Energy from oppressed moves toward justice


POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

For those who are or have been oppressed, liberation arrives like a redemptive event and a glorious promise: “;We are free at last.”;

It has been that way for thousands of years. The historical list of oppressed peoples includes the enslaved, those denied their rights and dignity; those in lands occupied by foreign troops; people denied participation because of gender, race, age or sexual orientation; and those under tyrannical rule.

Moses looms large as an early liberator. He advocated for an enslaved people against a stubborn, tyrannical, dominant power. He persisted, according to the narrative, against the recalcitrance of an Egyptian pharaoh, demanding freedom for an enslaved population. Liberation came for some.

Years ago a Brazilian educator published a small book on the “;Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”; It aimed to raise the consciousness of beleaguered people about their victimization. The book's influence was widespread, contributing to the strength of the movement known as liberation theology. People began to use the principles of the book along with accounts in the gospels to show how they might realize their own freedom.

They learned to recognize the subtleties of their captivity. They also learned to read gospel texts from the viewpoint of their own maltreatment. They discovered they had some power to act, even though they faced such obstinate and recalcitrant regimes as an Egyptian pharaoh.

Jesus' own confrontation with the ruling powers was an inspiration. He had bold, even subversive remarks that were directed at both religious and political authorities. Standing in the tradition of Moses and other Hebrew prophets, he challenged the dominant realm.

Neither Moses nor Jesus enjoyed the benefit of a democratic society as we do. They could not vote, they could not force the rulers out of office, they could not take out political ads, they could not submit their testimony to some legislative committee. Their limited method of confrontation was, in some ways, both more direct and more subtle. And it was full of risk.

Even though many people have the right to vote today, they are not always convinced that their votes have been counted accurately. This has occurred in our own country as well as in other lands.

Nevertheless, the experiences and determination of the oppressed often have ways of maintaining a pressure to move toward justice, however slowly at times. Struggle is inevitable although perhaps not philosophically necessary.

It is not only the consciousness of the oppressed that needs to be raised. It is the minds of the oppressors that need instruction, a much more difficult task because they resist.

Why is there so much resistance to liberation movements? Why was so much of liberation theology squelched? Obviously it was because certain power centers felt threatened. Certain dogmatic and ideological positions were challenged.

The resistance to dominant powers continues to be inevitable, especially when the checks and balances that we desire in our society are overlooked in favor of greed, favoritism, fraud and personal gain.


The Rev. Fritz Fritschel is retired as a Lutheran minister.