Liberation Theology II - Fritz the Cat

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Liberation Theology II

Genesis 1:7-8. So God made the firmament and separated the waters under the firmament from the waters above the firmament. God called the firmament heaven.

Jeremiah 30:8. And it shall come to pass in that day that I will break the yoke from off their neck, and I will burst their bonds; and strangers shall no more make servants of them.

Jer. 21:12-14.  Thus says the Lord: Practice judgment every morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed, lest my anger go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it… I will punish according to the fruits of your doings.

Exodus 11. The Lord promises to kill the first born of all Egyptians, including cattle, so that Moses and his followers may leave Egypt.

Luke 6:15. Simon, who he called the Zealot.

Matthew 25:29. The talents. To one who has will be given... but from him who is wanting even the little he has will be taken.

Matt. 26:51-52. Jesus speaking in Gethsemane. ‘One of Jesus’ companions cut off the ear of the high priest's slave. "Return your sword, for all who draw the sword will be destroyed by the sword".

Mark 15:26. The inscription of his accusation was written on top, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Ezekiel 16:49. (Spoken or Jerusalem) This is the inequity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and careless ease... neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy... and she is less guilty than you.

Matthew 10:34. I have come to bring not peace but a sword.

Matthew 22:36-40.  Love God with your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole of the Law hangs.

Mark 2:27. Laws come for the sake of man, not man for the sake of laws.

Mark 15:7. Barrabas was confined with seditionists who had committed murder in the uprising.

Luke 17:21. The kingdom of God is in your midst.

Luke 22:36-38. (Jesus at the Last Supper) he who has no sword, sell your coat and buy one....They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." He said to them, "It is enough."

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. there is a proper time for every project under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die...

John 8:32. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Acts 2:44 believers were together in having ail things in common.

Matthew 25:31-46. On Judgment day the world will be divided into two groups, one that fed the hungry clothed the naked, and soothed the sick and imprisoned, and another group that didn't.

John 23:2-5 The high priests accuse Jesus of perverting the nation, forbidding the people to pay taxes to Cesar, claiming to be king, and stirring up the people all over Judea by teaching.

A Jewish uprising led by Judas, son Ezekias, resulted in the governor of Syria sending two legions of troops to rescue the hard pressed Roman troops in Jerusalem. In reprisal, the Jewish temple was burned, and 2000 Jews were crucified. This happened when Jesus was a small boy. Crucifixion was the standard punishment for sedition, a fact probably not lost on Jesus when he challenged any who would follow him to be ready to claim a cross (Mk.8:34 & Matt.1O-38).

The title "Messiah" or "The Anointed One" does not even occur in the Old Testament as a title or technical term for the king of the final age. The Messiah is he who shall restore Israel as a people, free her from her enemies, rule over her as a king, and bring other nations under her political and religious sway.  This conception of the future king as a this worldly political figure is clearly and explicitly present in most if not all of the Old Testament passages which refer to him.

At the time of John the Baptist Israel had been under Roman domination for a century.  Small wonder that they were looking  for someone to deliver them from the system of oppression and injustice administered by their Roman overlords, rather than some metaphysical relief from an Original Sin committed by their-distant ancestors, said relief to be gained only in some reputed afterlife.

Jesus was a product of those times, and did the only honorable thing possible in some families. He joined the underground resistance. The Zealots were the largest such group of what were either freedom fighters or bandits, depending on your viewpoint. We don't know if Jesus joined the Zealots, but  it is recorded that one of his disciples, Simon, was a Zealot, (Luke 6:15).

The Zealots were distinguished by their adherence to the dogma that it was a mortal sin to admit any sovereignty over the Jewish people but the sovereignty of God. They were an extremely pious group, leading many rabbis to join. Although they didn't become generally known of until A.D. 4-9, Simon's membership coupled with the fact that Jesus is nowhere reported to have criticized the Zealots by name, as he does the Pharisees and Sadducees, shows that Jesus was at least a sympathizer, if not activist or leader of the Zealots.

Capernaum, Jesus' chief center of activity, was the great slum center of Palestine. Here was fertile ground for the call to return to traditional Jewish social values of egalitarianism and concern for the poor. The Zealots promoted egalitarianism in deed as well as word. They filled their leadership positions by drawing lots.

