Reclaiming liberation theology (Part 1)

In our last post, we explore the deconstruction of the pro-slavery theology. In this post, we will examine the liberation theology. Both are the antithesis to each other. 

At this point, one may wonder how is it that the Bible can be used to justify slavery on one hand and condemn slavery on the other hand? Can the same book (or rather the collection of books) support two opposing views? My response to these questions is: I have come to see that the Bible is (like) a mirror that reveals the heart of a person who reads and interprets it. If we harbor ill will and animosity towards ourselves and others, the Bible will reveal the evil intentions in our heart through the way we interpret it (and find verses to support our interpretation), but if we are filled with love and acceptance towards ourselves and others, the Bible will reveal the benevolent intentions in our heart through the way we interpret it (and find verses to support our interpretation). 

So, what does the Bible say about slavery and oppression of certain groups of people? In this post, I would like to focus on the liberation of the black community from oppression because in the wake of the recent high-profile cases of police brutality against unarmed black people in America such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, especially in the past year, the subject on the white supremacy system and its mistreatment of people of color such as the native Americans and the black community has resurfaced and come to the forefront of public discourse. 

The question is: Have things changed since the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and the civil rights movement in the 20th century? From the look of the ongoing systemic racism and oppression, it seems not much have changed. The liberation of the oppressed still has a long way to go, and it appears to me that the mission of Jesus to liberate the oppressed is just as relevant today as it was during in the 1st century AD. Let’s look at Jesus’ mission from a socio-economic and political perspective because we are dealing with issues that affect our very existence on earth in the here and now. 

 

What is Jesus’ mission?

Jesus’ mission statement can be found in Luke 4:18-19, which is a reference to Isaiah 61:1-2. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to thepoor;

He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

This summarizes the liberation theology of Jesus, in his proclamation of the good news of grace. 

What is oppression and who are the oppressed?

The article “Healing from the Effects of Internalized Oppression” defines oppression as “discrimination carried to its extreme.” It continues to say:

“Oppressed people are not only discriminated against, but are also subject to physical and psychological brutality – and occasionally genocide – sometimes for disobeying or displeasing those in power, sometimes to discourage them and others from trying to change their condition, and sometimes out of pure hatred. Modern examples include the treatment of Jews in Germany in the 1930’s, culminating in the Holocaust; the apartheid rule in South Africa between 1948 and 1990; slavery and its aftermath in the American South…”

(To be continued in Part 2)

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