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by Waldemar Labusga
Monday, Nov. 27, 2006 at 10:40 AM
Advent is a time of beginning as crisis can be a time to pause and gain new perspectives and priorities. We are called to be internation-alistas, to create a new language and a new mathematics. The world will be changed when people speak as Jesus spoke, in a way that scandalizes and attracts by its power
SPIRITUALITY AND LIBERATION
On Segundo Galilea’s Contemplative Christology
By Waldemar Labusga
[These chapters of a 2000 University of Munich dissertation are translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.fortunecity.de/lindenpark/grimm/14/052_ok.html.]
4. GOD’S REIGN AND THE LIBERATION OF HUMANITY
A theological learning process is clear with Segundo Galilea. This is very apparent in the theme of God’s reign – as with many other theologians of his age. In 1964 he wrote: the church exists “to proclaim to people the mystery of the resurrected Christ.” (1) Preaching Jesus Christ, not God’s reign, was central. In a 1972 article on liberation theology, he seems to identify God’s reign with the Catholic Church. “The church, God’s reign, is transcendent and immanent, incarnate, historical and Easter at the same time.” (2) In one breath, he speaks here of the “church” which means “God’s reign.” This changed afterward. In a text from 1985, he wrote: “The apostle and the other disciples of the Lord received their commission to proclaim and promote God’s reign (3) first of all.” (4) Great personalities go through their development. Consensus prevails today among theologians that the central theme of Jesus’ preaching was the message of God’s reign. (5)
4.1 ‘DEFINITION” OF GOD’S REIGN
What is God’s reign or God’s rule? Can the church be equated with God’s reign? No, the church, the privileged place of Jesus Christ, is not God’s reign. However it is the realm in which God’s reign is offered in privileged way. The church “lives and acts in the function of this reign.” (7) In one passage, Galilea says: “God’s reign is God sharing our human condition and our history to liberate them.” (8) Thus he understands the basileia as God’s liberating work in human history. The dawn of this reign and its definitive presence occurs with Jesus Christ. God’s rule is a new order of things, not a land, state or territory. God’s reign is not only something spiritual; it is present as a concrete reality among people. (9)
4.2 BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE IDEA OF GOD’S REIGN
The idea of God’s reign is rooted in the biblical message and thematicized in the Old and New Testament. However Galilea shows that a fundamental distinction exists between the two testaments. In the first, the arrival of the reign is announced to the people. In the second, the already present reign is proclaimed while being present in a silent inconspicuous way, not with power and noise as expected by the Jews. The “pastoral” of the prophets consists in keeping the expectation of the reign alive in the people. “They understood the reign as a work of human power and temporal prosperity.” (10) John the Baptist stands on the border between the two testaments. His preaching consisted in proclaiming God’s reign that is near (11), in radicalizing its character that was alien to the general expectation in Israel and in changing the conditions of its reception in the conversion and transformation of life. John seems to cry: the reign is here, it is already “five minutes before twelve”; it is actually too late to receive the basileia in a worthy way.
Then everything changes with Jesus’ arrival. The great novelty consists in his proclamation that God’s reign is near or already present. (12) In this way Jesus is different from all biblical prophets who proclaimed the future arrival of the kingdom. God’s already present kingdom is the central theme of Jesus’ proclamation and effectiveness. (13) Jesus distinguishes himself from all religious founders who spoke of God and unity with God and also from the Old Testament prophets. Jesus does more than promote the unity of humankind with God. He proclaims a God who has an historical project for the whole world in the idea of the reign. “God will improve things, liberate humanity and transform the world and human misery in the reign. For Christ, God and the reign are inseparable.” (14)
Jesus directs a universal invitation to his reign to humankind but reserves the first places to the disabled, blind and poor. (15) Jesus’ special interest focuses on the marginalized of society. He even proclaims one must become poor to enter the kingdom. (16) This call has a radical revolutionary character in every socio-cultural context, Galilea says. The “revolution of the kingdom: has a revolutionary ethic called the “beatitudes.” With the help of the beatitudes, Jesus presents the ideal of a “new person,” who strives for a better society. “The ideal of the beatitudes is not only a promise for eternal life; it is the ethical condition for every reform of society that would approach the values of the kingdom.” (17)
4.3 GOD’S REIGN AND SOCIETY
