Before reading this week’s materials, I had not previously read Dr. Cone, but had read the writings of Dr. King, including his letter from Birmingham jail. However, I had not been exposed to this idea of “Black Theology” in the past. I was aware of the role religion played in the slave’s arguments for liberation through invoking the bible, the civil rights movement through Dr. King, and the prominent role the black church played in the struggle for equality, but have not previously heard the term “Black Theology”.
I was especially struck by the differences between Dr. Cone and Dr. King’s outlook on black theology and their methodology in the struggle for racial equality. While both believe the Christian religion preaches the fight by an oppressed class in overthrowing their oppressor, Cone believes that in order to be Christian, you must identify with the suppressed group/victim and therefore, Christianity cannot exist as a religion for white people. Dr. King criticizes white moderates for not supporting the fight for racial equality and even believes that they pose more of a threat to the civil rights movement than the KKK, but he does not assert that they cannot be Christian. King actually emphasizes the duty white citizens have to overthrowing systems of oppression, since it is required in following the laws of Christianity. King’s argument seems to benefit the civil rights movement more in my mind since his argument requires the assistance, not passivity of whites in the racial justice fight, so I wonder how Cone views the role of whites in racial equality — if he even believes they have one. These are both very different from the ideas proposed by Mathur that even in Christianity, white people are of a superior class because of the slaves’ “sin” in the bible. Mathur believes that as white Christians they have the duty to “save the souls” of slaves for potential equality in heaven, however not on earth.
The two also differ in how they view the fight for equality should be conducted. King believes that peaceful demonstration and direct action function to bring the oppressive class to negotiation. Cone on the other hand, sees nonviolent resistance as almost conducive to the white system of superiority. Cone does not believe that equality can be achieved through working within an inherently unjust system, therefore it must first be torn down and completely reimagined. He does not believe negotiating with whites will bring equality, but only rebellion against whiteness can. Due to the radical nature of his theology, Cone’s ideas stuck with me the most from this weeks’ reading.