Due to these issues Black Theology soon originated within the United States. The origination of Black Theology was only cracked open by the idea of slave theology. The origination of Black Theology first began when churches began to become segregated. Many could not understand how Whites could continue to behave this way in the Lords house. It was soon realized that this was because according to them their God allowed segregation.
White Christians saw god as more of a spiritual savior, the reflection of God for blacks came in the struggle for freedom by blacks. Although the term black liberation theology is a fairly new, becoming popular in the early 1960’s with Black Theology and Black Power, a book written by James H. Cone, its ideas are pretty old, which can be clearly seen in spirituals sang by Africans during the time of slavery nearly 400 years ago.# It was through these hymns that black liberation spawned. Although Cone is given credit for “the discovery of black liberation theology,” it’s beliefs can quite clearly be seen in the efforts of men like preacher Nat Turner and his rebellion of slavery in mid 1800’s or Marcus Garvey, one of the first men to “see god through black spectacles” in the early 1900’s. More recently black theology emerged as a formal discipline. Beginning with the "black power" movement in 1966, black clergy in many major denominations began to reassess the relationship of the Christian church to the black community.
The black man’s response to God’s act in Christ must be different from the whites because his life experiences are different, Dr. Cone believes. In the “black experience,” the author suggested that a powerful message of biblical theology is liberation from oppression. Other theologians have also noted that African Americans require a different approach to counseling and healing. In Liberation and Human Wholeness: The Conversion Experiences of Black People in Slavery and Freedom, Dr. Edward P. Wimberly and his wife, Anne Streaty Wimberly, focused on the history of slavery and the wholeness of African Americans who are struggling with their inner self. In addition to the book, Dr. Wimberly created a workshop and seminar to help pastors and community leaders help African Americans who were once slaves.
"However much he may revile the historical role of Christianity in the enslavement of black people, The Fire Next Time attests that [Baldwin] has never forgotten the compensatory values of his [adolescent] religious experience," he writes (3). After a meeting with Elijah Muhammad, Baldwin realized that Christianity wasn't the only flawed religion. Baldwin saw that both Islam and Christianity needed to compromise their strong beliefs for a unified black movement to have any real power. Baldwin knew the acquisition of power would have to play a key role if blacks were to achieve full civil rights. Baldwin writes, "The only thing white people have that black people need, or should want, is power--and no one holds power forever" (96).
Malcolm X was a great Civil Rights leader that was ahead of his time, dealing with the inequalities and the black struggle of the 1960's. The 1960's was an era that defined the black race as a lower status than the white race merely based on color. Malcolm X defined race through his Muslim religion believing that blacks would one day reign supreme if only they accepted Allah as God, took Islam as their only religion, and followed the honorable Elijah Muhammad as their messenger. He also believed that the White race was ungodly and they were doomed for their unjust rule unable to accept Allah because of there evil nature. Clearly X's definition of race was that the Black race was "good" and "godly", and the White race was wrong and evil.
I Believe I’ll Testify teaches that the black church and the preacher would have no authority. Black preaching is a combination of God, the preacher, the scripture, and most of all the black life experience. In the black churches of today, the preacher is very important. Sermons have to inspire, correct, heal, empower, and many others for the place preacher to be considered effective. This is a great book for all to learn what some of the criteria for being a black preacher are.
Cone and Wilmore proposed ideas of Black Theology. I believe that their theories show how African-Americans can gain their own identity through their own practices of religion and culture. I believe that the greatest struggle of African-Americans in a racist society is the struggle to regain collective identity and culture. However, they show how it is very possible to rise above racial discrimination, and stereotypes. Although Albert Raboteau was not necessarily a theologian, his claims of slaves finding their own way of life despite being dehumanized, easily relate to the ideas of Cone and Wilmore.
The African Methodist Episcopal taught Cone how to deal with contradictions of life and provided a way to seek meaning in a society not of his own making. Racism by the whites led to political and economic inequality, segregated restaurants and movies, and beatings and arrests. Cone did not understand how these whites could be considered good Christians. According to Cone, one of the tasks of this movement is to analyze the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ in light of the experience of black people who have been victimized by white oppressors. Cone was called to the ministry at age 16, and became a pastor the following year when he went off to college.
Cone believes that the “task of black theology to make theology relevant to the black reality”. (110) In other words, theology must be made relevant to what groups face today. This can be done by understanding who Jesus was because “that is the only way to assess who he is”. (Cone 113) This requires going back to the New Testament and to see who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he stood for because that is still who he is today. According to Cone, Jesus is the Oppressed One - someone who was with the poor, outcasts, and sinners.
Providing an in depth analysis of these texts, this essay attempts to illustrate how both of these Afro-American writers depict and resolve their respective protagonists’ struggles. Religion is believed by many to serve as a means to achieving or finding self or identity. However, in the Euro-influenced Christian religion especially, directly after ‘finding one’s self’, one is called to deny one’s self in the name of a white ‘God’. ‘Humble yourself and cast your burdens to God’ they say, for ‘He will make all wrongs right’. Logically however, one must ask…what interest does the white God (who is especially portrayed in Afro-American writings such as The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye as a further extension of Patriarchal values) have in black people?