“God of the Oppressed”
James H. Cone
“God of the Oppressed” is a history of the African American Struggle through the complex account of its author, James H. Cone. Written in 1975, “God of the Oppressed” is the continuation of Cone’s theological position, which was introduced in his earlier writings of, “Black Theology and Black Power,” (1969) and “A Black Theology of Liberation” (1975). This final account was put together and published as a response to the continuous dismissal of Black Theology. This response shows Cone’s use of personal experiences, knowledge, and faith to explain the actual God of the oppressed found in Black Theology. The importance of the chosen title is maintained through all ten of Cone’s chapters because every detail leads the reader to a further understanding of the God of the oppressed. The 1975 publication date also proves of importance because it assisted in shaping Cone’s extreme religious position. This extremist position came from a time period when there was a universal dismissal of Black Theology and at the peak of Black Power movement.
“God of the Oppressed” is brilliantly organized into ten chapters. These chapters serve as the building blocks to the true understanding of Cone’s Black Theology. This progressive movement begins with an introduction of both him and his viewpoint. He explains that his childhood in Bearden, Arkansas and his membership to Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) has taught him about the black Church experience and the sociopolitical significance of white people. “My point is that one’s social and historical context decides not only the questions we address to God but also the mode of form of the answers given to the questions.” (14) The idea of “speaking the truth” is added at this point because to go any further the reader must understand the reason and goal for Black Theology. Through the two sources in that shape theology, experience and scripture, white theology concludes that the black situation is not a main point of focus. Cone explains the cause for this ignorance, “Theology is not a universal language; it is interested language and thus is always a reflection of the goals and aspirations of a particular people in a definite social setting.” (36) This implies that one’s social context shapes their theology and white’s do not know the life and history of blacks. As the reader completes the detailed analysis of society’s role in shaping experiences, Cone adds to the second source, scripture. Cone explains that the black situation being ignored is God and Christianity, “There is no truth about Yahweh unless it is the truth of freedom.” (57) This means that “the truth” introduced earlier revolves around the idea of the oppressed and their liberation. He then adds the fact that scripture tells the story of the Exodus; Moses is sent by God to help the Israelites escape the oppression in Egypt. The importance is the fact that God saved Israel from oppression because they were the chosen people and the black situation is identical. Cone then answers the question of the New Testaments relation; Jesus only associated with the poor and weak. Ideology is then introduced to explain why the white theology ignores the idea of liberation, “Simply put, ideology is deformed thought, meaning a certain idea or ideas are nothing but the function of the subjective interest of an individual or group.” (83) Close to mid-book, Cone adds a major theme, who is Jesus today? Cone explains that Jesus is the past (helped the poor liberate from oppression), Jesus is the present (through his death and resurrection he transcends time and becomes one with the black oppressed people) and Jesus is the future (his promise to come back and judge the people, eschatology). Black Theology also believes Jesus is black because he made the divine promise to come take the struggles of the poor, weak and oppressed; the black community. Christian ethics is then...