We’re all Users
I’m reading Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint’s Come on People: on the path from Victims to Victors. On p. 32 they write:
One way slaves survived such brutal conditions was to turn the Christianity they had learned into a liberation theology. The stories of the Hebrew slaves became their own. Even as slave owners used the Bible to justify slavery, black people used the Bible as God intended-to give people hope for a time when there would be true justice. (emphasis added)
I love this! (Except for the part that the term liberation theology immediately turned some of you off because you pigeon-hole such labels)
What slaves did with Christianity, in turning it into liberation theology begs the question of what kind of label ought we put on to kind of theology that justified slavery?
Cosby and Poussaint correctly identify that slaves and slave owners used the Bible to support their own vision of the future, and of the way life ought to be. Don’t we all do this?
I’m a user. I read the Bible regularly. I preach from the Bible. I gain much of my understanding of life, of the world, of humanity, of the future, from the Bible. I also read it and understand it differently now than I did when I was a teen, and also differently than when I was only 30. At all these ages, I used the Bible.
Slave owners used the Bible to enslave people. For at least a century after slavery was abolished, some continued to use the Bible to subjugate people. (Cosby and Poussaint point out wisely that science has been used too).
Slaves, I think, had a better claim to using the scriptures than did slave owners. They had the stronger claim to scripture the same way Moses, not Pharoah, had the message of God.
If you ever catch yourself thinking or accusing someone else of using the Bible to support their cause, consider how you might be doing the same.
It seems to me that whenever the Bible is used in the direction of giving “people hope for a time when there would be true justice” is a great way to use the Bible.