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Racism ,“White” Theology and Hope
A challenge from Pen over at Gutless Pacifist (no longer online). Moved by the “Martin Luther King – Human Relations Sunday” activities at his church, he has quoted James Cone, author of Black Theology & Black Power:
What deepens my anger today is the appalling silence of white theologians on racism in the United States and the modern world. Whereas this silence has been partly broken in several secular disciplines, theology remains virtually mute….Progressive white theologians, with few exceptions, write and teach as if they do not need to address the radical contradiction that racism creates for Christian theology. They do not write about slavery, colonialism, segregation, and the profound cultural link these horrible crimes created between white supremacy and Christianity.
Pen’s challenge to me and other bloggers:
I thought I would challenge each of you to address race/unity or respond to the Cone excerpt on your site this week (being that it is Week of Christian Unity through the Western church). Let's have a conversation and bring race to the forefront of the blogosphere for a moment.
Growing up in a Socialist household in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s (my father had been a Communist), I was inspired by the US civil rights movement. The favourite music in our household was from Pete Seeger and the Weavers, and at our nuclear disarmament rallies we sang We Shall Overcome.
Yet, within my lifetime, America has gained leaders like Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, and that inspires me today. Surely their success is due in part to the efforts of Christians like Martin Luther King and others nurtured on “white” theology. (What would the status of Afro-Americans be today if Martin Luther King had devoted himself to Buddhist or Hindu theology?)
I don’t know America well enough to know if its theology is racist. Nor do I know enough to comment on the extent of racism in the US today. No country is perfect. We must all strive to improve.
But living in Asia for 17 years, I saw that - in a world of injustice – America is viewed by millions and millions in the Third World as a beacon of freedom and justice. (As a teenager in Korea, my wife had one big dream – to marry an American man who would take her to live in the US. She got me instead, but that’s another story.)
No other country in the world inspires such admiration. And it is because Americans – so many of them Christians, inspired, presumably, by white theologians – have constructed a society that allows all humans to hold that great Christian virtue – hope.
January 24th, 2003