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Christmas and Freedom

Written By: - Date published: 8:07 am, December 17th, 2015 - 35 comments
Categories: activism, religion - Tags:

dissident jesus

In the spirit of Christmas, the last post was a provocation about a version of Christianity that would fit quite happily with the kind we celebrate at this time, in this society.

Here’s another version.

Christmas is essentially about the Mystery of God becoming one of us. God does not become real in the Boxing Dale sales, or in Santa parade costumes, or in eating yourself until bloated. Universal love comes down from the level of abstractions like “God” and becomes concrete in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed.

Two quick passages, the first about 3.5 thousand years old. In Moses’ mission of liberation, there was a close relationship between the religion of Yahweh (God) and the elimination of servitude:

‘Moses and Aaron then said to the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heeded your complaints against him; it is not against us that you bring your complaints; we are nothing.” “You shall know this,” Moses said, “when the Lord, in answer to your complaints, gives you flesh to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread in plenty, what are we? It is against the Lord that you bring your complaints, and not against us.” (Exodus ch. 16).

There’s plenty more in there about the repudiation of slavery, starvation and poverty. It’s not hard to read Exodus inside a liberation theology.

Skip 1,500 years. What Jesus was on about was the task to liberate oneself from sin and the lies around us, and in doing so free the whole world. He named the perpetual impulse toward freedom as a personal conviction that would spread across the world:

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come. (Mark ch. 4).

And so a movement towards freedom begins. (what they did to this movement …. sigh)

Same tradition, a further 2,000 years later. Pope Francis is calling Christians to make 2016 a time “of spiritual renewal, boundless forgiveness, and liberating service in our homes, neighbourhoods, workplaces, churches and schools.”

The point is use a moment in time  – like Christmas – to recommit to the task of perpetual liberation. That’s got more satisfaction then screwing up the tinsel from the 25th’s wrapping paper.

35 comments on “Christmas and Freedom ”

  1. vto 1

    a judgment based solely on the prosecution is a worthless judgment…

    what does the devil have to say about this?

    • Ad 1.1

      What’s the crime?

      Note that this piece is the counterpoint to the one I posted yesterday.
      Best to read them sequentially.

      • aerobubble 1.1.1

        A unreflected life is not worth living. A life embracing God to the believer looks like the reflected life, yet that’s not the test, anyone can delude themselves. The test for a reflected life is scepticism, and therein lies the lie of fundamentalism, its lack of self reflection due to its embrace of faith at all costs. So the mantra of relieving oppression is turned into being the tool of the oppressor to continue the authoritarians. Its the rigidity of faith to god that harms us all more that any benefits. That’s why science, capitalism, progressive secularism has won out.
        And strangely, even farcically, its still the most religious holding us back even today.
        Yes we’d be a much better world without the self victimization of death cults who exist solely to make the next life liveable.

  2. ropata 2

    F R E E D O M ! ! ! ! ! !

    “the truth shall set you free”

  3. There seems to be some confusion with these posts.

    Supply Side Jesus is not about christianity, but about the ideology of supply side economics and the liars who push it.

    The joke is that it this prescriptive type economic governance is taken on faith.
    At the end of the comic it is made clear that SSJ is not the saviour.

    For this post. Yes, It’s been clear to me since I read the New Testament that JC was a revolutionary and is the earliest expression of socialism I have read.

    • Tracey 3.1

      “Supply Side Jesus is not about christianity, but about the ideology of supply side economics and the liars who push it.

      The joke is that it this prescriptive type economic governance is taken on faith.
      At the end of the comic it is made clear that SSJ is not the saviour.”

      Thanks for this, maybe post it in the other thread too?

      • Naturesong 3.1.1

        I thought it was self explanatory to be honest.

        The comic does come from the book titled: Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.

        • Tracey 3.1.1.1

          Not sure everyone got it, judging by some of the responses

          • Naturesong 3.1.1.1.1

            So I see.

