In the early 1980s I gave a lecture on the Theology of Liberation – “the Liberation Theology” - at a prestigious northeastern college. The audience was senior citizens, many of them Irish Catholics, and on hearing the lecture, they rose in protest and reported their displeasure of me to the program director. They disputed vigorously that church leaders would preach a revolutionary doctrine. Thereafter, I let Liberation Theology just lay there. It was too hot for religious American lay people.
However, at least one American religious order, the Maryknoll, embraced Liberation Theology, and we read of their struggles and deaths in Central America in the conflict between revolutionaries and the governments of Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador.
Many who studied the subject believe Liberation Theology began in 1961 when in an unprecedented act, the World Council of Churches (WCC) invited the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to join the organization. Unknown to the WCC, the ROC was a KGB appendage, staffed by intelligence officers. I know this well because of my experience in Israel and Jerusalem.
The Soviets took advantage of the invitational opportunity and sent Metropolitan Nikodim (then of Leningrad), the ROC’s second ranking prelate, to the WCC assembly. He espoused a doctrine known as Liberation Theology which was eagerly accepted by Latin American priests and bishops. Its revolutionary philosophy soon became a vehicle for violent change in Latin America as well as Africa and Southeast Asia. Nikodim did not write the Liberation Theology but was its messenger. Its authors were most probably in Moscow headquarters.
The doctrine’s theme is Jesus Christ was a revolutionary whose purpose on earth was to liberate the masses from the economic slavery of capitalism. It states capitalism produces a “center” and a “periphery.” The center is filled with wealth, progress and riches which are enjoyed by a few. The periphery, the shadow of the center, is a barren wasteland of social imbalance, political tension, overwhelming poverty and out-and-out misery for the rest. The task, the theology states, is to continue Jesus’ task of destroying capitalism.
As liberation theology caught on with the Latin American Catholic clergy, Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian Jesuit, wrote The Theology of Liberation which spread Nikodim’s doctrine everywhere as a bible for revolutionary change.
Gutierrez wrote, “Capitalism and its society are to be wiped out, eliminated by violent revolution. In its place there must be implanted a government with state ownership and management of all sources of goods and energy, education of transportation.”
Latin American masses blindly believed a man of God, and the doctrine spread and spread. In scarcely twenty years, Malachi Martin, the advisor to Popes John XIII and Paul VI, estimated two-thirds of the priests and nuns in Latin America and one-third of the bishops were Marxists who promoted liberation theology. Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca declared, “The kingdom of heaven can come about in our day only through Marxism.”
The Vatican could not allow Latin America, its largest religious constituency, to become Marxist, and it’s highly probably for this reason it chose John Paul II, who resisted communism in Poland. A confrontation between Pope John Paul II and the bishops promoting the liberation theology took place at the Conference of American Bishops (CELAM 3) in Puebla, Mexico. So strong and deeply entrenched were the bishops, the meeting ended in a tie. The Pope kept Latin America within its constituency, and the bishops, priests and nuns continued with liberation theology.
A friend with strong connections to the Catholic Church recently traveled to Latin America and returned to say liberation theology remains alive and well.
It is from this background of Latin America’s liberation theology that James T. Cone, Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary brought liberation theology to mostly liberal, dissatisfied American blacks. He is the author of numerous articles and books on the subject, including A Black Theology of Liberation.
In many ways his theology is more radical and extreme than the Latin American version as it is based not only on wealth but on color. He writes,
“It is evident, therefore, that this book is written primarily for the black community, not for whites. Whites may read it and to some degree render an intellectual analysis of it, but an authentic understanding is dependent of the blackness of their existence in the world. There will be no peace in America until whites begin to hate their whiteness, asking from the depths of their being: How can we become black?”
“My style of doing theology was influenced more by Malcolm X than by Martin Luther King.”
“If Jesus Christ is white and not black, he is an oppressor, and we must kill him. The appearance of black theology means that the black community is now ready to do something about the white Jesus, so that he cannot get in the way of our revolution.”
“The definition of Christ as black means that he represents the complete opposite of the values of white culture.”
“One of the tenets of black theology is that every American is responsible for the plight of the blacks.”
All of the above have a bearing on today’s presidential campaign. The foremost church, the religious spearhead which advances the Black Theology of Liberation, is the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It is the church where former Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s mentor is James Cone. It is also the church where Barack Obama and his wife attended for over 22 years. Can a man attend a church for 22 years and not be influenced by its doctrine?
Pastor Wright married Obama and his wife; he is Obama’s close friend and until recently was Obama’s campaign' spiritual advisor. He hastily resigned only because of public exposure of his unpatriotic remarks.
In Obama’s capacity as head of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he promulgated a need for an “Educational Fund.” The reason, roughly, “You cannot release people from slavery without educating them to deal with the outside world.” He has since announced he will increase President Bush’s faith-based charities by $500 million annually to help poor children read.
I write because I am ticked-off. Not at the liberation theologies, which might be another story, but at our national media. Twenty years ago I was almost driven out of town because I gave a lecture on the liberation theology. Today, the same subject is an unmentioned but germane part of the presidential campaign and the media will not touch it with a ten foot pole. What has happened to the once mighty American press?