What is the nature of God’s reign proclaimed by Jesus? Galilea answers: “God’s reign as a promise already working among us (18) implants values in society. These values allow every form of social and structural sin to be criticized including all forms of exploitation and oppression. The proclamation of the reign is not a political discourse but can engender authentic liberation movements among people since it creates consciousness of different sinful situations and inspires people to change these situations.” (19) Galilea speaks of two dangers in relation to the construction of God’s reign that have their origin in christological errors of a reduction only to the divine or only to the human in Christ. On one side is the attempt to construct God’s reign without connection to the tasks of liberation and change of society (forms of “angelism” and “sacramentalism” parallel to christological reduction to the divine) and on the other side the confusion of the proclamation of the message of God’s rule with the propagating of a social-political ideology (“Machiavellism” parallel to the christological reduction only to the human). (20)
In a subliminally political text from 1976 – in the time of the dictatorships in Latin American states -, Galilea wrote: “The truth of God’s reign that dawned with Jesus means in the first place that no human political system and no state is definitive and that any human society without connection to the values of the reign and every ideology without justice, love and brotherliness is empty.” (21) Does this mean that Christians should not be engaged in society? Not at all.. Like other Latin American theologians, Galilea urges the engagement of theology and Christians generally in society and politics. However they must be aware that every socio-political realization is not God’s reign proclaimed by Jesus although it should be oriented in the values of this reign. In this context, the text of Sobrino about building God’s reign in the world could have come from Galilea: “Discipleship of Jesus in the world of today is realized when the Christian makes himself jointly responsible. (…) Christians have a goal and a task. The goal is God’s reign and the task is service in the life of humankind. When we realize God’s reign according to Jesus’ example, we are on the way to God.” (22)
4.4 THE IMPORTANCE OF THE IDEA OF GOD’S REIGN
The throne of God’s reign on which theology concentrated after the 2nd Vatican Council had very positive consequences. This theme encouraged a christological and ecclesiological renewal in theology, helped to an approach between catholics and protestants, inspired liberation theology problems like the option for the poor and engagement for justice and human rights, gave a new missionary impulse to the church and made possible a fruitful dialogue with the large non-Christian religions and cultures. Christianity was never so intensely aware of the fact that “the biblical and pastoral-theological theme of the reign is the most important and most creative of all Christian themes” (23) as in the last decades.
A longer quote of Galilea expresses the whole range of the proclamation of God’s reign. “The history of humanity is the history of the great unfulfilled nostalgia and great frustrated expectations. Humanity’s technical development flowed into new forms of dependence. Their great cultures ended in decadence and dehumanization, their social liberations in new forms of oppression of persons by persons and their political organization into permanent wars and nuclear dangers. Nevertheless the human being was never completely broken. Every generation begins again with the expectation of something better and of a total liberation. The religions know that only God can liberate humankind from their powerlessness and weakness given the evil of this world. Therefore they all propose a way of liberation and another future. Seeking God, the person finds his own liberation. Christianity shares in this conviction although as a religion of abundance (24) it knows a person would be unable to seek God if God had not previously sought him and that it would be impossible for humanity to completely liberate itself if God had not previously inclined to them, inspired them with his grace and transformed them in his mercy. The Bible calls this liberating conversion 1God’s reign.’ This is the central theme and central thread of Holy Scripture.”
5. CONTEMPLATION AND ENGAGEMENT. A CONTEMPLATIVE CHRISTOLOGY
Galilea devoted the first years of his literary activity to the problematic of the Latin American pastoral. Since 1976 he grappled increasingly with Christian spirituality that always remained pastorally-oriented for him. He often spoke strikingly about the balance of the twofold components of contemplation and action. For him, the nature of theology of liberation is something very practical, a new kind of pastoral, a mission and a new form of evangelization. (26) An evangelizing in which the poor and oppressed gain an all-embracing (integral) liberation was crucial to him. (27) This liberation is rooted in the daily life of their own indigenous Christian communities. (28) The way to an all-embracing liberation leads through a dialectical synthesis of contemplation and engagement.