            Context I expect.
            I’m pretty familair Al Frankens work both in and out of the Senate.

            NB. Best line of the comic: “It is easier for a rich man to enter Heaven seated comfortably on the back of a camel, than it is for a poor man to pass through the eye of a needle

            The one about not healing the lepers because that would remove the incentive for others to not catch it comes a close second.

    • Ad 3.2

      No confusion.
      Just seeking a little more content than an exploding cracker around Christmas.

      Supply Side Jesus is also a strong critique of the Prosperity Gospel that were and in some parts still are hugely popular in US and US-styled mega-churches. You used to be able to see the NZ versions preaching on NZ television.

      You also see pretty strong resistance from a number of US Catholic Bishops to the current Pope’s diatribes against capitalism; they have been well covered on the Crux site.
      BTW Those are not minor ideological contests, as the excommunication of priests, shut-down of Base Communities, silencing of whole orders, and assassination of people like Archbishop Romero in El Salvador can attest.

      There are a few themes flowing through both posts, which respond to each other.

      • Naturesong 3.2.1

        Yes, I see some of those trends also.

        And I’m quite happy recognising the subtle backhander Franken gives to some on the religious right.
        But that’s not the thrust of the comic, nor that could I see, your post.

        To pair these two posts and as opposing views on the same religious plane is a non sequitur; SSJ is not about Christianity (though there is a jab at the religious right as you point out).

      • acrophobic 3.2.2

        Thank you for two very thought provoking pieces. The ‘prosperity gospel’ regrettably still commands a large following in the west, but it is a grotesque parody of the true gospel. As to the Pope, my apologies to Catholics, but he is a mere mortal. He is sometimes represented as having a shorter phone line to God than the rest of us, but that is simply untrue. I admire much of what he stands for, but his recent pontifications are, in my view, well above his pay grade.

        • Ad 3.2.2.1

          Cheers.

          I was brought up low church but converted to Catholicism late. So I understand your skepticism. No idea about the phone line – but compared to Jesus I do know that what the Pope lacks in concision, he’s certainly gained in breadth, if his big piece on the relationship between poverty and climate change is anything to go by. That piece set just the perfect tone a couple of months ago for Paris Cop 21.

    • Macro 3.3

      Amos was perhaps one of the first c 750 BC to preach social justice. A minor prophet he railed against the injustices perceived

      This is what the Lord says:

      “For three sins of Israel,
      even for four, I will not relent.
      They sell the innocent for silver,
      and the needy for a pair of sandals.
      7
      They trample on the heads of the poor
      as on the dust of the ground
      and deny justice to the oppressed.
      Father and son use the same girl
      and so profane my holy name.
      8
      They lie down beside every altar
      on garments taken in pledge.
      In the house of their god
      they drink wine taken as fines.

      and

      “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
      your assemblies are a stench to me.
      22
      Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
      I will not accept them.
      Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
      I will have no regard for them.
      23
      Away with the noise of your songs!
      I will not listen to the music of your harps.
      24
      But let justice roll on like a river,
      righteousness like a never-failing stream!

      • Naturesong 3.3.1

        I’ll have a read up. Cheers

        • Macro 3.3.1.1

          Those last two lines I’ve highlighted are still used today.

          as in this modern Hymn by Bobby Gilles

          Forgive us Lord, for passing by
          When children cry for bread
          (could have been written for National)
          Forbid it Lord, that justice lie
          In tatters, cold and dead
          Outside these walls run desperate streets
          Where greed is law and life is cheap
          We bar the doors, refuse to see,
          Or hear the words You said:

          Let justice roll like a river, Like a river, let it roll
          Let justice roll like a river, Like a river, let it roll

  4. Bruce 4

    I’m reminded of one of my favorite Les Murray poems. Especially in light of this year’s revelations that we still do the same to men every day, on the fishing vessels that plunder our remaining fish stocks:

    Easter 1984, Les Murray

    When we saw human dignity
    healing humans in the middle of the day
    we moved in on him slowly
    under the incalculable gravity
    of old freedom, of our own freedom,
    under atmospheres of consequence, of justice
    under which no one needs to thank anyone.
    If this was God, we would get even.
    And in the end we nailed him,
    lashed, spittled, stretched him limb from limb.
    We would settle with dignity
    for the anguish it had caused us,
    we’d send it to be abstract again,
    we would set it free.

