James Cone often talks in class at Union about the freedom that comes from being able to release the unrelenting urge to speak your mind. Theology, for him, being always and essentially contextual, comes from wrestling with the central contradictions of your experience as the locus of your own theological voice. He narrates his time composing his first book, Black Theology and Black Power, as a sort of theological fever dream, writing from sunup to sundown, guided only by the fury and soul of the spirituals and the blues on the turntable and the looming, all-consuming urge to not do injustice to his ancestors who had suffered the horrors of slavery and the lynching tree for his sake.
I’m wrestling with those contradictions. I’m channeling that fire inside. I’m hearing the whispers of Appalachians long past pushing me forward. Whoever said theology is disconnected and esoteric never had James Cone yelling truth at them for three hours a week.