Wednesday, January 30, 2019

James Cone, Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody, on What It Is to Be Black in America Today: What U.S. White Christians Refuse to Hear

Here is more from James Cone's book Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2018) which glosses what I posted earlier today about the conversation white American Christians, who are singularly responsible for the nightmare that is the Trump presidency, refuse to allow the nation to have:

"I was writing to and for poor black Christians who had been humiliated in white society and rendered invisible in white theology" (p. 22).

"However, as a theologian I had a consciousness that I was also writing to oppressed peoples all over the world. I wanted to be an example of what they could do in their own situations. They no longer had to be silent about who they were. Just as I spoke and wrote about blackness, they could speak and write about their identity, too" (p. 22).

"It's time to turn to the religious faith created out of black suffering and dismiss privileged white Christianity and its theology as heresy" (p. 33).

"'Being black in America has very little to do with skin color,' I wrote. 'To be black means that your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are'" (p. 47, citing Black Theology and Black Power, p. 151).

"I'm not including what gay and lesbian people say in this course because I want to patronize them [Cone is recounting what he said in response to a gay student at Union Seminary who challenged Cone re: what he knew about the gay experience]. I am including them because their struggle for dignity is my struggle too. My teaching is defined by my love for all my students and that includes white students, especially marginalized white students. I know what it means to be marginalized, ignored, and despised. I was born in a society that despised me for being who I am – black! I know something of what you are feeling because there is a connection between blackness and gayness” (p. 110). 

"'Jesus is black,' I have often said. But we could also say Jesus is gay and any other identity being humiliated. One of my students, Jacquelyn Grant, said, 'Jesus is a black woman,' and she is right. Jesus is a way of talking about God's solidarity with people who are hurt and despised. For the same reason, we have to talk about the Stonewall uprising and those who spoke about it. Theology is always a second step, as Gustavo Gutiérrez and other Latin American liberation theologians have shown. Theology emerges in response to the struggle for justice among communities of the poor" (pp. 110-1).

"I write on behalf of all those whom the Salvadoran theologian and martyr Ignacio Ellacuría called 'the crucified peoples of history.' I write for the forgotten and the abused, the marginalized and the despised. I write for those who are penniless, jobless, landless, all those who have no political or social power. I write for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and those who are transgender. I write for immigrants stranded on the U.S. border and for undocumented farmworkers toiling in misery in the nation’s agricultural fields. I write for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem. I write for Muslims and refugees who live under the terror of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. And I write for all people who care about humanity. I believe that until Americans, especially Christians and theologians, can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with ‘recrucified’ black bodies hanging from lynching trees, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy" (pp. 132-3).

"What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem happened to blacks in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky" (p. 140).

The photo of the cover of Cone's book is from its page at the website of Orbis Books.

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