    *****

    But we had raised up evolution.
    It would not stop being human.
    Ever afterwards, the accumulation
    of freedom would end in this man
    whipped, bloodied, getting the treatment.
    It would look like man himself getting it.
    He was freeing us, painfully, from freedom,
    justice, dignity — he was discharging them
    of their deadly ambiguous deposit,
    remaking out of them the primal day
    in which he was free not to have borne it
    and we were free not to have done it,
    free never to torture man again,
    free to believe him risen.

  5. seeker 5

    Thanks for this for this very becoming and of the actual truth post Ad. Most timely, I could almost think that Ad was short for Advent rather than Advantage, but both suit the wondrous, informed content for us in your post. May you have a very, happy truly liberating Christmas Ad.

    footnote. Ad. could also be short for ‘advert’ regarding this post, for it could easily be followed with the immortal words……. ” but wait there’s more!”
    Of course so much more to be told and understood about ‘liberation’.

    • Ad 5.1

      Could be Anno Domini.

      Or short for Adorno, but that’s a bit wanky.

      Let’s go with Advent for now.

      Save Adventure for the New Year.

      • seeker 5.1.1

        Ho Ho Ho Ad! Good idea.
        Am now looking forward to an Adventure in the New Year which may greatly Advance Adverse effects for remedial purposes on a rather self absorbed, unenlightened government. Hopefully it will begin to bring a really prosperous New Year 2016 to the many poor in this nearly ruined country of ours. And I know just who to ask for help.
        Cheers!

  6. Yes, a timely and seasonal post. Thank you.

    Then of course there’s ‘Love thine enemy’ – interesting to reflect in the light of ‘left’, ‘right’, etc.. 🙂

    I’ve always thought that ‘love’ was misunderstood in this context.

    I don’t see it as some emotion or warm, glowey feeling in the chest, or even like a fond, doting smile.

    Instead, I see it as being the kind of mindful, complete attention that a young toddler brings to its encounters with the world.

    So utterly intent on seeing things just as they are (after all, the child has to learn how to get by in the world so best to see it exactly as it is!) that there is no room for judgment, anger, aggression or – especially – the substitution of one’s own favourite caricature of the ‘other’ for the thing (or person) itself.

    We very lazily and quickly substitute stereotypes and prejudices for the things we are supposedly interacting with particularly when those things are at the periphery of our attention – the marginalised, the voiceless, etc..

    It’s worth remembering that the word ‘attend’ (and ‘attention’) is related to the word ‘tend’ (as in ‘tend your garden’ – to care).

    In some ways ‘love’ is simply the kind of attention a scientist must adopt to their study of the world (if they are to do their best work).

    To see clearly and thoroughly in the most subtle and beautiful detail – rather than attempting to ‘explain’ – is the first and only freedom. Everything else just gets you caught up in a web of unfortunate forces that push you in directions probably best not trod – but then that is also what it is to be human.

    When you are entirely engrossed in ‘seeing’ the world in this way there’s also not much room for your ‘self’ – it’s something else that just gets in the way.

    Of course, a lot of clever people would insist that’s it’s just impossible to see other things and people ‘as they are’. In other words, it’s impossible to ‘love’ them.

    But, at this time of year, I tend towards the view that it is possible. (Especially when I look at my young daughter.)

    It certainly gives me peace.

    • Ad 6.1

      Glad you found it.

      Sometimes we only allow ourselves such thinking once the Boxing Day sales have finished and there’s a moment to just sit still and consider.

      At best, the beginning of the New Year is an entrance, as in en-“trance”. Proceed through a magical liminal threshold into something profound.