Jesus gave his twelve disciples the power to cast out demons, and taught them the art of healing the sick. He then sent them out to preach the gospel, admonishing them to take no provisions, but to depend on the people to supply every need.

The people were refreshed by the appearance of strangers who wanted to help rather than tax them, and who were paid with food and lodging rather than gold and silver. Soon Jesus was able to mobilize four and five thousand men, with their families, on excursions into the wilderness to hear his teachings (Mk.6:30- 44).

The Zealots, secretly, would bring food to these gatherings, which would appear "miraculously" at numerous locations within the croud at the appropriate moment. We know that the people were being organized there, because they always sat in companies when they ate (Mark 6:39).

Jesus spoke to the people in parables, skirting the difficulties imposed by Roman spies and the naiveté of his own flock. The task was too great. Jesus soon became convinced that the people were only there because he fed them (John 6:26).

Then he had to flee into the mountains because he perceived that the people wanted to make him king by force (John 6:15). This flight from responsibility has traditionally been explained as being due to Jesus' other worldly mission. Other explanations correspond more closely to historical evidence and the Scriptures themselves.

One of the central tenants of the Zealot's variety of Judaism was the dogma of the impermissibility of any authority over the Jews other than God's. Jesus could have been expressing a rejection of the institution of kingship by his flight. He may also have been aware of the impracticality of governing people who expected to be fed by miracle.

Never the less, if the old plan breaks down, a new plan must be devised. Jesus and three of his followers went into the mountains to meet with Moses and Elijah. At that meeting Jesus was completely transfigured. He would not have to put down his cross (perhaps drawn by lot), he would march to Jerusalem to claim his cross.

So he set off, sending an advanced party to encourage people to go to Jerusalem and await the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus told the disciples that soon they would be flavored with fire, and that if they were salty they could flavor others. For if the salt of the earth isn’t salty, and then who can be? And he told them to make peace with one another (Mk.9:49-50).

Jesus told them of the man who woke his neighbor to ask for some food to feed his hungry friends. The neighbor thought only of himself and made lame excuses why he could not help. Jesus said that although the neighbor would not help out of the goodness of his heart, he would help if you brazenly made it clear that he would get no peace until he did help (Luke 11:5-8).

Jesus had asked the high priests and Romans for bread for the hungry and had been given lame excuses. Now he was going to Jerusalem to disturb their peace, and he wanted his disciples to understand that they must continue disturbing their greedy neighbors’ peace until they had food for their hungry friends.

Later he cast out demons that had made a man unable to speak. A man was there who must have been a lawyer, because he tried to blame Jesus for a technicality. He whispered that Jesus was using the devil's power to cast out demons. Jesus heard, and saw the opportunity for a parable which would confound the lawyer and enlighten the poor, which is a thing in which he truly took delight.

"The devil would never send me to cast out his forces", said Jesus, 'for then he would have part of his forces fighting against another part of his forces. A house divided always falls". The lawyer realized that Jesus had spoken truly, and he was downcast, for an award awaited the one delivering Jesus to the high priest. They might even have made him supervisor of the money changers. But the lawyer had only heard part of the story. The lawyer had sought to twist Jesus' action to his own selfish aims. When he saw this was impossible, he discarded the parable as useless, completely forgetting the good Jesus did the dumb man.

But the poor people watched Jesus' actions and listened to his words with eyes and ears to see and hear the Messiah. They understood that the devil was Rome and her hired Jewish priests and the very lawyer Jesus had confounded.  The devil was egoism, the power that blinded people to anything or anyone who wasn’t of immediate profit to themselves.

Jesus' power was the power of selflessness, the power which enabled one to love his neighbors as much as, or even more than, his own body. And the people understood further that since Jesus represented the power of selflessness, then the demon that made the man dumb must have been the power of egoism.

And so it was. Degradation, humiliation, fear and hunger had dehumanized him until he was afraid of the sound of his own voice. But Jesus made him understand that his voice was not for his own personal good, but for the good of his neighbors. Realizing this broke the spell of egoism, and the man told everyone of the hollowness and futility of trying to shape the whole world to fit one's personal ambition.

