Christianity and Liberation
"The truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)"
The Christian faith is nothing if it does not have as its goal the complete transformation of mankind. It entails lifting man out of his wretched state and placing him into a new realm, a new area of existence. In every way, it is a brand new age in history. It marks the final disposition of divine providence for the world. Christians believe that the birth of Jesus Christ is God's definitive intervention in human history.
One Christian author, Gregory Baum, in his book, 'Man Becoming', describes the Pentecost event, in which Jesus Christ launched a new era, as a jail-break. The enthusiasm of the disciples of Jesus represented a radical overturning of all that the world held dear up to that time. They bore with them a message which was of such proportions that they were accused of "turning the world upside down".
The apostles of Jesus heralded the Good News of freedom that the Messiah brought into the world. Their message was a complete liberation. They did not deny the validity of all the good things that God had created and still existed. However, the essence of their proclamation was that in the world, as it existed, man was not enjoying the fullness of life, he was not quite what he was called to be.
Man was trapped in a deep pit. He was often not aware of his situation for man has the uncanny ability to accept whatever situation in which he finds himself. Man has a remarkable power of adaptability. It is often second nature for him to make a virtue of necessity. Nonetheless, he was imprisoned. An offer of freedom was made to him. Now he could be set free.
One would have thought that with such a beautiful programme for humanity the apostles would have had more success. After all, there were thousands of people who, within a few weeks after Pentecost, had their lives transformed. But that was not to be.
There was violent persecution. Harsh reprisals followed on the heels of the Gospel preaching. Imprisonment and death were the order of the day. One can well imagine the wailing and weeping that accompanied the preaching of the Good News. This was a sharp reminder that there is a powerful force of evil in the world and that good and evil can never live side by side without a struggle.
Today, after two centuries of the Christian era, mankind is still in need of liberation. Brotherhood, an ideal which is at the heart of Christianity, is far to seek. Love and self-sacrifice are still for many vague notions that have little to do with daily living.
Having gone through centuries of warfare involving destruction of nations, bloodshed and disruption of vibrant societies, we would expect a breathing space. Two World Wars have changed the face of the earth. But they have not altered the minds and hearts of wayward men and women.
Centuries of slavery engineered by Christian nations with the support of religious men have tarnished the globe. One would have expected that with the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, the world would have grown into the brotherhood championed by Christ and his apostles. Yet, we are informed that there are 35 million slaves in the post-modern world. This includes those who are victims of "human trafficking" and those who are forced into "child labour".
Today, more than ever we are aware of the existence of the disadvantaged and downtrodden. But relatively little is done to vindicate their rights. The plight of the poor is trumpeted throughout the world. But in spite of lofty ideals, the record shows that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
What does this mean? How do we explain this? How shall we seek genuine redress for the wretched of the earth? How shall we liberate them?
Liberation must begin in our hearts. To be free is to be interiorly transformed. It is in the bowels of men and women that the new age must begin. A real conversion to simplicity, authenticity, sincerity and self-sacrificing responsibility is demanded in the age in which we live.
In the early days, Christians were called to beware of idols. There is only one God. All false gods had to be thrown out of the window. They recognized that their God was a jealous God and would brook no competition.
However, today we have taken on new idols. We have taken on new false gods. Even when we claim to worship the one true God, we have found enough space for the other gods that are proposed for worship: wealth, power, pleasure, privilege, a job, sex, nationality, race, fame, self-aggrandizement, and so on. Indeed, the images of terrorism which we behold with horror on our television screens are only a manifestation of the terrorism in our hearts, because we refuse to live the Gospel values. We refuse to worship the One True God. Who will deliver us?