I thought for fun I would post one of my papers from school. It is a little longer than what I usually do (about twice as long!), but maybe you can learn something … or help me in my education! I hope you enjoy!
“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (LASB, 2005, Romans 8:21). History is rife with subjugation, abuses, and oppression. In this post-Enlightenment world, Western society is beginning to overcome the evils of the past. The past 50 years has seen the rise of Liberation Theology. The black community in the United States produced Black Liberation Theology. The Latin American masses have produced their own form of Liberation Theology. Women are coming out of the shadow of men with Feminist Theology. Each theology has its strengths and weaknesses, and they all start with the focus of overcoming through Christ.
Probably the biggest reason so many Africans came to the United States of America was the slave trade. Many were brought simply to be bought and sold as slaves. The American Civil War played a pivotal role in freeing the blacks, as they have been called due to the darkness of their skin, from slavery. However, they were not given full rights in most instances as compared to the predominant white people. Blacks were still considered second-class citizens, at best.
This came to a head in the decades after the Second World War. The 1960’s were a turbulent time of war and protests, and the greatest protest of all was the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Headed by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. – who fought from a Christian standpoint of equality of all men – and Malcolm X – who took a form of Islam and called it Black Power, the embracement of the black identity – the movement quickly shattered all of the segregation and inequality.
During this time, there were some theologians who took the stances of King and Malcolm X and merged them. Black Liberation Theology sought equality for blacks with whites. This called for finding blacks’ unique identity and a view of the gospel tailored to this self-awareness. It was a call to take hold of one’s blackness and find freedom from the segregation and oppression of the dominant white society. God is found in these moments of liberation and is always fighting towards liberation for all people (Grenz & Olson, 1992).
The upside to Black Theology is that it strives to take the Christian message of freedom from bondage and make it applicable and understandable to a certain group of people. The entire Christian message is about freedom from sin and evil and all the ways in which it manifests itself. Sadly, many took this message and used it as justification for violence and a reverse-racism against whites and sometimes also other ethnicities. Joseph R. Washington, Jr. attempted to warn about separation as opposed to integration – the original intent of the Civil Rights Movement. He foresaw the growth in violence and lack of forgiveness that could grow. James H. Cone, the first recognized representative of Black Theology, also spoke of accepting one’s blackness but forgiving yourself and others. Blacks were seeking their freedom. Some chose violence and others peace (Grenz & Olson, 1992).
Latin American Liberation Theology
Blacks had contemporaries who found violence and the gospel working together. In Latin American nations, poverty ran rampant. Most Latin American theologians saw the evil capitalist nations of the Northern Atlantic to blame for the condition of the masses. Because of the greed of these nations, leadership at home worked people ragged with minimal pay why taking most of the profits for themselves and using violence against anyone who dissented in any way. This led to a small wealthy class always getting richer and a large impoverished class always getting poorer (Grenz & Olson, 1992).
Theologians, like the blacks, turned to the liberating message of the Gospel. They argued that Christ is found only with the weak and impoverished. Therefore, the rich did not have Christ, and if violence was used by them to oppress the poor then violence is an acceptable response to find freedom. The only way to achieve true freedom, for both the poor and the rich, would be to do away with evil capitalism and turn to Christian Marxism. Only when people do not allow their possessions to own them but instead see all things as belonging to all people will they be liberated. Humanity will then be able to works toward a proper Christian society and wipe out poverty. This then leads to the teaching that good theology is dependent on right actions (orthopraxy) which help interpret theology, for God is only found with the poor. Helping the poor to be liberated reveals good theology (Grenz & Olson, 1992).
Liberation theology is great in that it reminds the Christian to have a heart for the poor and for transformation of society. The idea, however, that theology is dependent upon orthopraxy is flawed since only an understanding of what is right can lead to right action. The use of Marxism is dangerous since it has a tendency to deny sinful nature. History has shown that Marxism always leads to the exact outcome Liberation theologians seek to avoid. The acceptance of violence is also dangerous. It can help breed hatred for other people instead of the Christian call for loving our enemies.
Women have felt this lack of love for millennia. Like the blacks and the poor, many women have felt subjugated and oppressed. Christianity should be the one place this is not true, but this has sadly not been the case. In the United States, blacks got the right to vote before women, and they could teach and preach in a church before women were allowed. All of this frustration built up to the point that Feminist Theology was born.
Feminist Theology arose at the same time as the others. Like the others there is the focus on freedom from oppression and right action. The differences arise in approach. Feminist theologians wish to redeem or remove the parts of the Bible that demonstrate (or seemingly demonstrate) oppression or abuse of women. They seek to remove the barrier between the sexes through interpreting the Bible through the feminist worldview. Feminists see Jesus as a feminist preacher, but His message has been twisted by the male-dominated worldview. Likewise, God is not a He but either genderless or a God/ess (Grenz & Olson, 1992).
Feminist Theology raises the awareness that women have not been given their proper place in Christianity or the world. However, in their attempt to fight sexism, feminists have made it too easy to reverse the sexism. In many ways, feminism has gone from seeking equality with men to superiority over men. Finally, it is always dangerous to remove or skip over parts of the Bible with which one is not comfortable. Doing so is almost like declaring oneself equal to God.
The biggest problem with each of these theologies is that of ethno- or gender-centrism. The focus shifts too much from Christ to humans. To say God is the God of only the poor or a certain ethnicity or a certain gender denies so many other attributes of God. Theology becomes pushing personal assertions and ideals onto God and declaring it truth instead of seeking truth and allowing God to properly shape one’s worldview and understanding of Him. When the focus moves to humanity, pride and sin and all that accompanies them – hatred, violence, selfishness, etcetera – easily takes hold. The gospel is about liberation, but liberation must never take control of the gospel.
Grenz, Stanley J., & Olson, Roger E. (1992). 20th century theology: God and the world in a transitional age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. & Zondervan. (2005). Life Application Study Bible – NIV. Carol Stream, IL: Author.