The following interview is by Joe McKnight, an MA candidate at Union Theological Seminary. James Cone is the founder of black liberation theology and the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union.
The interview appeared in The Revealer:
This should not be my first interview. That’s what I’m thinking during my haircut, a feeble attempt to look more professional. I hear a classmate’s voice in the chair next to me; he asks what I’m doing and I tell him.Really? Yes, really. I hand him the fifth draft of my questions, and after he looks them over, I ask if he has any advice. “Practice deference,” he answers. Good lord, yes! Being from the South, if I’ve been trained to be anything, it’s deferential.
“Do you think I should tuck my shirt in?” I ask my classmate.
“Doesn’t hurt,” he replies.
When I knock on the door, no one answers. Maybe he forgot! Hallelujah! I ring the door-bell; there is rustling. I thought I’d left behind the notion of divine intervention after my first year of seminary, but the hope that it exists comes roaring back. I’m that scared. It will have to be God, James Cone, and me.
He stands in the doorway, grinning. Despite his 73 years, I’m certain his face has changed little since his youth. His once soaring afro, however, has. He is wearing black slacks and house slippers; he wears his button down oxford lightly. Its pattern can only be described as Africa-meets-hounds-tooth, a look befitting Dr. Cone’s legacy. He asks me to sit in a deep-seated chair in his spotless apartment. I do not lean back. Both of our shirts are tucked in. I am sitting alone in this living room with the father of black liberation theology.