And Jesus continued the parable. A strong man fully armed guards his palace, but a stronger man comes and takes his armor and gathers in his spoils. And the poor people understood that Jesus was still talking of the man he had just healed. The strong man was Rome and the rich people and their armor was egoism. The dumb man was their spoils. Then Jesus came with the power of selflessness, overthrew the power of egoism, and the kingdom of God came near.

And if Rome were the strong man in his armor guarding his palace, then Jerusalem must be the palace. If Jesus is the Messiah, then he must intend to go to Rome to wrest the strong man's armour away from him. Then he said to the people, "he who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters" (Luke 11:23).

At the time of the wilderness training of the multitudes, the rule had been "he who is not against you is with you" (Lk.9:50), but that had been a time of gathering stones, of inspecting them, and testing them at leisure.

Now was the time of casting stones. Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem to claim his cross. Now was the time to gather with him or be scattered. If you were not part of the solution, you were part of the problem. Fence sitters and the mearly curiors could be dangerous. For Jesus was not going to Jerusalem to make peace with the buyers and sellers at the temple.

Jesus told them of an evil spirit who is cast out and can find no peace. He returns to his old home and finds it clean and swept. He goes away but then returns with seven demons worse than himself, and the man finds himself in a worse condition than ever. Jesus was warning the people that the road to salvation was long, and that if Rome were driven out today, they would soon be back with help to renew the fight.

A poor woman praised his teaching and blessed its source. Jesus said blessed rather its destination and those who apply it.

Jesus compared the new kingdom to a marriage feast, and then to a great banquet (Lk.14:7-35). He cautioned the people not to be presumptuous. "If you take a position you can't hold, and then are displaced, everyone will question your judgment. Better to start at the most humble level and wait to be raised up for the work you do".

Unless you want the new kingdom to be like a marriage feast to which no one comes, don't ask the rich and powerful to be the guests of honor. At the last minute they will come up with all kinds of lame excuses. Better to exalt the lowest to the highest places. If the need be great you can go out into the street and compel people to come to the marriage feast.  If the rich come after the party has started, don't let them in.

Again he called them the salt of the earth and encouraged them to flavor others with their saltiness.

He said that anyone who wished to follow him should forget their parents, spouses, children, and even their very lives. Those found guilty of sedition were crucified. Therefore, anyone who couldn't pick up a cross and follow in Jesus' footsteps had better not be counted on Jesus' side.

As they approached Jerusalem Jesus perceived that some of the people expected the new kingdom to be established very soon.  He told them of a ruler who went out to war and left his affairs in the hands of servants. The one who increased profits the most was given much power upon the rulers return. The one who didn't profit at all had what little he had taken away from him, illustrating for the people the way the rich constantly weed out the weak willed and incompetent, and the kind of ruthlessness this requires before you reach the top.

Overthrowing a system like that would be a long task. Not until people started counting profits as hungry fed and afflicted soothed would the new kingdom be near.

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to cheering crouds. He immediately went to the temple and chased away the buyers and sellers and began teaching. The authorities could do nothing because the people protected Jesus. At night when the people went home Jesus and his followers would go to a place of hiding to sleep.

He told them that the greatest person in the next kingdom would be the one who best served the poor.

He told his disciples that in former times he had sent them out without a purse, bag, or sandles to teach them to know and rely on the poor.  Now they must go as fully prepared as possible, for they were to spread the story of a great man crucified for refusing to accept Roman rule. Better for the mission if its adherents go well provided for. Above all take a weapon, even if you have to sell your coat to get one. One of the disciples told Jesus that they now had two swords among them. Jesus said that was enough (Lk.22:36-38).

This occurred at the Last Supper. Jesus knew that he had already been betrayed, and would soon be delivered into Roman Hands. His call to arms ought to be proof enough that the Messiah's mission was to be accomplished in this world, and not the next. Up to this point Jesus had been preparing his disciples for struggle on the moral and intellectual level. Now the season had turned, understanding was necessary but not sufficient. As the new kingdom grew nearer the rich would lose even the little understanding they now possessed, and other arguments would be needed. The weapon of criticism must be turned into the criticism of weapons.

After the Last Supper Jesus and his disciples went out of the city to pass the night. Judas led the high priest and some rich men with their henchmen to the place to arrest Jesus. Some of the disciples wished to offer resistance, and one even cut the ear off the high priest's slave. Jesus, however, knew not to offer open battle against superior forces, and forbid further resistance. He was arrested, but the disciples all escaped (Matthew 26:51-52).

