Speaking the Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation, and Black Theology With a New Introduction by Dennis W. Wiley
By: James H. Cone and The Rev. Dr. Dennis Wiley
“Preaching the Gospel is not easy in a church defined by the denominational interests of status-seeking clergy and laypersons. Doing Christian theology is difficult in a seminary or university determined by the academic interests of privileged professors and students. Speaking the truth can be politically dangerous in a society defined according to the socio-economic interests of the rich. Preaching the gospel, doing Christian theology, and speaking the truth are interrelated, and neither can be correctly understood apart from the liberation struggles of the poor and marginalized.”
With these words, James Cone introduces the theme of this collection of essays first published in 1986 and now in print again. In Speaking the Truth, he addresses topics of Black theology and its relationship to other Christian theologies (especially liberation theology) and secular ideologies, the role of the Black churches in American history, Christian faith, and political praxis. He argues that there can be no comprehension of the gospel apart from God’s solidarity with the poor, because the freedom of the oppressed on earth is a sign of God’s intention to redeem the whole of creation. “As ambassadors of Jesus Christ,” he writes, “Christians have no choice but to join the movement of liberation on the side of the poor, fighting against the structures of injustice.”
As Cornel West observes: This is “Vintage Cone—prophetic, passionate, pertinent, and provocative.”
James H. Cone (1938-2018) was Bill and Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was the author of many books (all published by Orbis Books), including Black Theology and Black Power, A Black Theology of Liberation, Martin & Malcolm & America, The Spirituals & the Blues, and The Cross and the Lynching Tree, winner of the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. His final book, his memoir, was Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018.