5.1 INNER UNITY OF CONTEMPLATION AND ENGAGEMENT
The whole Christian world accepts that teaching or doctrine is a foundation of Christianity. This was so characteristic that a “good,” “true” Christian was identified with the “orthodox” Christian. “Orthodox” is meant in the sense of acceptance of the whole depositum fidei. Still it seemed ironic to Galilea that the other pole, Christian practice, was entirely ignored. Some Christians conscious of this inadequacy demanded engagement with Christian praxis. Mere proclamation of justice and love was not enough; deeds had to follow words. “The orthodoxy of faith was not enough; its realization in society was vital. (…) So the term `orthopraxy’ (30) was coined as orthodoxy of action. The theology and spirituality of liberation were based on this new discovery.” (31)
Orthopraxy, the “orthodoxy of action” (32) is confirmed in many pericopes of the New Testament. Jesus’ proclamation uncovers Pharisaism, the attitude of those who “say without doing.” (33) Saying “Lord, Lord is not enough. A tree is known by its fruits.” (34) Whoever only hears Jesus’ words and does not act accordingly is like “a foolish man who builds his house on sand.” (35) In the Letter of James we are warned: “As the body without the spirit is dead, faith is dead without works.” (36) In the light of the gospel, there is a primacy of orthopraxy over pure orthodoxy. This is clear in the parable of the world judgment. (37) In Jesus’ farewell discourses in Joh 13-17, discipleship is identified definitively with effective love or orthopraxis. (38)
Thus a new dynamic balance must be created between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, between “true faith” and “proper action.” This new equilibrium is the new edition of the old Christian binomial of action and contemplation or to speak in a more “modern” way between Christian engagement and prayer. Earlier centuries already knew the truth of the “Contemplata aliis tradere” – “pass on the fruits of contemplation to others,” the motto of the mendicant order or the Ignatian “Contemplativa in actione” – “contemplative in action” which Leonardo Boff converted in “contemplative in liberation.” (39) Both elements must be considered. Neither of them may be ignored. They must be joined but not merged. Otherwise different forms of reductionism or dualism arise. Those are expressed either in horizontalism, pragmatism, activism, messianism, Machiavellianism or temporalism that all have their ground in an overemphasis on action or in angelism and sacramentalism emerging from a false idea of Christian contemplation. Some of these “pastoral heresies” are new and products of changed historical realities. Others are as old as the doctrinal heresies and have their roots in them. “We think they are involved with the pictures of God that came to us in Jesus Christ.” (40)
Galilea sees a form of dualism in the reality of the Latin American church and a division among Christians there. They are divided in two groups with different outlooks. The first group is strongly engaged for the liberation struggle. With these Christians, prayer falls very much in the background and even seems superfluous. For them, the social struggle and the praxis of liberation is the great theme. For the other group of Christians, the “religious” as Galilea calls them, prayer is very much in the foreground. For these Christians, social engagement has almost disappeared or is very repressed. For the author, one special reason for this division among Latin American Christians is the ambivalence of the Christian term contemplation. As its traditional meaning, the Chilean understands the Graeco-Platonic understanding where contemplation has a strongly individualist character (“everyone alone in the presence of God”) and the motif of “self-withdrawal” is often overemphasized. Galilea pleads for a biblical contemplation that he calls “historical” or “engaged.” (41) According to this understanding, contemplation is not only prayer although prayer remains an indispensable and preferred form of contemplation. Contemplation is the ability to concretely experience God even if only darkly in the different phases of life and situations. (42)
In the Bible, this is very clear in the example of Moses. Moses is a typical contemplative. On one side, he has deep experience of God and on the other side he leads his people in the liberation struggle. His contemplative power helps him not be discouraged by the often-average people. This strength enables him to accept the loneliness of the prophet. He remains faithful to the final sacrifice. For the New Testament, Galilea says, contemplative existence and Christian existence are the same. This can be seen in the example of Jesus. His contemplation leads him to engagement, pastoral-prophetic engagement with socio-political consequences, even if not directly political engagement. Jesus “mobilizes the poor for God’s reign by giving them a preferred place and identifies with them.” (43) Through his activity, he awakens the contemplative experience of God in his contemporaries (Zacchaus, the Samaritan woman, Peter, the Emmaus disciples and so forth).
Jesus’ example can be revealing for the current situation of Christians in Latin America, Galilea says. The engagement for the poor and the least oriented in Jesus can be concretized in two directions. The first leads to the direct political option; the other is the daily direct prophetic option that can only be mediated. (44)
5.2 CONTEMPLATION = CONTEMPLATION + ACTION
Galilea speaks of two kinds of the same encounter of Christians with the person Christ. The first is in prayer and can be described in the “traditional” sense as the “contemplative” experience of Christ. The second encounter occurs as the experience of Christ’s presence in his brothers and sisters, especially in the “least.” This experience is also contemplative. Both ways of encounter with Christ may not be separated from each other. (46) “The second encounter incarnates the first and gives an historical dimension to the prayer life of a Christian.” (47) Therefore Galilea says contemplation also includes a call to engagement for liberation and leads necessarily to engagement for the oppressed and needy persons. Serving the poor has a contemplative character and makes Christians into “contemplatives in action” in the sense of the best Christian tradition. Prayer and engagement are connected. “Christian mysticism is a mysticism of engagement.” (48)
Both elements, prayer and engagement, contemplation (hope in the neo-Platonic sense) and action are the foundation of a new christology because they are parts of a unity, of a newly understood “contemplation” that Galilea describes as “contemplative christology.” Thus contemplative christology is not a “pious, pietistically-oriented” christology where praying is the A and O but is a thoroughly “engaged christology” concerned about themes like politics, freedom, liberation, poverty and the social situation and its encounter with the idea of God’s kingdom. The following “equations” could be proposed:
“contemplative christology” = ”contemplative + engaged christology” or “contemplative christology” = ”engaged christology”.
