Origins and Development

A protean global phenomenon, black political theology manifested itself almost simultaneously in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, South Africa, and the Caribbean; it would appear in Britain in the late 1980s. In each locale, black political theology negotiates distinct emphases and concerns, thus asserting particularization - theologies. Yet such distinctions neither jeopardize nor enervate black political theologies' African heritage, historic traditions of resistance, and pan-African orientation. From that religio-cultural soil, black theologies take their root-work - the struggle for black emancipation, existential empowerment, and spiritual liberation in light of the Gospel.

These theologies enacted a twofold intellectual praxis: On the one hand, they took up a critical apologetic to discredit the American and European ersatz Christianity which had so debased the message of Jesus; on the other hand, they protested various forms of white racist supremacy and elucidated black power and black cultural consciousness. Even in their first stages, wherever they appeared, black political theologies differed from European political theologies whose programs were shaped by the epistemological concerns of the Enlightenment, liberal-market meanings of freedom, and modernity's "infatuat[ion] with secularization and technology" (Bosch 1991: 434). Although black political theologies grasped the import of these issues, they could not approve of them uncritically; the historical, cultural, and social situation of the masses of black people around the globe required otherwise. In their second stages, black political theologies stood shoulder to shoulder with segregated, banned, striking, marching, beaten, imprisoned, and murdered black women and men and those few whites who turned their backs on the absurdity of white supremacy. Black political theologies were never comfortable in the academy; and the very Sitz im Leben of their origins pulled them to the periphery. These theologies found their centers in Birmingham and Watts (USA), in Sharpeville and Dimbaza (South Africa), in Kingston, Jamaica and St. George's, Grenada (Caribbean), in Notting Hill and Brixton (Britain); their praxial agitation can be traced in these sites of struggle, building up the moral and spiritual courage of down-pressed black women and men; supplying theological interpretations of black power, freedom, and anti-racism movements; engaging and scrutinizing aspects of black expressive cultures.

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