They took Jesus before the high priest and tried to get people to bear false witness against him. That didn't work so they tried to get him to blasphemy, which they finally decided he had done. They wanted to kill him, but being stoned to death was the punishment for blasphemy, and they knew no croud would stone Jesus.

The Jewish leaders were reluctant to take Jesus before their overlords because that would show their limits in dealing with the Jewish masses. They eventually decided there was no other choice and took him before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. There they accused him of stirring up the people, forbidding people to pay taxes to Rome, and claiming to be king of the Jews. For this he was crucified, for such was Rome's traditional punishment for rebels (John 23:2-5).

For about thirty years after Jesus' crucifixion information about him was transmitted orally. By 70 A.D. the Apostles had too many followers to spread the Gospel by word of mouth only. Immediately following the crucifixion, Jesus' followers (who were almost exclusively Jews) lived out Jesus' teachings in small, self-sufficient communes where all things were owned in common (Acts 2:44). Then, due chiefly to Paul and his disciples, southern Europe and Asia minor experienced widespread conversion, and Christianity became entrenched in all levels of society. It became necessary that records of Jesus' life and teaching be written down.

It was, however, several hundred years before the church became officially organized, and one of the major parts of this organization was that of the official Biblical texts. Two major concils in North Africa, in Hippo (Augustine's bishopric) in 393 and in Carthage in 397, established the canons of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha. Since then, there have been changes in the Old Testament, and the Apocrypha was dropped from the Protestant Bible at the Council of Trent (1545-63). The New Testament, however, has remained unchanged for almost 1600 years.

The two great authorities at Hippo and Carthage were Augustine and Jerome, but as it took about 200 years to finally decide on the biblical canon, other men, such as Tertullian, Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus had, through their writings a major voice in the selection of which authorities would be included in the Bible.

Of the accounts of the life of Jesus that were rejected, some (such as that of Nicodemus) were considered supplementary rather than false. Another, that of Peter, whose gospel was once held as highly as that of Matthew and Mark, and higher than that of Luke and John, was ultimately rejected because it differed too much in detail from the others chosen. The Gnostic documents, rediscovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945, were no doubt rejected because they taught that it was necessary to understand, Jesus teaching to be saved, in direct contradiction to the chosen gospels and Paul's epistles, which say that he who believes will be saved.

Paul is, of course, the primary interpreter of the gospels, and all of the letters in the Bible are in thematic agreement with his letters. That is because, by the time of the Fathers, Paul's authority was so firmly entrenched that any letters differing from his, even without contradicting them, were rejected. How Paul advanced from the position of Roman tax collector (he was then known as Saul) to the heights of the Christian theocracy must be one of the most fascinating, and well protected, stories of cooptation imaginable. As one of the earliest examples of media manipulation it deserves intense scholarly examination. The process whereby an anti-imperialist, freedom fighting, working class hero could be transformed into a pacifistic, other worldly, business man's friend and bastion of conservatism is one of the most diabolical examples of conspiratorial deception possible.

The motive of Paul's (a.k.a. Saul) conversion is obvious enough.  As a Roman and a tax collector Saul's livelihood and life would become increasingly precarious as Roman rule weakened. The Christians possessed what was for that time a sophisticated analysis of the Roman state, and a tactical and strategic formula for its overthrow. Later, as more Romans became Christians, it became essential that they not ask themselves what they were doing worshiping a man who their government had put to death for rebellion.

Paul's task was not easy and he had little success until he left the Holy Land, for while he remained there his teaching was constantly challenged by the people who actually walked with Jesus.   Paul, of course, had received his knowledge of Jesus' teaching in a blinding flash while walking down the road. History will judge whether this illumination was divinely inspired, or the product of consummate self-interest.

Even outside the Holy Land Paul's teachings were questioned. On many occasions Paul encouraged his followers to believe him and not "powerful opponents who were teaching a different gospel and presenting a different Jesus" (Gal.1:6-9, 2:11, 6:12-13; 1 Cor.1:12, 3:22, 9:12; 2 Cor.3:1, 10:12-18, 11:1-12).

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