Saturday, July 10, 2010

Christology: Cone's African-American Christology

Cone's Christology: life, death and resurrection as revealed in Scripture and as related to the experience of the liberation of the poor. This is the identification of God with the struggle, pain, and hope of liberation theology generally and with African American theology particularly. However, I think that for Cone if he got to keep any part of Jesus, he would keep his life, if you know what I mean - his life because for Cone Christ's death would follow precisely from that (states kill the vocal oppressed) and because the eschatological hope of Christ in the kingdom would be the hope that surpasses death. This is not unlike Cone preferring Christ's humanity over Christ's divinity, as he explicitly says. It is the 'with'-ness of Jesus that matters for Cone, and that starts and is almost contained in Jesus's life and ministry. He talks about Jesus as a friend and uses the language of rhythm more times than I could count. That's the reconciliation aspect, too. Atonement is attunement, to put it crudely.

So the concrete language of experience and compassion and living hope is all taken very well, for me. I disagree with you in some sense in that I don't think Jesus has one message for all people. Rather, what Jesus has is some message for each people, if that makes any sense. It's not that universal significance/salvation doesn't exist, but that you can never work that out apart from its prevailing concreteness: Jesus was a Jew. But the potential hazard of this, and this is something you also get at, is when Jesus only liberates only my people, because we're the onlyones who understand him. If African Americans become the new Jews not only in the sense of being preferred and chosen by God but also in the sense of having privileged (err, underprivileged in this case) access to the meaning of God in Jesus, then I think we have a problem, the same old problem that we had to start with. I can't see Jesus as being that totalizing, or that simplistic. If it's not going too far to say that we each get the God we need (which is an really old idea, I think), then it is going too far to say that I've got the God everyone needs. No, you've got the God each person needs. No one has the God that all people need.

Not even Cone, though he does make a decent run at it. I've often wondered, though, in all these liberation theologies that understand oppression in such devastating and right detail: what does human/Christian freedom look like? Is it Roman civic freedom? Modern Western freedom? What is this liberty - what does it actually look like in the world? Can we see the face of the kingdom of God? Is it the wealth of the poor? The hermeneutics of the poor? What are we all in this for, by Cone's account?

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