This new Christology is concerned with “true faith,” “orthodoxy” and “true action,” “orthopraxis”. “It is the norm of our orthopraxis (49) and not only the basis for our Christian self-image.
5.3 CONSEQUENCES FOR LATIN AMERICA
The specific Latin American contribution in Christianity could be the inner unity of contemplation and engagement. (50) Latin American Christians resist a redemption that could happen outside the historical conditions. They want to “feel” the redemption because it must involve temporal and political engagement although it may not be reduced to that engagement. (51) “Redemption must have its first step in liberation. Liberation takes on an eschatological character and transforms humanity and society from within.” (52) This includes socio-political change. As the mysticism of Moses assumed an earthly and political character and referred to the liberation in Christ, the possible socio-political liberation in Latin America refers to the final redemption and liberation through and in Christ. This authentic all-embracing liberation should be gained in the connection of mysticism and engagement, of contemplative and political elements. True contemplation does not mean self-withdrawal from the world. True contemplation is interested in the fate of the world and positive influence on its development. Christians should avoid two extremes according to Galilea: on one side the introverted Christian without socio-political engagement and on the other a Christian revolutionary only focused on political agitation. (53)
Galilea proposes a new understanding of contemplation by searching for the biblical roots of contemplation and discovering that contemplation in the first place means “experience of God” in prayer (traditional understanding of contemplation) and social engagement as elements of a unity. Both prayer and socio-political engagement can be contemplative. This happens when both realities become elements of one and the same experience of God, an experience that is concrete and real although it remains obscure and vague in this life. The theological model for this new understanding of contemplation that is not completely new since its roots can be found in the Bible is the christological principle of incarnation. As the divine and human nature are bound “unmixed and unchangeable, unseparated and indivisible” in Christ (54), the mystical and engaged dimensions of the Christian life are two indispensable elements of one and the same Christianity.
6. POLITICS. A POLITICAL CHRISTOLOGY
One question that always seems to be burning everywhere is the relation between religion and politics. The positions represented here are very different. Some want to see a complete separation of the two realms; others desire their close connection. In the time between the bishops’ plenary assembly in Medellin (1968) and Pueblo (1979), politics was increasingly important in Latin American countries although the military governments strived for “de-politization” of social life together. “Politics is the exercise of power (…). In the process that our people pass through, the power of governments grows more and more in all areas of life. Ironically the political problem reached a radical explosiveness in the relatively `de-politicized’ Latin America of the last decades.” (55), Galilea wrote in 1976. He addressed the theme of politics in several writings. (56)
6.1 THE REPROACH OF POLITICIZING CHRISTIANITY AND THEOLOGY
Different from orthodoxy, a separation of politics and religion characterized the Catholic Church for centuries. This separation is expressed in the fact that political party engagement is prohibited to catholic priests. Sometimes all political engagement of Christians was rejected. However this extreme position should be repulsed. The fact that an apolitical tendency has spread in catholic theology during the last centuries is interesting. Liberation theology’s stress on the importance of the theme of politics was criticized from many sides. “It was reproached for political reductionism, the politization of theology. However no theologian of liberation – theologian, not ideologist – wants to reduce Christian liberation to the political.” (57) True liberation theology insists on the political factor (on the relation between faith and politics, on the significance of political power in social change and in the necessity that the people share in power). The theology of liberation strives for a “de-privatization” of the liberation offered by Jesus. It attempts to attain this by emphasizing the social and political dimension of Jesus’ message more than the personal relation of persons to Christ. (55) However liberation theology in no way sought to “politicize” Christ, that is declare the political dimension of his message as alone relevant but only to direct attention to the political aspect (in the broad sense of the word) of his religious message. Liberation theology also did not want to reduce the liberation by Jesus to historical liberations. (59) “Emphasizing something does not mean making something exclusive.” (60) Rather an element not considered strongly enough for a long time is moved into the true light again.
