Jesus, someone who disconcerts

Image: Rodolfo Clix
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By FRANCISCO DE OLIVEIRA BARROS JUNIOR*

Christians and communists converge on the proposal of an egalitarian and equitable society

The Franciscan calendar records: March 24 is the day of Santo Oscar Romero. When reading his page on the 23rd of that month, I find the following text, written by Friar Alberto Eckel Junior: “Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador, on August 15, 1917, into a poor family. He entered the seminary at a young age and, at the age of 20, went to Rome, where he completed his theology. Ordained a priest, he returned to El Salvador, working for many years as a parish priest. A great shepherd, he came to know the miseries of his people and, in the midst of the military dictatorship in his country, he was appointed archbishop. The murder of two priests required him to take a stand against the misery and oppression his people were experiencing, denouncing many errors. Bothering the political and military powers, he was threatened many times and, on March 24, 1980, he was martyred while celebrating the Eucharist in San Salvador. In October 2018, Oscar Romero was canonized.”

The Franciscan words, previously recorded, reveal one of the multiple images built around Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. Amidst the accomplices of the dominant powers, mediated by conservative religious groups, dissonant voices burst forth, in tune with a liberating Christ, representatives of a non-opiate religion, defender of a theology of liberation. That of Frei Tito, who anchored in Jesus Christ “the fundamental reason” of his life and reading Marx, found the “theoretical bases” for his “social utopia”. Utopians united with the guerrillas, killed for defending social justice and freedom. In struggles against oppressors, they experience sacrificial baptisms of blood. Romeros, Marighellas and Titos are exemplary (BETTO, 2021).

Liberation theology, in the voices of its enthusiasts, generates essays of critical Christologies for our time (BOFF, 1988). Classical theologians, with their feet on the ground, popularizers of Jesus Christ Liberator, they ask: “What did Jesus Christ ultimately want?” Contesting, reforming, revolutionizing and liberating are verbs used by those who, assuming the “political dimension of the gospel”, promote an “encounter with God in history” and affirm a commitment to “the sigh of the oppressed”. Political commitments of an ecclesiological model that “makes use of sociology as an instrument of its pastoral policy” (ALVES, 1984). Prophecy of announcement and denunciation “for a transformation of the Latin American reality”, with emphasis on our Brazils (GUTIÉRREZ, 1986).

In theoretical references, theology opens its field to a “sociological investigation of religion”. A theological, critical reflection, represented by a “Christian community” that, associating “praxis of liberation and faith”, projects a “new society”. Projection linked to the objective of “dismantling ideology” through “a political practice born of the exploited and dominated”, the directors of ideological dismantling, critics of exploitation, inequality, capitalist domination and exclusion (CHAUÍ, 2012, p.143).

In their political-ideological incidences, religions present a field of objective relations of transaction and competition. “Religious service against power” in the context of a religious bureaucracy in which its priests respond to the demands of the dominant and dominated classes (BOURDIEU, 2005). Class conflicts in which a “God of black resistance” accuses Catholicism of “deviating to imaginary terrain a struggle that should have been waged on the concrete level of the economic, social and political system” (HURBON, 1987, p.28).

“Jesus, someone who disconcerts”, a popular charismatic force, convicted of blasphemy, a type of “guerrilla fighter”, challenger, reformer, revolutionary, liberator. Images of a Christ released by liberation theologians. And they inquire about “the meaning of Jesus' death” (BOFF, 1988). In the lawsuit filed against him, the speech of the powerful translates the discomfort of his prophetic presence: “he is dangerous!” Dangerousness of an ecclesiastical leader engaged in the “class struggle” of the historical context in which he lived.

Theology finds theoretical anchor in the sociological work that associates “church, ideology and social classes” (FOLLMANN, 1985). In the name of God, employees specialized in companies for the salvation of souls, act as concealing ideologues of capitalist exploitation. Religion in a context of conflicts in which it assumes controversial positions: a force for social stability or a potential transformative agency. Religious unmaskers or justifiers of the interests of the rulers. Pray to keep or change. Prosperity theology in the market of sacred temples. Preach a quietist amen in the face of social inequalities or lead the faithful to a reaction, an uprising in the face of social apartheid.

in the musical jesus christ superstar, in its rock versions, based on the work of Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber, the owners of secular and ecclesiastical powers, in alliances, see the danger of the Nazarene, the awaited Messiah. His popularity bothered representatives of the ruling classes. It provoked the “whitewashed tombs” of Pharisaism. At the head of “religious movements of social protest”, Jesus is prosecuted and faces his persecutors. "Who are you?" “Do you think that's what they say?” Christ and the political world of yesterday and today. Faith, utopia and political action committed to the dominated classes, in the cry of the excluded.

