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Analysis of the Black Church: Black Theology and Racial Empowerment

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Essay title: Analysis of the Black Church: Black Theology and Racial Empowerment

Since the arrival of African Americans in this country blacks have always had differing experiences. Consequently, African-Americans have had to forge a self-identity out of what has been passed on to them as fact about their true selves. History has wrought oppression and subjugation to this particular race of people and as a result, certain institutions were formed in order aid African-Americans, culturally, spiritually and economically. The African-American Church has served of one such institution. From the time of slavery, though outlawed, many slaves found ways to congregate and form their own “churches”, away from the one-sided and bias lessons about the bible that they were being taught in the white church. The white ministers and clergymen of this time argued that it was the will of God that Blacks should be obedient and submissive to their masters, and that that was the will of God. In his article “Black Consciousness and the Black Church: A Historical and Theological Interpretation,” James Cone examines whether the African-American Church and calls into question whether or not it has truly evolved and separated itself from the traditionally pacifistic ways of the Anglo-Saxon and Post-Civil War black church. He is arguing whether or not the Black church meets the basic need of African-American to resist oppressive forces of society and to find teachings that are void of the white perspective of religion. In her article “The Image of God: Black Theology and Racial Empowerment in the African American Community,” author Allison Calhoun Brown conducts a scientific study as to the significance of the image of God in shaping views about religion in the African American community. Calhoun attempts to draw a link between how big an impact the image of God in the African-American community affects political participation in the Black community. The articles provide the basis for examining the effect of religion in the lives of African-Americans, and also an analysis of how the role of the Black Church has changed over time.

In the opening of Cone’s article “Black Consciousness and the Black Church: A Historical-Theological Interpretation,” he begins by giving a definition for the term Black consciousness. By Cone’s definition, black consciousness is “the black community focusing on its blackness in order that black people may know not only why they are oppressed, but what to do about their oppression” (Cone). By this term, we can see that black consciousness also implies the resistance of the white standard of what it means to be black. Cone then goes on to describe a cycle that the black church has undergone. In order to describe this cycle, the author first makes a link to the Black Panther’s liberation theology and the Christian gospel, which according to Cone is a gospel of liberation. He goes on to explain the first phase of the cycle of the black church which includes Pre-civil war era black churches that refused to accept the “white interpretation” of Christianity, an interpretation that had nothing to do with liberation. This is due to the fact that, as previously stated, whites have no need to focus on liberation in their religion. The differing experiences of whites and blacks in this country can account for these dissimilarities in the interpretation of Christianity. Cone goes on to explain the second cycle of the transformation of the Black Church following the Civil War. Cone explains that following this historical event, it seems as if African-Americans became complacent with the “white” interpretation of religion which centered on piety. The third cycle of the African American church which was taking place at the time that the article was written, involved a realignment with the ideas of liberation ideology. Cone accredits this to a rise in Black Theology in African-American churches.

By drawing reference to several verses in the Bible, Cone determines that simply the presence of black people in America is synonymous with the God due to the idea that since the arrival of blacks in this country they have been striving for liberation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ centers upon freedom as well. He then goes further and states that there can be no white churches and even the establishment of one is blasphemous due to the idea that these institutions center on the oppression of another human race.

In a great percentage of history books the information given is only given from one perspective. One when is reading or listening to an historical account, one must take into consideration who the historian in order to gain more insight into why they may have a particular account about a particular event. The same is true when looking at churches. Because white experiences in this country differ so greatly from those of African-Americans, The Black Church has the burden of being a spiritual backbone of a community while also being able to

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