts opposed integration as a goal. In chapter eight of Liberation and Reconciliation, he stated, “The slave-master, servant-boss, inferior-superior mentality underlie all integration schemes in which whites write the agenda. This is why I am against integration.” He advocated reconciliation with co-equal collaboration between races as the goal. On page 94, he wrote:

"Positively, it enables blacks to appreciate their own heritage to the extent that they consider it a worthy commodity to be shared with others. In this manner, liberation leads to reconciliation between equals. This position is productive for the psychological and sociological health of blacks. It is needed for a right perspective for better race relations. It is consistent with an understanding of God as lovingly just, the dignity of all persons, the sinfulness of all, and their reconciliation with God and with one another through Jesus Christ."

Cone, although more outspoken than Roberts, with his “by-any-means-necessary “ approach to Black Theology was a major catalyst for Black Theology’s thrust onto the world stage. He wrote on page 98 of A Black Theology of Liberation, “No black person will ever be good enough in the eyes of whites to merit equality. Therefore, if blacks are to have freedom, they must take it, by any means necessary.” However, he was less thorough and biblical in his critique in omitting the key biblical principle of reconciliation from his writings.

In summary, at the height of the Black Power Movement at a time when strong voices where needed to speak truth to power, the Lord put fire in the bones of black theologians J. Deotis Roberts, James Cone, Albert Cleage, Dwight Hopkins, Delores S. Williams, Gayraud Wilmore, Katie Cannon, Jacqueline Grant, Cornel West, and many other men and women of God. J. Deotis Roberts credits James Cone with the rediscovery of the black man’s religious genius in the late 1960’s on page 147 of his book, A Black Political Theology. And had it not been for the bold, in-your-face style of James Cone and his powerful book, A Black Theology of Liberation, I don’t know if I would have been as interested in the subject as I am. I had to admit to Dr. Roberts in my interview with him that I was not as familiar with his works as I was with those of Cone and others. However, after speaking with him and securing and perusing two of his books at length, I must say that I am blessed to have had corrected in my consciousness the oversight of his tremendous contribution to black theology and black liberation. I highly recommend adding to your library books on black liberation this Christmas season.

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!


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