A liberating spirituality, fraternal and pastorally committed to the criminalized poor, seen as dangerous. A preferential and solidary option for them, in Latin American ecclesiastical documents. In a conflictual field, religion at the service of “class domination” faces leaders questioning the proposals defended by the evangelical groups, organically in tune with the choir of the privileged in the oppressive, unjust, scandalously unequal social order and denying Christian principles and values.

Christ executed, tortured. Terms used by a Catholic discourse to narrate the passion of a Christ rejected by elders, high priests and doctors of the law. Representatives of religious and secular powers, protagonists of the process of condemnation, execution and torture of a Jesus committed to “building a more just and fraternal world”. Justice and fraternity confronting the imperial political schemes of the historical conjuncture of his time.

Which political parties disputed power in that imperial context? Thinking in terms of social classes, whose interests did Christian preaching bother? Christian discourses open to dialogue with other references. Do “communism and the gospel” dialogue with each other? Are they convergent? In the company of the Franciscan pages, I read the following fragment, taken from a Franciscan calendar. The letters of Prof. Me. Carlos Eduardo Xavier are deconstructive and promote converging encounters.

Evoking “people of good will”, he emits an uncomfortable line: “Dom Helder Camara once said that when he fed the poor he was called a saint, but when he inquired into the causes of poverty he was called a communist. Carlos Eduardo asks: “Why?” With biblical foundations, he argues: “The love of neighbor and the practice of justice are at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus. Communism, on the other hand, proposes the essential equality between people and social equity”. Christians and communists converge on the proposal of an egalitarian and equitable society. “In this aspect there is a convergence between the ideals of Jesus and communism itself”. Between convergences and divergences, they open a dialogue towards the construction of an earthly kingdom of justice and fraternity.

This is not a defense of religion. What is at stake is a religious field crossed by conflicts. The theoretical anchor provided by Pierre Bourdieu reveals a set of objective relations of transaction and competition between the various religious agents. I highlight priests, pastors and lay people, representatives of the demands of different social classes. Legitimate, compensatory and salvationist interests. Using the terms in the plural, pronouncing Catholicisms, Pentecostalisms and Umbanda, is to be connected with a complex view on religious relations.

In all of these, performers of conservative practices are found, allied with groups of fascist and necropolitical tendencies and the propagating figures of a religious praxis incarnated in a God "... of Friar José Raimundo de Souza. A deity potentially allied with progressive social movements. With this, I want to say that I consider the position of those who do not see the other side of religious actions to be wrong, that is, those carried out by members of pastorals of the land, blacks, indigenous peoples and other ecclesial commitments. Even if its limits are pointed out, it is important to recognize that not all believers and religious faithful are closed, prejudiced subjects and with whom conversations and agreements are unfeasible.

It is convenient to list a sequence of names linked to the different religious matrices that sacrificed their own lives in defense of relevant causes. I start my list with Dom Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King. I leave it to the reader to continue. The Franciscan José Raimundo invites us not to “resist the liberating proposal of Jesus”. Updating the Easter message of Christianity, he continues with his congregational charisma by continuing to bet on resistance in the present day.

Friar José writes to those who live today and states that “…Jesus continues to be found in the same periphery, identifying himself with the poor and excluded, in whose favor the disciple is summoned to commit himself to promoting life. This is resurrection!” A Christian summons crying out in the desert of a world necrotic by the investments of death seen in the daily spectacle.

*Francisco de Oliveira Barros Junior He is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí.

References


ALVES, Reuben. The Sigh of the Oppressed. São Paulo: Edições Paulinas, 1984.

BETTO, Friar. Baptism of blood: guerrilla warfare and the death of Carlos Marighella. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 2021.

BOFF, Leonardo. Jesus Christ the Liberator: critical Christology essay for our time. Petrópolis: Voices, 1988.

BOURDIEU, Pierre. The economy of symbolic exchanges. São Paulo: Perspective, 2005.

CHAUÍ, Marilena. What is Ideology. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 2012.

FOLLMANN, Jose Ivo. Church, Ideology and Social Classes. Petrópolis: Voices, 1985.

HURBON, Laennec. The God of Black Resistance: Haitian Voodoo. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1987.

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