Welcome to the third commentary on A Political Reading of the Life of Jesus, by George Baldwin. In Chapter 2, George takes us to Nicaragua where, in 1984 he went to live in voluntary poverty with the poor after giving up his credentials to the United Methodist Church and resigned from his position as a professor at the seminary. He speaks of el pueblo; the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and their coming to understand liberation theology:
For most of five centuries, el pueblo in Latin America have been indoctrinated with a theology based on the Biblical theme of salvation. They were taught to submit to both the authority of the Church and the State. If they wanted access to salvation they must accept Jesus as their personal Savior and receive the sacraments or “Means of Grace” exclusively through the Church. By accepting the injustices and oppression, which was their daily fare, they were promised the salvation of their souls and a better life in heaven after they died… (p. 18)
Baldwin explains how access to the Bible in the people’s own language opened their eyes to an understanding of the Biblical theme of liberation, and the emphasis on creating the Kingdom of God here and now with much less emphasis on the hereafter. The most liberating knowledge for these people is the knowledge that God is a loving God, and is a full participant in their efforts to seek freedom and promote justice.
Although Baldwin makes the point that the political and religious leaders who are embedded with the governing authorities in both Nicaragua and the United States continue to support the illusion that through the use of violence it is possible to realize peace and justice, this point could apply to so many other current situations, including those in Israel/Palestine and Iraq.
Baldwin continues to develop the “missing chapter” of liberation, and leaves us with the following thought at the end of chapter 2:
We need to recover the Jesus who challenged the Powers with non-violent agape. This understanding of how to express one’s faith in God is Biblical; it is radical; it is dangerous, and it is political.
And yes, if we choose to follow Jesus, it means we are invited, as were the original followers of Jesus, to engage in the Politics of Liberation and Freedom. (p. 27)
Just how might we recover that Jesus in our own churches? How might we help our brothers and sisters in the pews move from Salvation Theology to Liberation Theology (and perhaps, from personal piety to personal and collective responsibility)?
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