EDITORIAL: Easter is a time to reflect on Jesus Christ’s message of revolutionary social justice


HARARE – For many Christians in the world, Easter is a special time to relive Jesus Christ’s life and ministry; his trials and tribulations; and his death and resurrection—the latter upon which the entire religion is premised. Christianity is one of the most popular religions in the world, and it is because of the triumphant story of Jesus’ death and resurrection that the faith has billions of followers all over the world. 

Editorial: Easter is a time to reflect on radical politics of Jesus Christ
Image: The Mint

While Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection provide sufficient basis for convincing billions to follow a path of salvation, the crux of his message during his controversial ministry—what he was ultimately murdered for—is often lost on many as it is not stressed enough when Easter festivities take place in different parts of the world. 

Now, we only write this piece because Christianity has many adherents in Zimbabwe. And in Zimbabwe, as it is all over the world, we shy away from preaching with candor the central message of Jesus’ ministry—revolutionary social justice. 

It is a historical truism that Jesus was a real historical figure who existed. And it is also a historical truism that Jesus was killed for political reasons. This political aspect of Jesus’ message has been deliberately uprooted from the churches today; and we find his name used for cheap populist political points from both left wing and right wing political elements. 

It is always necessary, and for the purposes of alleviating our dire material lived conditions, to bear in mind that what Jesus sought was upending the dominant political system of the oppressive Roman Empire in his day to bring liberty to the downtrodden masses. Our religious leaders and political leaders have impressed upon us the wrong notion of Jesus. But what the ministry of Jesus shows us is that he was a radical social activist who was killed fighting for justice and the common good of the people. 

Jesus preached a message of radical love that we ought to practise among ourselves with a counter-hegemonic vision towards creating an egalitarian society. To proclaim, “love your neighbour” in ancient Rome is a radical boldness still needed – sorely so – for our contemporary 21st century neoliberal global order. 

To bring the salience of this crucial point, it is imperative we look at the conditions that prevailed during the time of Jesus. At the time that he burst on to the scene, he was confronted by dictatorship on three fronts: “a monarchy in Galilee, an oligarchy in Jerusalem, and a dictatorship in Rome”. The Roman Empire was vastly powerful at the time; and Judea and Galilee were some of its many occupied provinces. 

This order was a brutal one in which society was heavily tilted in the favour of a privileged elite few; and absolute horror for the poor masses. Just as it still is today. It was a domination system marked by unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical power relations, and the use of violence to maintain them all. And this is still what we have today—a domination system where neocolonialism subjugates the majority of the planet’s inhabitants to a miserable existence. 

Jesus came calling for an end to a system that is rigged in the favour of an elite group of very wealthy and powerful families at the expense of the majority toiling peasants. When he proclaimed and spoke of the “kingdom of God” he was making an express political statement that espoused a new political vision—a reign of the God of love within human society. This new political project by Jesus Christ envisioned a new kingdom, replacing the obsolete Roman Empire and its oppression, where a new government that God desired for God’s people would reign supreme—where God would reign with love over his people. 

And this was a direct political affront to the Roman Empire. It was a direct threat to Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time. Rome did not tolerate any kind of opposition to its tyrannical rule. And its might was fully exhibited when it executed Jesus on the cross; humiliating him and killing his political project. The aspect of resurrection therefore should be construed as the revival of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed before his execution—the resurrection of a new political order where revolutionary social justice is the order of the day. And Easter is the perfect time to deeply reflect on this. 

The fundamental message of Easter transcends spiritual meanings of Jesus’ resurrections: it is a reminder of what resurrection meant to Caesar’s regime – and what it means to today’s oppressive regimes. For today’s regimes, resurrection means the return of the radical politics of communal love as the solution to our malaise. It is the revival of the kingdom of God, a kingdom where egalitarianism is our lived reality. For context, what would this kingdom look like? 

It will look like free food and water; free universal education; free healthcare; universal housing and transport; an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, tribalism, xenophobia, and ableism; an end to homelessness; and love for your enemies. Jesus never discriminated. He associated with sinners and the rejects of society. He said they were all welcome in this new kingdom of God. He welcomed women and children into this new kingdom. Jesus was a radical social activist whose incredibly inspiring message should be the very foundation of our lives today. 

Politicians will come and use Jesus Christ for their self-serving ends. But we know that Jesus Christ would never approve this. Jesus Christ would never approve anti-immigration laws. Jesus Christ would never approve dilapidated hospitals. Jesus Christ would never approve sexism. This is what we should introspect deeply on as the Easter holiday concludes. We should take our spiritual blinders off and resurrect the radical politics of Jesus Christ. 

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