Hope and Oppressing

Some (unedited) musings from my dissertation:

Those who are investing their identity within oppressor oriented models — models where competition and domination are considered positive rather than negative — tend to rationalize their behavior in the context of their wider philosophical and social milieus. By participating with the crucified one, however, such rationalizations are discarded, seen for what they are—forms of self-alienation in the guise of self-fulfillment. Participants in forms of non-infinite identity are, ultimately, anonymous — they are without identity because their attempt at identity is contradictory and transient. They lose themselves in the mass of other objects, all flailing to be unique in a morass of historically tired attempts to assert themselves as unique. They define themselves by what they do, how they compare, how they control – but ultimately they remain anonymous as they are not differentiated in their identity through their participation with the fullness of identity, loved and empowered as subjects in God’s particularizing mission.

They are nonhuman inasmuch as they are distant from the only source of substantive human identity—the God in whose image they were created. Oppression is the active negation of such an identity, self-imposed exile from Kingdom, participating as subjects in the crucifying rather than in being crucified. In other words, those who seek to establish identity through means of oppression are given the pronouncement, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” There is no hope where oppressing promises hope, there is only hell.

That is precisely why a liberation of the oppressor is important. The oppressed realize there is no hope. The oppressors often do not. And in their deception they perpetuate sinful structures and behaviors, leading them and other inexorably towards death and dissolution.

Only the way of the cross includes the path to resurrection, and only by participating with the crucified God do we then have a substantive hope for not only salvation from but indeed and more importantly, salvation into. This salvation into includes those ultimate goals for which oppressing tends to be concerned—issues of fulfillment, identity formation, security. Because the cross entails the loss of identity, the resurrection is about more than resuscitation of that old identity into becoming a more successful version of the same. Jesus does not valorize who we were but awakens us to new possibilities in accordance with who we were always meant to be. The resurrection is not futuram but an advent, a novum of new life, a new thing, a new way of living.

The cross opens a person up to be a new person, emptying and forsaking, while the resurrection is the promise of filling, of new life. That is why salvation is described so many times as indicative of this new life, a new way of being in this world, rather than merely debts being paid or acquitting judgments. A person is “born again,” given a new start in who they are, as particular individuals no longer enslaved to the determinative history which preceded, but rather interpreting that history as a path of redemption that leads into, first, death of self, then resurrection of new self.

As this path gathers together people from all backgrounds, the blameworthy and the blaming, it entails another basic human need, that of community, non-competitive, non-authoritarian community where identity is not derived either by establishing identity over and against others, but by sharing in the identity of Christ so that each person becomes substantively able to participate as a free person among others, celebrating diversity in an infinitely complex unity.

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