By Gina Liggett
In my last post, Obama's Black Liberation Theology: Rescuing the World, Paul Hsieh asked:
Do you know how much of this global altruism also took place under white liberals (such as President Clinton), or under a white Christian Republican (like President Bush)? In particular, is President Obama's pursuit of this kind of "save the world" altruism significantly greater under his presumed guiding philosophy Black Liberation Theology than with those other Presidents?Thanks for your question, Paul. I believe that it is driven by different values. To answer it in depth would be beyond the scope of this blog. But I think a couple of key examples will elucidate the underlying altruistic positions of Clinton, Bush, and a representative service-oriented global Christian organization, contrasted with Black Liberation Theology's teaching about America's global responsibility.
As most know, former Presidents Bush and Clinton partnered to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The purpose of the charitable organization is much the same as what Obama sold to America (with American tax dollars):
To help the Haitian people reclaim their country and rebuild their lives. Our immediate priority is to save lives. The critical needs in Haiti are great, but they are also simple: food, water, shelter, and first-aid supplies. The best way concerned citizens can help is to donate funds that will go directly to supplying these material needs....There is no greater rallying cry for our common humanity than witnessing our neighbors in distress. And, like any good neighbor, we have an obligation and desire to come to their aid.The William J. Clinton Foundation is Clinton's philanthropic organization focusing "on worldwide issues that demand urgent action, solutions, and measurable results -- global climate change, HIV/AIDS in the developing world, childhood obesity and economic opportunity in the United States, and economic development in Africa and Latin America."
In his video on the website, Clinton directly states what his global values are. He speaks about "our common humanity," that we live in an "interdependent world ... with shared values, responsibilities and benefits ... where everybody counts, where everybody deserves a chance, where everybody has a responsibility to fulfill ... We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more."
George W. Bush's altruism was best exemplified by his "compassionate conservatism":
Government cannot solve every problem, but it can encourage people and communities to help themselves and to help one another. Often the truest kind of compassion is to help citizens build lives of their own. I call my philosophy and approach "compassionate conservatism." It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results. And with this hopeful approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives. (April 2002)The World Council of Churches, a worldwide community of more than 340 Christian churches of many different denominations serves to "speak out with a strong voice to promote peace, justice and care for God's creation." Also, to help "churches join hands to serve people forgotten in today's world."
Enough on these altruists.
Black Liberation Theology, on the other hand, doesn't try to sell emotion-provoking exhortations about our "common humanity," "making a difference in people's lives," "shared responsibility" or "service."
It is out for revenge. It is out for "justice."
James Cone, the founder of Black Liberation Theology, said:
What does black theology have to say about the fact that two-thirds of humanity is poor and that this poverty arises from the exploitation of the poor nations by rich nations? ... Thus, in our attempt to liberate ourselves from white America in the U.S., it is important to be sensitive to the complexity of the world situation and the oppressive role of the U.S. in it.Obama's former pastor for 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, excoriated the U.S. for what his calls a "terrorist" foreign policy in a speech responding to the September 11 attacks.
Black Liberation Theologian Dwight Hopkins explains that global welfare is a form of "justice" in response to the alleged egregious crimes of American capitalism:
[T]he past rise of capitalism and its existence today suggest a fact of capital accumulation by ruling-class families of the globe (primarily based in the United States and Europe) who keep their monopoly over God's resources by taking capital from people of color and the Third World. Injustice against God comes from monopolized capital, which is stolen from blacks, other people of color, and Third World nations ... [We must] return God's capital and resources back to the poor (i.e., the majority world community)...You might find this kind of preposterous bombast from modern Marxists and other anti-American "liberationists," but not from "common humanitarians" like Clinton, "compassionate conservatives" like Bush, or world-wide organizations of Christians doing the good works of Jesus.
Obama came of spiritual age in the Black Liberation Church. He is a proven enemy of capitalism. His priorities for global welfare were set very high at the first opportunity. He surrounds himself with spiritual advisers from the Black Liberation community (as well as a couple of garden variety Christian liberals).
So, my answer is basically "Yes." Obama's global welfare is about what Black Liberation Theology says is a justifiable duty America has to the rest of the world.