Crying-Out, Resisting, Asserting, Celebrating
A Model for a Biblico-Theological Reflection of Resistance
Crying-Out. There are different kinds of cries. Some cry inside with no tears and no sound. Some cry out for help because they can no longer bear the pain or the suffering. Some cry out loud, go out in the streets, demand for justice, because it is the only way they can defend their dignity and their very lives. Everyone cries at some point in their lives. Everyone feels that she or he has been treated unfairly, judged too harshly, misunderstood or even oppressed. As children of God, we know from the Exodus story that our God is the God of slaves. The Hebrew people cried out and God heard them and saved them. Thus, the ‘people of God’ are those who need God the most. As followers of Christ, we know Jesus’ option for the poor. When he preached the ‘Kingdom of God,’ it was a direct critique and challenge to the Kingdom of Rome which dominated over his people and eventually killed him. In the Exodus story and in Jesus’ time, those who needed God the most cried out. As children of God and followers of Christ, we must follow their examples and take the side of the slaves and defend the poor and oppressed. This is our bias. As we hear to the cries and voices of those who need God the most, we must consciously LISTEN. Remember, feelings and emotions are very important. As we listen to the cries in concrete life situations, we must try to answer the following questions:
What are they saying? What are they NOT saying? What are they really saying?
What are their struggles?
What are their hopes and dreams?
What is their situation?
What is the cause of their pain and suffering?
Who are the oppressors, dominators?
Resisting. As Christians, we have been taught to repent for our personal and collective sins. Our models for Christianity are those who bear suffering, submit and sacrifice. To resist authority is to resist those ‘ordained’ by God. But the Exodus narrative is in itself a resistance text. How many women resisted the order of the pharaoh to kill the male babies of the Hebrew people? What eventually liberated the people from slavery? Even if God heard the cries of the people and wanted to liberate them, but Moses refused to lead, the Israelites chose to stay in Egypt rather than escape and if they did not have enough faith to cross the Red Sea, they would have remained slaves. When God acts to liberate, there is a corresponding human action. And this begins with ‘resistance.’ When the Hebrew people resisted, they did it to defend life and dignity. An act of resistance comes from a position where people are powerless and oppressed. An act of resistance is necessary to defend life and dignity.
However, the same act of defense for life and dignity may be oppressive when from the perspective of the powerful and dominant. Egypt and Rome may have wanted to defend the life and dignity of their own people, but as the most powerful nations of their time, their acts were imperial acts that disempowered and oppressed other peoples and nations. That is not resisting. That is imperialism.
Asserting. Why do people go to political rallies? Why do farmers, laborers, urban poor, indigenous peoples’, women, students and many more march on the streets with placards and effigies, which they eventually burn. Why do they shout in the streets? Because they are not allowed to come before the presence of those who have power. Has the president really addressed their needs? Do senators and people in Congress really work so that the poor will have food, clean water and proper shelter? Do people in the local government ensure that children can go to school, families have healthcare and workers are protected? Most of them do not really hear the cries of the people.
In Matthew 25, 31-46, there is an anticipation for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus. And it clearly defines what acts are necessary to inherit the kingdom of God: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner. In helping those who need God the most, we assert their right to life and resist those who deny them life. Some people will always say that land is for development and progress. What do we say then when entire communities are demolished or burned for another mall or another building? Some people will say that the government has to invest in the military to fight insurgency and protect the people. What do we say when healthworkers are imprisoned and accused of being NPAs and when communities in rural areas are terrorized by soldiers of the government? In asserting for the life and dignity of those who need God the most, we must take sides. Notice that in the text, even the king takes sides. The king honors those who did all the good things to ‘the least of these’ and pronounces judgement and eternal punishment to those who did not. Everyone must take sides. And we who call ourselves children of God and followers of Christ take the side of those who need God the most.
Celebrating. What is there to celebrate? In the midst of the troubles of our nation, what is there to celebrate? The escape from Egypt was preceded by the Passover Meal. Jesus’ act of offering of life happened before the Last Supper which was also a Passover Meal. In many of our churches today, we continue to commemorate and celebrate both. But we forget that the Passover Meal in the Old and New Testament, with Moses and with Jesus, were celebrations that preceded an act of resistance towards liberation. Our acts of celebration, where people come together, share, and are filled must move us to cry-out, resist, assert and celebrate with those who need God the most.