James H. Cone

I first encountered the idea that God sides with the oppressed after Black liberation theology in seminary – particularly the work of theologian and thinker James H. Cone. Cone was a widely influential theologian who is considered one of the founders of Black liberation theology. He premises his work on the idea that Jesus came to liberate the oppressed and free the captives, that God sides with the oppressed, and that any gospel that doesn’t side with the oppressed is one written by oppressors. Cone writes in God of the Oppressed:

The biblical God is the God whose salvation is liberation. God is the God of Jesus Christ who calls the helpless and weak into a newly created existence. God not only fights for them but takes their humiliated condition upon the divine Person and thereby breaks open a new future for the poor, different from their past and present miseries.

To Cone, Jesus not only becomes one with humanity in his incarnation, but he also becomes one with the oppressed. He not only sides with the oppressed, but he also becomes the oppressed. The project of Christianity, to Cone, is the liberation of the oppressed. To underline this he quotes Jurgen Moltman: “The Christian faith not only hopes for freedom but, rather, is itself the inauguration of a free life on earth.”

In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone argues that “To understand the historical Jesus without seeing his identification with the poor as decisive is to misunderstand him and thus distort his historical person. And a proper theological analysis of Jesus’ historical identification with the helpless is indispensable for our interpretation of the Gospel today.” 

From “Jesus Takes a Side: Embracing the Political Demands of the Gospel” by Jonny Rashid