I’m usually planting seeds about now. Every Good Friday I’m so moved by the words from John 12:24, I get inspired to plant a few radishes or even eggshells full of grass, just to feel more viscerally the power of God at work, pushing up the soil under my own skin:
“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single kernel; but if it dies it produces a great harvest.”
But this year is different. I’m reading the gospel of Mark through from beginning to end today. I’m burning my palm crosses while I pray for suffering humans touching my consciousness now. This year I’m reminded why I’m a Christian, as much as I love having my faith shaped by other religious traditions. I’m a Christian because of the way Jesus illumines two theological gemstones called Liberation and Process theologies in ways that empower me to follow him.
Liberation Theology is defined as “a movement in Christian theology…that emphasizes liberation from social, political, and economic oppression as an anticipation of ultimate salvation.” It believes that because God’s world is sacred, we must co-create with God patterns of living in the material world that reflect the justice and peace inherent to the biblical concept of Shalom, or what MLK Jr. called “The Beloved Community.”
We often don’t consider that the Bible wasn’t written by the world’s winners, but by people who were trampled, pinched, and rolled over by those more powerful—people like those we see today not just in Ukraine, but in so many other nation-states, including ours. I love that to be Jewish means holding onto a sense of that identity in ways that Christians don’t generally understand—maybe because so many of us think that we can overlook 75% of our sacred text just because it was written before Jesus arrived on the scene.
Jewish identity is so important because the God they love and celebrate (the same God we Christians love and celebrate, btw) holds the pain of the world’s people tenaciously and tenderly without end—in order to free us from our fearful egos—lovingly responding to the sick ways we destroy each other on scales both large and small. “Liberating the Underdogs” is a hugely important part of the Jewish interpretation of Consciousness at work in the world, and it’s a theme that Christians inherited from a Jew named Jesus.
Process Theology is not so easily defined. But it emerged in the 20th century, much like Liberation Theology, in response to WWII and the sickening way the Church had inaccurately been portraying an incarnate God as a “fearful commander in chief…[who] tries to divert our attention away from the grit and grime of life OR to anesthetize us to massive suffering by helping us imagine some other more real world out there.” *
More honestly, Jesus reveals to us a God who sobbed for the people of Jerusalem…as One who sobbed in the garden before being arrested and led to Golgotha. More accurately, “God ’emptied himself,’ taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 7-8)
Process Theology says that while it may be comforting in the first half of life or times of grief to imagine that Someone has it all figured out as a Cosmic Parent, in truth, relationship changes parties on both sides—sometimes more on one side than another, but always changes both. Process Theology suggests that while God’s Presence is constant and never-failing, that God is in process and growing and evolving by being in relationship with US and the rest of creation, too. And the more we share our lives intentionally with God, the more God is enabled (yes, enabled!) to share God’s life of insight, creativity, and healing with US.
Can the world afford to get rid of religion? Hardly. But we do need to get rid of religion that doesn’t take seriously the idea that one person’s suffering isn’t also my own. Jesus went to the cross to pound that point deeply into our psyches.
*The Transforming God: An Interpretation of Suffering and Evil by Tyron L. Inbody, p. 177.