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Theology Matters Part 4: The God of the oppresed

In the Old Testament book of Daniel there is a familiar story. It is the story of three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. Most people who have attended church are familiar with the story. The Hebrew boys are a part of the group of Hebrews from Jerusalem who were taken from their homeland into bondage in Babylon.

Their beloved Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and they were stolen to become enslaved by those same Babylonians. While in bondage in Babylon they are presented with a deadly dilemma. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, orders that a statute of gold be erected in his honor. The King then orders that when the musicians play, all in the kingdom were to fall on their knees and worship the image of gold.

It is discovered that these three Hebrew boys refuse to fall down and worship the image of gold, thus they are brought before an angry King Nebuchadnezzar. The King threatens them that if they do not bow down and worship the image of gold the result will be they are to be thrown into a furnace of fire.

The boys respond with these words, “King Nebuchadnezzar, if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it and from your hand. But even if God does not deliver us, we still will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you set up.”

In this fourth installment of Theology Matters, the story of these Hebrew boys is instructive. Their refusal and resistance to bow down to the gold image reveals that the god of the slave owner is not the same as the God of the enslaved. “The God we serve, King Nebuchadnezzar.”

This story makes clear the god of the oppressor is not the same as the God of the oppressed, “Even if our God does not rescue us, we still will not serve your gods…”

This story in Daniel is a powerful lesson in the difference in theologies of those in positions of power and those who have been disempowered by those in power, “And we will not worship your image of gold.”

There are many in this nation who claim a Christian faith tradition but who in reality do not worship the same God of that Christian faith.

Please read Dr. Obery Hendricks’ latest book “Christians against Christianity.”

The orchestrators of this nation are the same people who decimated the native peoples of this land and relegated them to reservations; the same people who kidnapped Africans from their homeland, stuffed them into the putrid, stinking holes of slave ships then sold those same Africans as property on auction blocks to plantations to work for free.

The god of the slave owner is not the same as the God of the one enslaved because God of the ones enslaved is the God in Exodus who told Pharaoh, to “Let my people go.”

There are those right now in this nation who are aggressively spending billions of dollars to suppress the votes of those whose skin has been kissed by nature’s sun. They are the same people who seek to block cancelling onerous student loan debt so corporations that collect the debt can enrich themselves exorbitantly.

These are the same people who supported and still support a bankrupt, lying, hateful bully who became the 45th president! These are the same people who deny a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body and who enjoy single payer health care of the best medical treatment at taxpayers’ expense, while gutting and denying the Affordable Care Act and universal healthcare for the common people.

These are the same people who welcomed a representative elected to office based on a resumé of prevarications, mendacity and outright lies. These are the same people who claim to be “Christian Nationalist,” and who seek to destroy Medicaid, and Social Security but who can’t give enough money to corporations and their wealthy donors while working class people are denied a living wage.

These are the same people who elevate the flag over the cross, and who only offer “thoughts and prayers,” to families of the 201 mass shootings in this country already in this year, but who will not support banning citizens from owning assault rifles and high-capacity, military style weapons but who aggressively move to ban books that teach America’s painful truth. The god of the powerful is not the same as the God of those disinherited, disallowed and disfavored.

In fact, it is safe to say that everybody who attends church is not a follower of Jesus Christ when they either enact or support policies that would penalize even Jesus for feeding hungry people at no cost or who healed sick people without requiring they have health insurance.

The story of the Hebrew boys in the book of Daniel finally ends with the Hebrew boys being thrown into that blazing furnace because they refused to worship the god of their oppressors. However, in the story God stepped into that furnace with the boys so they were not burned by the fire nor did they have the smell of smoke on their clothes, all because the God of the Bible stands on the side of the powerless, the indigent, the poor, the disinherited and the oppressed.

That is the theme and theology that runs through the entire biblical narrative from the Exodus liberation story from bondage in Egypt, up through the earthly life of Jesus who quoted Isaiah when he said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, free the political prisoners, recover the sight of the blind, to release the oppressed and announce the Jubilee of debt forgiveness.”

The god of many of those in power in this nation who deny justice, equity, and protection of the poor, along with adequate financial resources to poor communities, these are they who in reality may attend a church but serve a small “g” god who is against the Lord of the Church. As Dr. Hendricks appropriately describes them, they are Christians who are against Christianity, which is why Theology Matters!!

Knowing The Truth - Part I
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson Sr.

Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.” Contact the church by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-944-0500.

Knowing The Truth - Part I
Rev. John E. Jackson

Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”

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