Thus the redemption of the person from his sins, that is liberation for eternity, is still essential in liberation by Jesus in Latin American theology. Historical liberations do not replace redemption. Conversely redemption does not replace the historical obligation for human liberations. (61) Complete liberation is not restricted to politics or the economy but concerns all possible forms of human bondage – cultural, religious, educational, work-conditioned and so forth. Politics is certainly important in the Christian praxis of liberation. (62) The political dimension of Jesus’ message should be thought through again so many regain their faith through the actions of Latin America’s engaged Christians for the poor and see a model of the liberator in Jesus. “Many Christians will have great problems with their faith amid their worldly commitments – that is, Christians who believe in a Christ who has no significance for the historical liberation of the least – if they do not deepen their understanding for the political dimensions of Jesus’ messianity.” (63)
Galilea is aware of the danger of a politization of the evangelizing mission of the church. He sees this abuse in some forms of liberation theology and wards off several errors of radical or intellectualized designs in liberation theology. “As `angelism’ and deficient engagement in worldly things is the temptation of contemplatives, Machiavellianism is the temptation of the Christian revolutionary. (64) However these extremes should not dissuade us from the real commission of liberation of the poor, needy and the socially-economically-politically oppressed. The pastoral should never abandon the socio-political challenge that belongs to it.” (65) A fundamental distinction must be made here. “We distinguish politics – as action carried out in the political center – from party politics, that is action from a certain political position whose goal is seizure of power. The pastoral has a political dimension… The pastoral is not a political act but has political consequences.” (66)
The growing “politization” of societies in Latin America is reflected in Galilea’s writings from the 1970s. (67) Many countries of the continent were entangled in ideological battles at this time. Marxist socialism offered as a serious alternative to the capitalist model of society had an increasing influence. Chile, Galilea’s home was the scene of a passionate ideological conflict at the time of President Allende’s government. (68) In this situation, many Christians asked about their options. The discussion concentrated on the political engagement of priests. Many tried to discuss the problem from different standpoints, the sociological, political, biblical, ideological, pastoral or cultural. Galilea proposed another approach. His starting point in the discussion on the relation between Christianity and politics is the gospel, more concretely Jesus’ attitude to the political situation of his time. (69)
Galilea criticizes the absence of a Christology in Latin America that includes the social and political dimension. One reason for this is an incorrect reading of the gospel leading to a deformed view of the socio-political situation in Israel in Jesus’ time. The problem of many engaged Christians in Latin America is that they see Jesus’ life and effectiveness as a model for their apostolic activity, not for their engagement in the socio-political realm. In this realm, they find a vacuum with Jesus and try to fill it with another person. In contrast, Galilea says: “The socio-political dimension of Christology cannot be denied like the earthly consequence of the kingdom proclaimed by Christ.” (70) What is this socio-political significance of Jesus’ message?
6.2 THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF JESUS’ TIME
To answer this question, Galilea analyzes the environment of the historical Jesus. He concludes that the cultural and social context of Jesus’ time limited him. The situation in Israel at that time was extremely strained and politicized. The expectation of liberation from the Romans grew day by day. (71) Jesus was a Jew. He shared the desires and conflicts of his own nation. Like his fellow citizens, he was a subject of Rome. Like them, he felt the influence of the social, political and religious movements of his age.” (72) Three groups defined Jesus’ immediate environment according to the Chilean.
The first were the Herodians allied with the Romans. For the Jews, the authority was holy. The Herodians sought to profit from this. Their interest was maintaining the social and political status quo. The Chilean compares them with the Latin American oligarchy that profited from the unjust situation of the exploitation of the least.
The Essenes who led a deeply religious life and had no interest in political events formed the second party. Galilea compares them with the current sects in Latin America that (officially) distance themselves from the socio-political dimension of faith.
The third important fraction was the very nationalist zealots striving for independence. They formed a nationalist movement that sought political independence from Rome through subversive activity. Its members were pious and awaited the arrival of the Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Roman dependence. They had great influence on society and possibly on some of Jesus’ disciples. (73) They could be compared with some present revolutionary groups in Latin America, Galilea says. (74)
These three parties could influence and even limit Jesus’ conduct and existence. However Galilea is convinced that Jesus was not monopolized by any of these groups. His attitude was entirely free. (75) Instead Jesus’ words and deeds influenced the burning social questions and roused political hopes.
6.3 INCOMPLETE INTERPRETATIONS
Galilea develops five working hypotheses on Jesus’ relation to politics. The goal of his theses is to draw a model of Christian relations to politics. Two incomplete interpretations of Jesus’ socio-political role in Israel’s society should be described first. They can be found here and there in hermeneutics and in the religious consciousness of the people and are rejected by Galilea as clearly reductionist.
