Friday, January 25, 2008


I actually wasn’t finished last time when writing. I meant to say that some oppressed peoples have actually turned it around. In the Americas you see the Black slaves connecting with the Ancient Jewish people during Pharaonic Egypt (you’ve heard spirituals like “Let My People Go”) and Liberation Theology in Latin America (sociologists, historians—people have attacked the missionaries and monks of that time labeling them as killers, haters, and people who have killed indigenous cultures; it’s always important to talk in percentages because it gives the impression they were all like that which isn’t true; there were actually some good monks, missionaries who worked with and for the people during late pre-colonial and colonial Latin America) and even in the Caribbean. Noticeably, it was this type of theology that made Paul Farmer (in Haiti) even feel like he could connect to Christianity, not his Catholic upbringing. So for the Latin Americans, too, they connected with the Hebrew children in viewing their own plight.

And I’m glad some people have used theology in seeing how God does care for them and hear their cries. All the theologies of oppression throughout history scare me, though. It scares me because religion seems to me like an academic course at a university. Perhaps it’s history. We all sit down, and we read this book. And the professor asks each person to tell what she thinks about the book. Later, the professor asks everyone to write a paper espousing their views. “It’s ok what you think or the position you take. Just make sure you support it with details.” In others words, there is no right and wrong. It’s just what you think. Now, in many belief systems and philosophies this thinking is ok, and it envelopes the foundation of that belief. But in Christianity (the name of religion or community of people who believe that Jesus was God and that he saved us through his voluntary death into a glorious eternal joy [from a deserved separation from God due to sin]), we believe that we are a God-led or Spirit-led people. So I ask myself again and again how is it that a God-led people cannot agree on something that doesn’t require their strict interpretation but rather God-leading or hearing from God? We disagree about the eucharist, eternal salvation (means you can never lose your “salvation”), prophecy, speaking in tongues, the end times, etc. And those are just more theological or spiritual issues. Socially we disagree about how to treat abortion, death penalty, homosexuality, poverty, health care, etc. And we have even used our religion to justify oppression. So in the end, it seems like a book to me. Just a book that we read and use to justify what we want. But not really a book that, outside of ourselves, speaks authoritatively or truly or absolutely. It’s like the entire faith of Christianity is a class, and we’re all students, each giving his opinion, backing it with support from the book, and given an A+ from our personal professor (our conscience and consciousness). Somehow we’ve gone off-course.

(The same problem exists in Islam and Judaism for instance. By the way, if I were Muslim I would be practicing in the Sufi order as a whirling dervish.)

Thankfully, I have not let the example of Christianity throw me off course, knowing that’s it possible for us and myself especially to mess up what I believe in. But with examples of oppression and genocide in our past, I wonder where the real Christians are at. Where are they?

I’m reminded of the 5 M’s. The Messiah (Meh-shee-uh)àMahatmaàMartinàMandela. Remember that India song on forgiveness? She mentions three of them (Jesus, Gandhi, and Mandela). Now, I’ve left out some holes (those are not perfectly direct influences especially between Jesus and Gandhi [someone may give you a book about Gandhi for instance]), but Jesus’s teaching influenced Gandhi especially about active resistance. People think turning the other cheek is weak, but what Gandhi realized Jesus taught was that nothing can withstand love. And love is active. It stands there and resists in the face of the opposition without striking without hating but simply loving [remember Jesus could have said run or walk away]. And it’s hard to hate that, to actively hate (just as strong) in the face of that active love. I think it’s because at that point the hater begins to see the person; it’s hard to beat, hurt, maim, injure, kill a person with a history and humanity. It’s easier to do it to an idea (an Indian person, a Black person, an Aboriginal person). Gandhi then went on and used this active pacifism or active non-violent resistance to change many. Then Martin picked up that same kind of love and carried it through the civil rights movement in the 60’s. And Mandela took Martin’s words of forgiveness and reconciliation (as there was and is much reconciliation needed in the US) and applied in South Africa. The first time I arrived in South Africa, I went to a jazz festival for Heritage Day and I remember the host saying to that mixed group of people “We still need some major reconciliation,” and everyone agreed.

One thing Mandela also said is that after climbing a hill, you find that there are more hills to climb.

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