The Poison of Oppression

March 25, 2008, 9:00 am; posted by
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“I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
–Luke 19:40

I read a commentary on this verse that interprets it to mean that, had the oppressed people in question been silenced, they would have picked up stones and rocks to voice their rage and displeasure. Anyone who watches CNN knows that this is still the preferred way to confront political oppression among the powerless inhabitants of Palestine. But even if this was Christ’s meaning, the manner of his life and death serves as swift assurance that he uttered it not as a veiled threat, but simply as a commentary on the desperation of the oppressed.

I remember an episode of Remington Steele, where Pierce Brosnan’s character was describing his early life as an urchin on the streets of London. He was homeless and hungry one Christmas Eve when he came upon a street-level window; there he watched a family, gathered around the tree, celebrating together. He described it beautifully, and then was asked how he responded to the scene. Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “I threw a brick through the window and ran away.”

When I watched that scene as a young adult, it was the first time that my previous life as a juvenile delinquent made any sense to me. I was part of an angry pack of youths — we stole from anyone we could, burglarized many businesses, and perpetrated all manner of indiscriminate acts of vandalism on the streets of my hometown. Although I never could have articulated it at the time, we felt oppressed. We hated anyone with nice clothes, or nice houses, or money. And we fought back with the only weapon we had: our rage.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 17, but the years before are still stored in my memory, along with the dregs of feeling oppressed and powerless.

So when Barack Obama\’s pastor — as a black man — rails at the hostility and oppression that he perceives to be inherent in white culture, it neither confounds nor distresses me. I understand it.

When he speaks those things as a man of God, however, it deeply grieves me. It is one thing to drink from the chalice of bitterness, but another thing entirely to stand at the altar in the house of God, and offer it as a vessel, fit for the communion of God\’s holy saints.


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