6.3.1 THE “NAÏVE JESUS”
The first inadequate way of looking at things corresponds to an ahistorical Christology. In this conception, Jesus’ coming only had religious significance. His message is merely religious and can have nothing to do with a social ideology. Nothing political can be found in his proclamation. His saying “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (76) is evidence for his distancing from politics. For a long time, people in church circles thought of the activity of the master from Nazareth in these purely religious categories. The result of this is the notion that Jesus lived entirely removed from the daily problems of his contemporaries. In this case, he would have stood under the influence of the Essenes. The consequence of this view of things is that Jesus’ passion and death are seen completely severed from his historical environment. The stage of the passion (Pilate, Judas, the Sanhedrin among others) would only be a kind of puppet theater in the hands of the heavenly Father, the backdrop so to speak for Christ’s redemptive work. Another scenario with another main actor could be easily conceivable.” (77)
6.3.2 JESUS THE REVOLUTIONARY
Another diametrically opposite interpretation could be found at the beginning of the 1970s in Latin America’s revolutionary circles. Those who wanted to find a model inspiration for temporal liberation in Jesus defended this interpretation above all. Jesus was seen here as a model of the struggle for the present liberation of the oppressed. His mission to Israel was represented as the activity of a political revolutionary. Beside his religious activity, he also founded a direct political movement in the form of a subversive action. “Jesus was regarded here as a zealot if not a direct member of this group, then at least as one very close to them.” (78) According to this interpretation, the Nazarene was the one who revolted against the established system and clashed with it. On one side he clashed with the imperial authority and on the other side with the dominant Jewish class. His death was the death of a revolutionary martyr and the result of these conflicts. After Jesus set the defense of justice and the poor in the center of his preaching, avoiding the collisions with the Romans and the Jewish religious authority was not possible for him. The consequence of this view is what Galilea calls “spontaneous pseudo-christology” or the “Jesus-revolutionary-christology” based on a “Jesus-Che Guevara” picture, a Christ as model and symbol of the Latin American revolutionary who dies for the oppressed.
6.4 FIVE WORKING HYPOTHESES ON THE THEME “JESUS AND POLITICS”
After presenting the incomplete interpretations of Jesus’ relation to the socio-political situation of his time, Galilea’s christological working hypotheses on this problematic are offered. (79)
1ST THESIS: INCARNATION IN THE CONCRETE HISTORICAL SITUATION
On account of the incarnation and the historical nature of his mission, Jesus was a member of Israel’s society with its political tension and conflicts over power. His suffering and death were political events. (80)
Galilea underscores the fact that Jesus was a person in a very concrete place at a specific time. He was part of the historical, religious, social and political movements of his time. Thus what is important in Christ’s historical incarnation is that God was a human being incarnated in a real situation with concrete persons and movements. This was the background of his activity. More concretely, Jesus was a Jew entangled in Palestine’s conflicts and strivings in this historical moment. Like the rest of the Jews, he was Rome’s subject and shared the desire for liberation. Like them, he was exposed to the pressure of the political situation at that time created by the different groups from the Herodians to he Zealots. (81) Like them, he had taken a position against the established Roman power and against the religious system of priests and Pharisees.
His trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate had the historical form of a condemnation of a subversive. “We have witnessed that this man seduces our people, keeps them from paying taxes to Caesar and claims he is the Messiah and king. (…) He stirs up the people.” (82) “Everyone who pretends to be king rebels against the emperor.” (83) It seems paradoxical that Jesus, always following a religious line and expressly refusing temporal leadership, was at the end condemned as a rival of the imperial power and punished as a politically accused. (84) His trial before Pilate (86) and before the Sanhedrin (87) had the features of a political judgment. His death had political characteristics; the cross was a torture for rebels.
2ND THESIS: GOD’S REIGN AS A RELIGIOUS MESSAGE
Despite the political qualities of his life, Jesus neither claimed nor acted as a revolutionary or political leader. His message was not a program or strategy for political liberation. Jesus preached God’s reign as a religious and pastoral message.
Despite the political features of his life and death, Jesus was a religious leader and not a political official in the exercise of his mission and the content of his message. Something that could call to mind an ideal of a society, a program or a political activity does not appear in his position toward the established authority, in the substance of his proclamation (of God’s rule) or in the orientation that he gave his disciples. “His message contains no elements of a strategy or activity against Roman imperialism. Jesus’ person could not be confiscated by any of the political parties or movements of his age.” (90) Expressed positively, Jesus proclaims God’s rule; the nature of his message is religious and pastoral. This proclamation brings to light the true nature of God the Father, the true calling and goal of humankind and God’s ultimate gift offered people in Christ, their liberation from sin and all evil. This proclamation also includes the promise of a new society that will reach its perfection in the eschatological kingdom (“new heaven and new earth”). (91) God’s reign is proclaimed as a promise although its beginning already occurs among people. (92) The synthesis of the values of the kingdom “is the Sermon on the Mount and its center is the person of Jesus.” (94)
God’s reign is a reality that is already present among humankind. God’s reign engenders values in society that allow a constructive criticism of this society. Through this criticism, all forms of exploitation and domination by people over other people are put in question. This criticism has complete right even though the message of God’s reign is not a political reality in the narrow sense of the word. (94)
3RD THESIS: DYNAMIC OF THE MESSAGE OF GOD’S REIGN
Through his religious and pastoral message of God’s reign, Jesus created a dynamic for socio-political change in his time and in all times of future history.
