Easter Sunday: Reflect on the hoodie that Christ wore

african kings

Easter is not only an opportunity to relive Christ’s resurrection, but also an opportunity to resurrect ourselves, and our thinking about the example Christ gives in our lives.

His suffering is representative of the suffering our young people endure today, and, in fact, so representative, that it is high time we see Him in them.

Even for non-Christians, I believe it is necessary to acknowledge the historical Jesus, and the fact that for at least 2,000 years, humankind has worshipped, studied, debated and warred over someone who hung out with the poor, the oppressed, the sick and uninsured, and the imprisoned.

Renowned theologian and mystic Howard Thurman made the case in his landmark, Jesus and The Disinherited, that Christ was in the 99 percent.

“The economic predicament with which he was identified in birth placed him initially with the great mass of men on the earth,” Thurman wrote, and “the masses of the people are poor.”

Thurman described Jesus “as a member of a minority group in the midst of a larger dominant and controlling group.” Rome occupied the Holy Land, as Herod sold out to oversee the subjugation of his fellow Israelites. Jesus’ “words were directed to the House of Israel, a minority within the Greco-Roman world, smarting under the loss of status, freedom, and autonomy.”

Galilee, where Christ lived, carpentered and ministered was a culturally diverse region where Jewish, Gentile and other “indigenous cultural traditions and social customs were cultivated basically at the popular level, which probably also meant considerable local variation,” according to Richard A. Horsely in Galilee: History, Politics, People.

And, as in all oppressed, colonized communities, the people spoke a language all their own. Aramaic was the vernacular, which, J. Stephen Lang writes in Everyday Biblical Literacy, was “looked down” upon by Hebrew-speaking Jews in Judea.

Galilee was often considered a ghetto, and her inhabitants considered inferior, uneducated and unclean, as disclosed when Philip told Nathanael of Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael famously replied: “Nazareth?! Can anything good come from there?!” (Jn 1:46)

Irrefutable historical evidence of socioeconomic and political oppression experienced in the community where Christ lived, carpentered and ministered laid the foundation for theologian James H. Cone’s groundbreaking, A Black Theology of Liberation, which not only defined and named the historical African-American prophetic Christian experience, but influenced the spirituality of the first African-American president–a spirituality which incited News Corp’s obsession with the president’s former Pastor, and Cone contemporary, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.