Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation
Thursday, February 13, 2020
James Cone (1938–2018) is one of the greatest American theologians of this past century, yet sadly many Christians have never heard of him. His work laid the foundation for a liberation theology that spoke directly to the injustice, oppression, and violence faced by the Black community in the United States. Jesus made it clear that he came to bring “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), showing that if we liberated the people on the margins, the good news would float upwards—in the opposite direction of the “trickle down” economic model, which is largely an illusion. Jesus’ teaching empowered Rev. Dr. Cone to write, “Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.”  Cone reflects:
Like white American theology, black thought on Christianity has been influenced by its social context. But unlike white theologians, who spoke to and for the culture of the ruling class, black people’s religious ideas were shaped by the cultural and political existence of the victims in North America. Unlike Europeans who immigrated to this land to escape from tyranny, Africans came in chains to serve a nation of tyrants. It was the slave experience that shaped our idea of this land. And this difference in social existence between Europeans and Africans must be recognized, if we are to understand correctly the contrast in the form and content of black and white theology.
What then is the form and content of black religious thought when viewed in the light of black people’s social situation? Briefly, the form of black religious thought is expressed in the style of story and its content is liberation. Black Theology, then, is the story of black people’s struggle for liberation in an extreme situation of oppression. Consequently, there is no sharp distinction between thought and practice, worship and theology, because black theological reflections about God occurred in the black struggle of freedom.
White theologians built logical systems; black folks told tales. Whites debated the validity of infant baptism or the issue of predestination and free will; blacks recited biblical stories about God leading the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, and the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. White theologians argued about the general status of religious assertions in view of the development of science generally and Darwin’s Origin of Species in particular; blacks were more concerned about their status in American society and its relation to the biblical claim that Jesus came to set the captives free. White thought on the Christian view of salvation was largely “spiritual” and sometimes “rational,” but usually separated from the concrete struggle of freedom in this world. Black thought was largely eschatological [focused on the ultimate destiny of humanity] and never abstract, but usually related to blacks’ struggle against earthly oppression. 
Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?
Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.
Listen to Fr. Richard read the prayer.
 James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (Orbis Books: 2010), ix.
 James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed (Orbis Books: 1997), 49-50.
Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC.
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Study the Wisdom Path with Cynthia Bourgeault
Examine your notion of evil with a contemplative, nondual mind to reflect on ways we are complicit in social and systemic evil. In What Do We Do With Evil?, Richard Rohr challenges readers to look beyond personal moral failure, increase personal responsibility and promote human solidarity.
2020 Daily Meditations Theme
What does God ask of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. —Micah 6:8
Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.
In this year’s Daily Meditations, Father Richard helps us learn the dance of action and contemplation. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Click the video to learn more about the theme and to find reflections you may have missed.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth. — Steven Charleston