Via New York Times:
The year 2012 looks a lot like 2008: high unemployment, a candidate named Obama promising to do something about high unemployment, and the Giants beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And one more thing: conservatives are still ridiculing liberation theology. With the complicity of clueless pundits and incurious journalists, they are reducing an important theological movement of the past 40 years to an abusive sound bite.
In 2008, conservatives gleefully attacked the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Mr. Obama’s home pastor in Chicago, for his provocative remarks in sermons, taken out of context, including his assertion that 9/11 was evidence that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” They persuaded many that Mr. Wright was wielding something called “liberation theology” — and that Candidate Obama had to answer for it.
“How important a strain is liberation theology in the black church?” a reporter asked Mr. Obama at an April 2008 news conference. “And why did you choose to attend a church that preached that?”
To his credit, Mr. Obama began his reply to that reporter by saying, “I’m not a theologian.” But others had no such modesty. In March 2008, after tapes of Mr. Wright’s fiery sermons surfaced, Jonah Goldberg wrote in his blog for National Review, “I keep meaning to go to school on black liberation theology, but I just haven’t had the time. The similarities between certain strains of the German Christian Movement and Jeremiah Wright’s shtick certainly seem significant.” The German Christians were a movement of pro-Nazi Protestants in prewar Germany.
Also that month, Glenn Beck, then a Fox News host, called black liberation theology “the theological tradition based in hate, intolerance and racial black nationalism.”
Last week, four years since the last liberation-theology scare, it was reported that Joe Ricketts, a billionaire business executive, was considering a plan to finance an anti-Obama advertising campaign, focused on Mr. Wright and those same video clips. The campaign prospectus was incendiary and demeaning — it recommended that the backers “include an extremely literate, conservative African-American in our spokesman group” — and Mitt Romney quickly said he rejected any such campaign on his behalf.
While Mr. Wright has said his ministry is inspired by James H. Cone, the author of “Black Theology & Black Power,” the founding text of black liberation theology, Dr. Cone’s 1969 book is far subtler than any one sermon, no matter the preacher. Contrary to the simplifications of the past four years, liberation theology, which has become hugely influential, teaches not hate, nor anti-Americanism, but a renewed focus on the poor and the suffering, as embodied by Jesus.