      You are also pointing towards the intersection of an optimal spiritual impulse, and an optimal political impulse:

      that the world should be renewed (a political impulse) ,
      and that we can renew it (the religious impulse).

      • Puddleglum 6.1.1

        Yes, the impulse to renew, but to do so in the right way.

        While we’re on these kinds of thoughts I often consider ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ (there’s a book – Kazantzakis – and film – Scorcese).

        The title comes from T.S. Elliot (Murder in the Cathedral):

        The last temptation is the greatest treason:
        To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.2

      Very well put.

      I think you exhibit a lot of love in the patient way you have of illuminating things. Lao Tzu makes a lot of the virtues of impartial nurturing, although does say that “when the way is lost, there is love…”

  7. Magisterium 7

    I like the bit of the Gospels where Jesus repudiates every part of the Old Testament that condones the abomination of slavery and tells his followers that all that shit can be ignored from then on.

    • ropata 7.1

      you mean this bit from Luke 4?

      “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

      or do you mean the revolutionary words of the Sermon on the Mount? (Matthew chap. 5-7)

      “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
      “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
      “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
      “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
      “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
      “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

      or do you mean this bit where he slams the Pharisees over and over (here’s just a sample of Matt. 23):

      “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  8. red-blooded 8

    Hey, take what you find comforting out of the bible, but remember that it’s also been used to justify the slaughter of millions and abominations like apartheid. Maybe your reading is the one true reading, but those others also called themselves Christians and thought they were following the teachings of Christ and others, as revealed in the bible.

    And what about others of all sorts of religious inclinations? Are they just wrong (but somehow this one true reading of the one true book is right)?

    The historical Jesus Christ may well have been a good-hearted (even wise) man, but there have been and continue to be many, many good-hearted and wise people in the world. That doesn’t mean they have some kind of supernatural status.

    Sorry to be the odd-one-out in this discussion, but surely the fact that you’re talking about how one part of the bible repudiates another underlines the fact that it was written by human beings, rather than being the revealed word of god. Even the bits you’re enthusing over were actually written generations after the events and comments they purport to represent, and have been translated and altered many times over in the generations since then.

    • ropata 8.1

      absolutely agree the bible is open to interpretation and abuse but this little series is about how the RW interpretation is wrong and there’s definitely a more enlightened way

    • acrophobic 8.2

      Human being have become very adept at misusing a variety of philosophies to justify their own evil predilections, and of all such philosophies it is the followers of secular humanism or atheism that have wrought the most carnage. And whatever you may claim about the Bible, it’s preservation is remarkable, and it’s presentation as faithful to the original manuscripts as any other writing of antiquity. We have more manuscripts and the ones we have are dated to closer to the actual events than for many ancient writings we take for granted. For example the New Testament books were not written ‘generations after the events’. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Corinthians, Galations and Philemon are all considered to have been written in the 50’s AD, no more than 20 years after Jesus was crucified. Mark’s gospel was written before AD60, and is a reflection of the testimony of Peter, a contemporary of Jesus.

      The ‘many alterations’ is also a myth. The Bible, the NT in particular, has undergone intensive scrutiny in the form of textual criticism, and has been refined using more recent manuscripts as they have been discovered. None of these have changed the fundamental message of the gospels, which is as clear to day as it was in the time of Augustine, and the time of Jesus.

  9. Jesus Lizard 9

    Worshipping the dead.

    Who would worship a dead man?

    He can’t have been that special if God killed him.

    • Macro 9.1

      But that is the whole point.
      It wasn’t the man who was important – it was the philosophies and ideas that he brought. Vested interests – the rich – and what we would now call the religious right killed the man, because he challenged their beliefs and way of life. But the concepts of truth, and justice, and freedom for all people lived on and still do today.
      Very much like the song best sung by Joan Baez

      From Woodstock 1969 🙂

  10. acrophobic 10

    1. We don’t worship a dead man.
    2. God didn’t kill Jesus. The Romans did.

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