Interviews with Jesus…

I liked this series of ‘interviews’ with Jesus– a simple and rather old fashioned didactic vehicle, but very well written- direct and controversial whilst full of love and fun- rather like the man himself. Thanks to Chris Howson for pointing them out.

They are recorded in Spanish, but the English transcripts are available.

The producers of these narratives are a brother and sister- María and José Ignacio López Vigil, based in Ecuador and Nicaragua, and clearly come from a perspective influenced strongly by Liberation Theology, and engagement with justice issues in South America.

I am thinking of trying to use some of them here…

Here is one typically challenging example.

RACHEL The microphones of Emisoras Latinas are still here on the Mount of the Beatitudes. Before us we have a panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee, and with us again, in an exclusive interview, is Jesus Christ. In an earlier segment, Jesus, you referred to the second part of the historic discourse you gave on this mountain. What did you speak of in that second part?

JESUS Well, first of all I blessed the poor people and congratulated them.

RACHEL And after that?

JESUS After that I cursed the rich people.

RACHEL You… cursed?

JESUS Yes, I cursed the rich people.

RACHEL Can you repeat your words for us?

JESUS I said it then, and I say it now Woe to you who are rich, who are well-fed, because you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh and make fun of the poor, because very soon you will weep and cry out when God empties your coffers, when God rips off your clothes and your jewelry and leaves you without bread and without money to buy anything, just as you did with your workers!

RACHEL Those are very hard words.

JESUS Much harder is the heart of stone of people who don’t want to share.

RACHEL Perhaps there are people listening to us now who are wealthy but also generous – people of humble spirit. Would you curse them also?

JESUS Once a rich young man with a good heart wanted to join our band. He wanted to put his hand on the plow of God’s Kingdom.

RACHEL And what did you tell him?

JESUS You have to choose either God or money. If you want to join us, first share out your wealth among the poor.

RACHEL If those were the conditions… I don’t think many rich people would have taken part in your movement.

JESUS A few understood, but the truth is that in those days, as in these, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

RACHEL Your message doesn’t sound politically correct. Don’t you feel it’s too radical?

JESUS Radical, yes. We took the axe to the root, because the root was rotten.

RACHEL They have always taught me that you were meek and humble of heart, but now I find you a little … how to say it? … a little intolerant.

JESUS God does not tolerate injustice, Rachel. In the end God will not ask us about rites or prayers, God won’t ask us about fasting and temples. We will be examined only regarding our justice, and God will be relentless with those who are unjust.

RACHEL You’re quite stirred up …

JESUS Didn’t you ask me to recall what I said on this mountain?

RACHEL Even so, could we close off our program by restating that your message is really a message of peace?

JESUS God’s message is fire upon the earth, and I can’t wait till it’s blazing! Listen, Rachel, if every morning of your life you don’t earnestly desire for there to be an end to wars, violence, lies, envy, power-mongering, then you’ll never understand my message.

RACHEL Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JESUS Look toward the horizon, Rachel. In these very days in which you’re living, I see signs in the heaven that announce a storm coming. Let those who have eyes to see observe the signs, and let those who have ears to hear listen to what’s going on.

RACHEL We are talking with Jesus Christ in his second coming to our modern world, which is ever more unequal – and therefore ever more violent. The Mount of the Beatitudes, Rachel Perez, Emisoras Latinas.

MUSIC

ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.

Liberation theology, Capitalism and Communism.


For years I have heard stories about the Roman Catholic clerics who defied the worst despotic regimes of South America in the 1060’s and 70’s. Bishop Romero gunned down in his Cathedral, Priests and Nuns who chose to live alongside the poor and oppressed, and to try to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Out of this melting pot was born a new way of understanding the words of Jesus, known as ‘Liberation Theology.’

Pope John-Paul spoke out against this movement. He grew up in so-called Communist Poland, and liberation theology sounded too much like communism to him. As a social sciences graduate who was also a Christian, the critique offered to Western Capitalism by socialist writers, and even by old Marx himself always resonated with me. I think it was CS Lewis who called Communism a ‘Christian Heresy’.

The 1980’s and 90’s saw an end to the old ideological divides in Europe- everyone became a free marketeer it seems. The Labour party in Britain stopped talking about ‘poverty’, lest it scare off the middle class (Bourgeois!) vote. Instead we talked about educational attainment, and ‘social exclusion’.

But, as Jesus said, the poor are still with us. A recent WHO report has pointed to the growing health inequalities in the UK, and commentators have raised again the issue of inequality of income as the main causal factor.

And if we look broader than the boundaries of my own country we see global economics are managed by the ‘free market’- but in this system, as in all others, there are winners and losers. The system, say many, is rigged against those who have not, in favour of those who have.

Definitions

Liberation theology is a Christian movement of protest and support for the poor. They would point us to the words of Jesus – yes the poor may always be with us, but our best service to Jesus is to serve the least.

  • The call is to see people. And to see them as the beloved of God.
  • The cause might be varied – but as Mother Theresa put it, “We rob our brothers by all that we own”.
  • The solution is to learn how to love – and to live this out wherever you are – in the slums or in the boardroom.

Here is a definition culled from the good old BBC (from here.)

“Love for the poor must be preferential, but not exclusive.”Ecclesia in America, 1999

Liberation theology was a radical movement that grew up in South America as a response to the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people. The movement was caricatured in the phrase If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary, but it’s more accurately encapsulated in this paragraph from Leonardo and Clodovis Boff:

“Q: How are we to be Christians in a world of destitution and injustice?

A: There can be only one answer: we can be followers of Jesus and true Christians only by making common cause with the poor and working out the gospel of liberation.”
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff

Liberation theology said the church should derive its legitimacy and theology by growing out of the poor. The Bible should be read and experienced from the perspective of the poor.

The church should be a movement for those who were denied their rights and plunged into such poverty that they were deprived of their full status as human beings. The poor should take the example of Jesus and use it to bring about a just society.

Most controversially, the Liberationists said the church should act to bring about social change, and should ally itself with the working class to do so. Some radical priests became involved in politics and trades unions, others even aligned themselves with violent revolutionary movements.

A common way in which priests and nuns showed their solidarity with the poor was to move from religious houses into poverty stricken areas to share the living conditions of their flock.

I believe that Jesus always had a bias towards the weak and the poor. Any reading of the Sermon on the Mount has to twist theological somersaults to deny this. And I can not subscribe to the idea that International Capitalism, propagated with such enthusiasm by the ruling Christian west, will have much currency in the Kingdom of God.

But neither do I have any faith in a coming Marxist utopian revolution. I would rather hope for Christians who plant hope and beauty in the broken places.

Where the poor people are.

The challenge is for the rest of us to find out what that means for us.

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