Jesus’ proclamation of God’s reign had consequences for politics and social change, even for revolutionary change, in his time and in the future. As politics, Galilea understands “every kind of influence or participation in power or in social decisions.” (95) “The Christian message is not a social ideology or revolutionary program. However on account of its dynamic nature and its call to conversion directed at individuals and societies, it has the character of a principle of non-conformism toward every society and politics.” (96) Here Galilea demonstrates a great trust in the power of the Good News. Because it contains a principle of freedom and reveals the true calling of humankind and the world, the gospel offers values that can put the system in question and as a result start movements and conflicts for political liberation. In this sense, the gospel and Christianity have revolutionary characteristics. Jesus “proclaims the values of justice and peace that are the basis of socio-political liberation movements.” (97) Therefore Jesus’ activity can be understood as political activity. In its consequences, it affects the political realm and creates changes in politics. Thus for Galilea the proclamation of the gospel by Jesus represents the pastoral effect of the church and its members. By its nature, it has the tendency of creating implications and consequences for politics.
The proclamation of the reign occurs in history once and for all. The reality of God’s reign embodies the principle of freedom and social criticism. It is simultaneously promise and announcement. (98) As promise, it leads to non-conformism. As announcement, it urges the change of everything in society working against nature and the destiny of humanity. “Jesus’ message is not political in itself but through the mediation of pastoral and religious theory and action.” (99)
4TH THESIS: POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE PROCLAMATION OF GOD’S REIGN
The political consequences of the message of God’s reign are the relativization of Roman totalitarianism and the consciousness of equality created in the disciples. These are the specific values of the beatitudes. (100)
In the concrete society where Jesus lived and preached, his message already had consequences for politics and social relations in his generation. According to Galilea, this happened because of the following four factors:
FIRSTLY: DESTRUCTION OF IDOLS
Jesus destroys idolatry through the proclamation of the one true God. He relativized every value and every person who tried to take God’s place. Among them were the emperor and the mythical idea of his divine authority. Jesus destroyed the ideological basis of this totalitarianism. At the same time he gave a feeling of dignity, freedom and equality to every human being over against the powerful. (101) The Latin American seems convinced that the Roman authoritarian and totalitarian system was undermined in this way through the proclamation of the truth about God and the person, not by a frontal attack with political means. This was deeply subversive socially and politically in the short- and long-term. Jesus surpasses the ambitions of the zealots and every revolutionary program or every revolutionary activity. He destroys the imperial system from within beginning with its foundations.
SECONDLY: THE POOR AS THE PRIVILEGED MEMBERS OF THE REIGN
Galilea shows how Jesus invites the poor to form part of his reign (102). He gives precedence and a crucial sense of dignity to the poor. Given the cultural context of his time, this mobilization of the poor had deep socio-political consequences. It set in motion a process, bestowed mysticism to the poor and created “a majority conscious of their dignity that sought to restore justice and threatened to be independent of the system.” (103) The poor were to make the crucial contribution to the decline and fall of the empire. Since then, the call issued to the poor has been the basis of every authentic revolution, that is restoring just conditions.
THIRDLY: THE UNIVERSAL REIGN
Galilea shows how Jesus appears as the fulfillment of the prophet’ prophesies who proclaims God’s reign as a universal reign that bursts the national borders of Judaism and an exclusive Jewish understanding of salvation (104). Here he goes beyond the Jewish tribal structures (105) and sends his disciples with a mission directed at the whole world, come in the heart of the empire and others far beyond its borders. Jesus’ message of God’s reign makes the poor among Christians into a universal force, Galilea says, that shakes the whole empire beginning in Rome itself. This weakens the nationalist, sectarian religious system of the Jews encrusted in itself. Jesus fulfills the prophesies about the universal mission of the “holy remnant” in the Jewish people. The whole domineering religious system is weakened since his criticism attacks the roots of the Jewish theocracy and its authority.
