As the year wraps up, many don their gay apparel to partake in the practice of charity. The influence of Christianity as the dominant religion of the United States finds space in the lives of seculars and believers. It comes as no surprise then, that the values and traditions associated with the holiday of Christmas have transcended religious barriers and have shaped our understanding of the days leading up to it. For Christians, however, the holiday is not just one of spiritual significance. It comes with a strong social agenda of servitude to those in need. This spirit of joyful giving, as a personal note, is what I find the most valuable from any set of belief, and what I would love to see all through the year on greater scales and deeper levels. For those with ears to hear, let them hear: Liberation theology can provide a way.
Finding in Latin America some of its earliest proponents and adept followers, Liberation Theology developed as a school of thought keen on exploring the relationship between the practice of Christianity and its power to spread social justice. For its proponents, this theology is about seeing God (and speaking of God) through and from the place of those experiencing oppression, and answering a calling of social responsibility as followers of Christ to free mankind from the suffering derived of that oppression. In the case of American Christianity, we could argue that very powerful and prominent slices of the pie are driven in the opposite direction of what this theology proposes. Politics and traditions create an association of religion and capitalism hard to find anywhere else.
Sure, there are many organizations and believers putting their money where their psalms are, but it doesn’t look as if the mainstream is boarding the Ark anytime soon. After the world has proven time after time that the sky will not part for the Four Horsemen to come whenever something succeeds in opposition to fundamentalist faith, why not channel the machinery into more pressing and pervasive issues in the country, like homelessness and poverty? The most successful religious institutions in America have more plentiful resources than many organizations working to tackle serious social issues. There is an opportunity to embrace “What Would Jesus Do?” in a way Jesus himself may have taken part of. But there is no need to wait until the machine starts its engines on an alternate direction. All believers have a chance to liberate through their beliefs.
‘Tis the season to take the joys of change and justice and spread them far beyond the holidays, regardless of belief, to those who truly need actions beyond words. It would be shameful oversight for the followers of Christ to forget where the men and women who championed their beliefs came from: The streets and sewers and catacombs of the greatest empire of its time, where the hungry and the sick lived and died as outcasts, rejected by those on top, dismissed by those in wealth, oppressed by those in power.
By Jesus Velardo