by Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. (Matthew 28:6)
Easter Sunday is all about liberation. Liberation from death and the limitations of this world. Christ’s resurrection on the cross reflects the greatest triumph of Christian belief and tradition; death has not prevailed, for life has overcome. He has risen!
History is wrought with stories of contemporary struggles for liberation around the globe—from the black toil for freedom and autonomy in the United States; to Jewish realities of genocide and grotesque global anti-Semitism; to the present-day struggles between Palestinians seeking to“shake off” the physical bonds of occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza; and many other examples of people groups seeking liberation and freedom.
Recently, I had the privilege of co-editing a volume of several writers of color called Evangelical Theologies of Liberation and Justice. In the book, I write about liberation for the sake of others. My chapter focuses on the history of African American liberation in the United States, our current prison system, and also on the struggles for liberation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). I make the argument that the occupation of the Palestinian people must not only end for their own sake, but also for the state of Israel to not continually be in a position of exercising power and authority in oppressive ways upon their Palestinian neighbors. Political leadership in both Israel and Palestine share culpability for the current political realities, but liberation and justice for Palestinians is a necessary reality for their own futures, and for the future liberation of Israelis as well. This is not a false equivalency, as the Government of Israel (GOI) carries much more power politically, financially, and militarily than the Palestinian Authority. The fact remains that both the GOI and the PA have contributed to the ongoing cycle of occupation, military control, and cycles of violence.
Two prophetic black Christian voices for freedom, Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr., teach us much about this quest for liberation. Here is an excerpt of the forthcoming volume:
While never ignoring the quest for material freedom, Thurman places emphasis on existential freedom and the internal peace of one’s soul when the reality of being known, called, and loved by God becomes clear. King, on the other hand, asserts that social and existential freedom are inseparable ideals that cannot be sought or experienced apart from the other. For King, freedom exists as an absolute, or not at all. Both Thurman’s emphasis on the centeredness that comes from being known and King’s relentless reminder that freedom cannot be objectified are necessary in divulging a holistic theology of liberation.
The good news of the gospel of Christ reveals a theology of liberation that constitutes both spiritual provision and material deliverance. When absolute freedom comes and liberation is realized, peace (shalom) is achieved both transcendentally in one’s spirit and palpably on the earth through social justice and the reconciliation of individuals and communities. However, in the interim of waiting for such material liberation, the freedom of one’s soul that comes from faith in Christ sustains, uplifts, and motivates in continual pursuit of justice while waiting in hope and expectation for deliverance to come.
May we consider the powerful message of liberation that is celebrated this Easter morning! Join us in our Persistent Hope that one-day peace will come and justice will prevail.
Lord of liberation and freedom,
As this history provides hope and inspiration for thousands of individuals and communities living under oppression, we cry out to you and ask for our own liberation and the freedom of those being held captive by oppressive systems in the Middle East today. We call for an end to the occupation of the Palestinians and a future peace that manifests justice, human rights, and equality for all people in the Middle East. Thank you for the Good News of this Easter morning and the reminder that one day we will all be free.
In Christ, Amen.