FOURTHLY: THE NEW VALUES OF GOD’S REIGN
The fourth characteristic of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s rule and reign that is most important for Galilea is that it renews Israel’s prophetic and moral conscience. Jesus reforms Israel’s call to the equality and community of brothers and sisters. To his disciples, he proclaims a new orientation and a new vision of the human race. The new values that he proclaims are opposed to the values of the society of his time and are also not the values preferred by the political authority. He proclaims charity, poverty, humility, renunciation on prestige and violence and forgiveness among others. Galilea writes: “To the extent that these values penetrate in the hearts of men, women and societies, they become the death sentences for every opposing socio-political structure – beginning with the Roman Empire. They strike roots as the permanent seed of freedom.” (106) Without developing the model of a better society and proposing a concrete liberation program, Jesus creates a movement that promotes freedom and justice. This dynamic can be found in many later social changes.
5TH THESIS: JESUS THE PROPHET AND HIS RENUNCIATION
Jesus took a pastoral and prophetic attitude in the conflicts with the established authorities of his time. This led him to renounce on power and all forms of violence.
Galilea shows how Jesus had a religious and prophetic “style” corresponding to his mission as “Yahweh’s servant” in his inevitable conflicts with the authorities of religion and the government. This style is expressed in his renunciation on political power and violence. “Jesus’ style is surprising for his time but agrees with his option and mission.” (107) Galilea says that presenting himself as a political leader was a temptation for Jesus as founder of a religious movement with the goal of changing people and society. The enticement to seize power in the politically exhausted and devastated Palestine of his time was obvious. (108) Jesus resisted the inner temptation of assuming political power (vividly represented in the forty-day fast in the wilderness) (109). He opposed the outward pressure of the people who wanted to make him “king” (political leader) in different situations. (110) This pressure reached its peak in the festive entrance in Jerusalem. (111) He had to clarify the true nature of his reign before Pilate, the representative of the Roman oppressor. (112)
Jesus’ freedom to criticize the religious and political system of his time (113) is in inverse relation to his radical renunciation on power, Galilea says. Jesus’ renunciation is also creative like all renunciation for the sake of the reign. Jesus creates new forms of socio-political change. Jesus prepares the end to the established form of religion in Israel with his proclamation of an ethic and religion based on love and imitation of the Father, not on the legalism of the Torah. With the proclamation of equality and a universal community of sisters and brothers and with the demythologization of every kind of system and ideology of domination. Jesus undermines the power of Roman imperialism and the principle of totalitarianism in it. (114) He establishes the great creative principle of every revolution whose goal is liberation. “He builds together the decisive instrument of pressure for the course of future history by inviting the powerless in his reign and clearing away a privileged place for them.” (115)
Jesus lives in agreement with what he proclaims. (116) His fruitful powerlessness has its complement in renunciation on violence, Galilea says. His command of love, a central element of his preaching, excludes every kind of force against others. He even urges his disciples to an unconditional forgiveness since they recognize that all people are sinners before God and need God’s forgiveness. (118) In a paradoxical way, Jesus’ renunciation on power and violence leads to his becoming the only possible bond of the human community of brothers and sisters. On account of sin and the divisions resulting from it, there is no historical form of justice and human community without prior reconciliation and mutual forgiveness. Jesus makes this principle into reality. In his helplessness, he becomes the basis for every society. (119)
Galilea ends his comments with a pastoral conclusion. He asks how far Latin Americans can imitate Jesus’ example today. He understands some of Jesus’ attitudes, for example his renunciation on force, as “charismatic.” (120) This is also true for Jesus’ renunciation on political power. It would be wrong to expect all Jesus’ present disciples to keep away from politics. The opposite is even desired; Jesus’ disciples should be engaged more and more in politics as a positive influence. The more a society is politicized – and this is true in Latin America – the more important is the political engagement of Christians. At the same time a prophetic and charismatic attitude becomes more important and desirable among the official representatives of the church. These dimensions will be crucial for the future of Christianity in Latin America. (121)
For Galilea, Jesus is essentially a religious leader who proclaims the coming of God’s reign as a religious message. Nothing comparable to a political messiah or social leader can be found in his stance before political and religious authorities, in his instructions to the disciples or in the substance of his preaching. Still many people including his own disciples understood him as a political leader. (122) Christ’s public effectiveness and the effectiveness of the present church involve politics because they are called to create changes in societies. In the oppressed Jewish society in Jesus’ time, every positive development aroused temporal hopes for a political liberation. The same happens today with the church in a totalitarian society. (123) The church always faces the temptation of “transforming itself into a purely political power principle and striving for a purely time-conditioned liberation.” (124)
[The numbers refer to footnotes in the original text.]
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