On James Cone and “Racial Reconciliation”

In hearing about the passing of the good Dr James Cone, founder of Black Liberation Theology and an all-around important figure in latter 20th/early 21st Century Christianity, I ran across this older article from The Gospel Coalition (TGC), that bastion of White Conservative Evangelicalism. I in fact have several Black and POC friends and family adjacent to John Piper and TGC (and once was an adherent), largely because Piper puts out an aura of intellectualism that is attractive to young urban Christians who do not see much intellectual engagement in other church life, and because Piper and TGC also at least tend to talk about racial justice.

But whereas Cone talked about God siding with and identifying with the oppressed (ie, Black people) and thus allying against the very White Christianity that supports oppression (ie, White Supremacy, anti-blackness, reactionary politics), TGC and other White Evangelicals (including those who align with the White Theological/Political project) call for racial reconciliation. The author quotes from Black theologian J. Deotis Roberts:

Christians are called to be agents of reconciliation. We have been able to love and forgive . . . The assertion that all are ‘one in Christ Jesus’ must henceforth mean that all slave-master, servant-boss, inferior-superior frames of reference between blacks and whites have been abolished.

But the meaning in a spiritualized sense does not mean in an earthly sense, so to say. To declare that we are free is merely to say it; and while imagination and declaration are important steps in the realization,  they are not sufficient. To suggest that they are is to not just to say that a dream is reality, but to keep the dream from being worked out and actualized.

Racism is a device and creation of Whiteness, of which White people have primarily benefited–and that works itself out in class and sexual/gender approaches as well. The conditions of Blackness and Whiteness were created by Whites and those identified as White have been the benefactors of this distinction. So the idea that there is something to reconcile between the two without eradicating the White-created racism in all its material and psychological processes is both absurd and obscene.

And while it is the work of White people to eradicate material racism–as they currently control the means of materialism under White Supremacist Imperialist Monopoly–it is not the worth of White people to also devise the conditions upon which this reconciliation should be made right. How can you trust the people who benefit from Whiteness and who believe wholeheartedly in their innocence to purge their benefits, even if and when they mean well?

I do not trust capitalists to give us the means of production. We should not trust White people to eradicate racism on their terms.

That is why it is important that God is on the side of the oppressed. Because it assists in creating a space where it becomes psychologically and socially possible, which leads to material matters. Anything less is an immaterial, and thus hopeless, religion. And what good is religion if it does not offer hope?

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