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Liberation Theology

Black Theology

Black theology in the United States arose out of the civil rights and black power movements of the 1950s and 1960s. However, its historical roots go back to the beginning of African slavery in the United States and the founding of black independent Baptist and Methodist churches in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Important contributors to this literature are James H. Cone, J. Deotis Roberts, and Gayraud S. Wilmore. "In a racist society, God is not color blind," says James Cone. Also, if all humans were created in the image of God, it must not only mean that black people are created in God's image, as are whites, but also that "God is black." In a related sense, "blackness" is a category in black theology similar to that of "poverty" in Latin American liberation theology. To be black, or poor, is to be conscious both of one's oppression and of one's authentic humanity.

As in other liberation theologies, black women's voices, and their critique, have been central for the later development of black theology. In the United States, African-American feminist theologians prefer to call their work womanist theology, after a term borrowed from the African-American writer Alice Walker. Important Christian womanist theologians are Delores Williams, Jacquelyn Grant, and Katie G. Cannon. Most U.S. black and womanist theologians are Protestant. In a racist and sexist society, black women cannot prefer one identity at the cost of the other: they are marginalized both as women and as a racial minority.

As in the United States, the struggle against institutionalized racism, often legitimized by religious beliefs, has been the source of black theology in Africa, especially South Africa. Reformed Christianity in South Africa has been one of the ideological pillars of apartheid, the repressive political system of that country for decades, which is why black theology in the South African context has been different from that in the United States. Important black South African theologians such as Desmond Tutu, Allan Boesak, and Manas Buthelezi have often also been leaders in the churches and in movements against apartheid. A black theology of liberation, la teología negra de la liberación, including a feminist version, is also being developed in the Latin American and Caribbean context.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Laser - Background And History to Linear equationLiberation Theology - Latin American Liberation Theology, Black Theology, Feminist Theologies, Bibliography