“ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,There's been a lot of smack talk about Black Liberation Theology. And I thought I'd help set the record straight. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite shares this pithy little number over at WashPo:
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. (Luke 4:18-20, New King James Version)
There was a lavish buffet, and a senior professor in theology, carrying a plate piled high with food from the buffet, came over to where Gutierrez and I were chatting, and he loomed over Gutierrez. "So," this senior professor intoned, "Professor Gutierrez, explain liberation theology to me." Gutierrez looked at him. "It's a matter of the stomach," Gutierrez replied. "The stomach?" the large and portly senior professor said, astonished. "Yes," said Gutierrez, looking at the professor's loaded plate. "You do theology differently when your stomach is full than when it is empty."What?! Yes! Too true, too true!
Now, I got my "inspiration" to use Luke 4:18-20 from reading this essay by Robert Parham. Parham says that one reason that, as Glenn Beck put it, "people aren't recognizing [Pres. Obama's] version of Christianity" is that:
Luke 4:18-19 is one of the most ignored, watered down, spiritualized or glossed-over texts in white Baptist pulpits, evading or emptying Jesus' first statement of his moral agenda.His words, not mine. But I agree. I don't wanna disparage any particular race or ethnic group of people. If the tables of history were turned, we'd probably be discussing White Liberation Theology. (I'd still probably be on the side of Liberation Theology - not because I'm so spiritual, but more because I'm such a contrarian.)
The point is - Blessed are they who hunger for they shall be filled means something very material and real when you really are hungry. Or poor. Or thirsty. Or persecuted.
Hey, look. Let's not make this partisan, right? God is far too big and too high, too deep and too wide to fit neatly into our American politics, right? Just read the Word. Read the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and the chapters immediately following. Jesus didn't just say all this nice stuff then offer Himself for Crucifixion. He didn't just preach that's Sunday's sermon then go back home to began preparing for the previous Sunday's. No! Rather than that, Matthew records him as healing a leper as soon as service was over! And several people after that. Later in the fourth chapter of his gospel, Luke describes Jesus as healing a whole bunch of people, including those who had been demon-possessed. To hear Mark tell it, Jesus couldn't get a moment to himself. People rushed to get to a town ahead of Jesus; and even though he had been looking for a place to rest, Jesus had compassion on the people. He healed them. He taught them. He fed them.
Now admittedly, I didn't know there were such a thing as "liberation" theology until I got to college. I knew my white friends and classmates didn't seem to believe quite what I believed; but, I didn't know there was a name for it. Understanding how Jesus relates to victims and the oppressed is my spiritual instinct. Rev. Wright scared a lot of white folks and shamed a few house Negros; but that was just about the gist of every sermon I heard growing up. (Without the "damn" part.) Not even "second" nature, for me is nature. I don't read the Scripture and think to myself, "How can I make the Gospel relevant to black people," as though I would emphasize some parts over others. It's not like some parts of the Bible are for the disadvantaged and oppressed, while other parts are for the well off. No.
For me, there is no such thing as "liberation" theology because the Gospel itself is liberating. If the only person who's liberated by your "version of Christianity" is you, then I'm not too sure about that. James made clear that to suggest to someone who's naked and hungry that they should buck up and "be clothed in Christ and filled with the Spirit" is useless and nonsense (James 2:14-17). I'll add that it's a little mean and evil, even.
And before you walk off and accuse me and all of Black Christendom of heresy, let me remind you that with all that's written in the Bible, much of it involves God's relationship with slaves or a people in exile, not unlike black folks, or a woman who's lost both sons and her husband and only has a daughter-in-law to lean on. Or even a king who's facing a coup led by his son. And if you don't or won't read the Word from that perspective - then you're missing a huge, gargantuan chunk for the point.
Think about it, it's hard to hear the Gospel on an empty stomach.
Or, sometimes, even a full one.