In the 2008 presidential elections, many of us were introduced to something called liberation theology when Reverend Jeremiah Wright caught the attention of the Republican party apparatus. I’ve read and seen much of what Reverend Wright has to say and most of it is very similar to things I’ve said here. Unfortunately, his words have twisted and taken out of context in order to discredit what he says in particular and liberation theology in general. That’s nothing new; every time it’s come up, liberation theology has been criticized, marginalized and diminished. Say whatever you want, but the truth is, it’s roots are in the Gospel. In the fourth chapter of Luke, we read:
” Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.[a]
20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”
That, my friends, may just be the first sermon on liberation theology.
Now, I’m sure someone will read this and say that Jesus wasn’t being literal when said this, that he was liberating people from the oppression of sin. To that, I politely say “Bullshit”. Jews in first century Palestine were living under grinding oppression and were looking for a messiah to deliver them. Saying he’d come to deliver them not from the Romans but from their own sin wouldn’t have been considered good news and he certainly wouldn’t have developed a following among the people that way. Nor could you call that particularly threatening to the powers that be and people don’t get executed as a traitor and seditionist unless they threaten those powers. No, Jesus’ words in the synagogue that day were a notice to the powerful that their power would one day come to an end and to the poor and oppressed that their suffering wouldn’t last forever.
Right now, you should be asking how all that’s supposed to happen. It happens through you and I, working to end oppression systems, laws and practices. It happens when you and I realize that, even though they are needed, things like soup kitchens, food pantries and government assistance are band aids. It happens when you and I religious and political leaders that marriage is a union between two people who love each other, regardless of their gender. It happens when you and I quit seeing the poor and oppressed as “others” and understand the only difference between us and them is the circumstance of our birth. It happens when you and I treat them as our brothers and sisters and fight for them the same way we fight for ourselves. When we do that, the Kingdom of Heaven will have finally come to earth.