Black liberation theology and the candidate

This post was updated at 3:07 p.m.

The Washington Post carries a story today that looks a little closer at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, at least closer than the short clips on TV and large-point headlines have allowed. The article also examines what’s known as “black liberation theology.”


Flooded with a tide of criticism, Trinity declines to condemn Wright’s remarks, instead casting them as consistent with the traditions of the black church. He practices a “black liberation theology” that encourages a preacher to speak forcefully against the institutions of oppression, and occasional hyperbole is an occupational hazard, ministers said. “There’s so much passion in what we do that it can overflow,” said the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

Black liberation theology is based on a book (Black Theology of Liberation) by James H. Cone, a professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

“For me, the burning theological question was, how can I reconcile Christianity and Black Power, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea of nonviolence, and Malcolm X’s ‘by any means necessary philosophy?'” he wrote.

Today, Sen. Barack Obama, in perhaps the most important speech of his political career, did not shy from acknowledging the anger that exists where race is concerned in America (Read transcript). “But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races,” he said.

Nor did he reject his long association with Rev. Wright. “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

Now for the reviews. This from James Fallows of The Atlantic, watching from China:


This was as good a job as anyone could have done in these circumstances, and as impressive and intelligent a speech as I have heard in a very long time. People thought that Mitt Romney’s speech would be the counterpart to John Kennedy’s famous speech about his faith to the Houston ministers in 1960. No. This was.

Jeff Jarvis has a slightly different take:

I believe he is trying too hard to dodge making a decision about Jeremiah Wright and his divisive and racist speech. After having thrown Wright to the wolves in prior videos, he now backs up. He tries to explain Wright. He explains him more as a product of racism than a racist himself. He says he cannot leave Wright and his flock behind or we will not come together to solve our problems.

Meanwhile, a new poll from CBS says 30 percent have a less favorable view of Obama because of his pastor’s remarks.