Liberation theologian James Cone of Union Theological Seminary crossed over yesterday. He was 81. This is from his ground-breaking A Black Theology of Liberation (1970):
The Christological significance of Jesus is not an abstract question to be solved by intellectual debates among seminary professors. The meaning of Jesus is an existential question. We know who he is when our own lives are placed in a situation of oppression, and we thus have to make a decision for or against our condition.
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James H. Cone, my professor at Union Seminary (NYC), died today. He once told me something I think about every day; in September of 1987 he said: “Marc, you are too white and privileged ever to be a follower of Jesus. You’ll never ‘get‘ Jesus. You’ll use your privilege always to live apart from and out-of-earshot from the voices of the poor and underside of history. You’ll never be a Christian.” Of course, I immediately got reactive, and so missed his spot-on point.
He’s right, of course. And this one conversation and my internal dialogues ever since (”Is Cone right? Is Cone wrong?”) have done more for me than anything, in helping me to live into the kind of Christianity that might actually be worth something: less white, less privileged, less other-worldly.
Rest in peace, my life-long quarrel partner.
Professor of Religion
Mars Hill University