Saturday 30 June 2012

Jesus was a colonised person

In 'Song of the Magi', Anaïs Mitchell links Jesus' Bethlehem to today's West Bank town:
...a child is born
born in Bethlehem
born in a cattle pen
a child is born on the killing floor...
welcome home, my child
your home is a checkpoint now
your home is a border town
welcome to the brawl
life ain't fair, my child
put your hands in the air, my child
slowly now, single file, now
up against the wall
Jesus was a colonised person living under Roman occupation in first-century Palestine. Imperial rule shaped Jewish society. Tax collectors were ostracised as collaborators, revival preachers proclaimed the coming kingdom of heaven,  and zealots organised armed resistance. Occupation loomed large over Jesus' ministry too, from the discussion on paying taxes to the Romans to the expectation that Jesus would overthrow the occupiers by force and install himself as Israel's anointed king. Instead, he triumphed over Caesar by quietly submitting to the most gruesome public death the Empire could devise.

That matters.

Jesus came to lift up the poor, the hungry, the broken-hearted and the despised. He ushered in an upside-down kingdom in which the last was to be first. In his body he experienced the brutality and violence of Empire. His promise to oppressed, beaten, frightened, occupied people everywhere - a pledge whispered but never drowned out by Empire's heavy boots - is that things will not always be this way.
... wear we now our warmest coats
wear we now our walking shoes
open wide the gates of hope
and let us through
There was little love lost between Jesus and the wielders of power, especially if they used God's name to justify their violence. That hasn't changed in two thousand years.

It means that, far from propping up the empires supposedly built on 'Judaeo-Christian foundations', Jesus is with their victims, whispering with them sweet songs of freedom.

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