"Black Liberation Theology", Luther, and Authority


I was listening to a discussion the other day on NPR’s Talk of the Nation with two black pastors on the subject of “Black Liberation Theology”. I was intrigued at first by one claiming, of course, a specious antiquity for “BLT”, asserting that European Christianity corrupted the Gospel and “sanitized” it of its revolutionary message, yada, yada, yada; but I was astounded when no more than ten minutes later, a caller expressing her difficulty feeling accepted in a black Full-Gospel church because she was a lesbian (it was clear she felt the church should accept her on the basis of a shared experience of oppression), the pastor, disavowing the “prophetic” role whose mantle he had worn into the interview, coolly averred to disagree and admonished her not to change the church but, with the hundreds of churches out there, “find (one) that teaches what (she) believe(s).”

How easy it was for him to rather concede the pretense of authority than to address a contradiction he can’t negotiate: fearing the charge of bigotry, he resorts to the argument of plurality–an unassailable modern virtue, like ‘change’. Not that we buy it, but this is an argument deeply engrained in our shared experience and finds an easy purchase.

What more disturbs me is that our society broadly has, in absorbing the contradictions of Protestantism, entirely conceded the notion of authority to collective will, elevating its expression in turn to the Pantheon of our highest ideals. Perhaps if we can hope to resurrect a true sense of authority, that imposes duties and obligations upon us as a matter of right, good sense, and honor, as well as secures our rights and freedoms, we might find a way to pick free the knots of confusion which bind us to the persuasion of self-serving and often malicious forces. This to me is part of a larger set of questions: Is it too much to question the presumptive right to withdraw allegiance expressed in the Declaration of Independence, for example? What prejudices do we absorb in taking it for granted? Are the arguments advanced sufficient for a Catholic? The history of the Reformation is replete with questions of the duty of Catholics toward due authority and the conditions under which it is duly withdrawn. Does anyone want to explore how our society manifests the way these conflicts resolved?

Anyway, I was hoping someone could place for me the Martin Luther quote in answer to a presumed objection to the effect of: “tell them, ‘because Dr. Luther said so…’”


But I will return to the subject at hand. If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola (alone), say this to him: “Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says that a papist and a donkey are the same thing.” Sic volo, sic iubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. (2) For we are not going to be students and disciples of the papists. Rather,* we will become their teachers and judges**. *

LINK to full text.


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