Jesus templates for all budgets

Image: Kenedy Martins


There is a parade of Christs: those who collude with oppressive, exclusionary structures, ideologues of exploitative relations, generators of VIP boxes and social apartheid

In a religious field of conflict, many images of Jesus Christ are constructed. This is shaped in several directions. There are many profiles shared around the central character in the history of Christianity. Reflecting a classist society, we observe a parade of Christs: those who collude with oppressive, exclusionary structures, ideologues of exploitative relationships, generators of VIP boxes and social apartheid. Fascists share the image of their uncritical, colonial Christ, conformed and in tune with the interests of the rulers. Religion in its classic opiate facet. On the other hand, with less visibility, Christ is in tune with the struggle of the oppressed, and he is out of tune with the choir of “Christians” in agreement with the explorers. In tune with the people of the Base Ecclesiastical Communities (CEB's), the peripheral, excluded, invisible and criminalized. The Christ of Liberation Theology, the one who puts his feet on the ground in our favelas. He who runs the risk of being killed when faced with someone who asks: do you know who you are talking to?

I speak of that Jesus who was killed, in his historical time, for being out of tune with the political, social and religious project of those in power in that context of Herods, Pilate, high priests and elders. These represented partisan and classist interests. A preferential and supportive option for the poor was uncomfortable for the dominant classes. Allies, a “Centrão” of politicians and a group of religious people of that time, placed stones in the path of the liberating Christians. The Júlios Lancellottis at that time were threatened, persecuted, canceled and killed. A “stone in the shoe” Christ, who stank and smelled, not sweet in his relationship with the powerful on duty. He who was furious with the sellers of the sacred temple, the genesis of the “small churches, big business” of our days. The charismatic preacher of an indignant and prophetic speech, of announcement and denunciation. Murdered for multiple reasons, especially political and religious, he underwent a painful “way of the cross”. In the stations of his Calvary, fifteen in number, in Catholic ritualistics, the opening of spaces for a thinking Christian, with transformative ideals, aimed at structural, revolutionary changes. How to separate faith and politics?

In the references of a “Teología de la Liberación”, I quote Gustavo Gutiérrez, propagator of the “God of life” and his theological objective of “speaking of God from the suffering of the innocent”. “The historical strength” of a Christ “on the side of the poor”. On this path, with his “Baptism of Blood” and in “a life between church and politics”, Frei Betto’s “militant Jesus”, armed with the “Gospel” and the “political project of the Kingdom of God”. In the “hope of a people who struggle”, with his “popular reading of the Bible”, Friar Carlos Mesters continues “with Jesus in the opposite direction”. Restless and persistent in the “passion of Christ, the passion of the world”, Leonardo Boff leads a “militant ecclesiology”, anchored in “the liberating Jesus Christ”. The theological investment in the “strength of little ones” presents the Christ of the “Theology of Captivity and Liberation”. The aforementioned theologians, even knowing the profound differences between Jesus Christ and Karl Marx, see possibilities for dialogue between the perspectives they propose. In the dialogue bridge, the criticism of savage, dehumanizing capitalism and the proposals to overcome it. We are in a plane of many tensions.

Following the martyrdom of Christ, a question arises: who are the crucified in our society? Carrying crosses of different weights, we try to support our own and pay attention to the heavy loads carried by the unemployed, sick and hungry in their existential precariousness. Humans are discarded and treated as waste. Refugees know this. The falls of Jesus are experienced by the “little ones”, the “so many who have fallen” on the streets of our cities. The violent, reckless and exhibitionist ostentation of millionaires, celebrities and shameless influencers, in their new mansions, provoking and humiliating the miserable. “I am seen, therefore I am”.

Landscapes of the Brazilian “Belíndia” and its north and south areas of Rio, under the redemptive blessings of a Christ in view of a spectacle of fascinations and terrors. Brazil follows the postcard of the “wonderful city” with its luxurious walled condominiums, electrified, guarded and safe against the dangerous peripheral, poor and black people. From the beach sand, the mob contemplates the destructive, scandalous and uncontrollable real estate speculation. Apartments with unpopular prices. How many of them does that famous player have? The criminalization of poverty demands high walls, electric fences and surveillance cameras. Fear generates profit and police newspapers are audience champions. Little Red or Yellow Riding Hood is still frightened by the wolves' stalking. Be careful with those under sheep's clothing.

The Marias suffer when they see their children hospitalized, arrested and drugged. Marian sufferings on disfigured Brazilian faces: homeless people, the abused and the unassisted at all stages of life. In lack of assistance, they face aggression, indifference and closure. In exclusion, people are stripped of their dignities. Without jobs, health or housing, they embody the Christian passion and suffer, they experience discrimination, abandonment and intolerance. From the perspective of “social friendship”, the encouragement to wipe each other’s tears, in an awareness of help. Touches given by the Fraternity Campaign 2024, an initiative of the CNBB, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. What about the negligence of public authorities? In their irresponsible carelessness, they even act as crucifiers.

Not paying attention to the consequences of what we are doing or omitting, we create deadly situations. We trivialize evil. This is spectacular, goes viral, and has high ratings. The market dictates the rules, plays and profits from the smallness, frivolity and ordinary side of individuals, exposed to hyper-exposure and media surveillance. “Focused”, they are seen, they soon come into existence. Barbarism is part of our show. Where is the delicacy? Oscillating between progress and regression, where are we going? It is in this context of flashes and darkness that we observe the elasticity of the name of Jesus, moldable to justify its most varied uses and abuses, from A to Z. Similar to the word God, used to love and kill.

In the article sent by the earth is round, on March 27, 2024, Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo asks in the title of her text: “A Jesus? Or a multitude of disguises?” At the end, he exclaims and asks one more question, congruent with a pitch black period of setbacks: “Oh, Jesus! Who made you a militia?” On the same date mentioned above, “Liberation Theology Brazil” shared, on Facebook, the following message from Father José Comblin: “Jesus died because he announced the Kingdom of God, which threatened both the kingdom of Caesar and the kingdom of religious authorities of Israel. It was a political act, as the Father wanted.” The Christian martyr has a thousand and one uses.

*Francisco de Oliveira Barros Junior Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).

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