HOME

 WRITE TO ME NEIL'S WEBSITE AJIT'S WEB SITE

 

chapter ten

The Emergence of  Dalit Theology  

Prof. Arvind P. Nirmal

Dalit Theology  theology began   in the late 70’s when Arvind P. Nirmal (1936–95), a Dalit Christian in the Church of North India , then a faculty member at the United Theological College , presented a paper on "Shudra Theology."  

Rev. K.C. Abraham,  . "Asian Theology Looking to 21st Century." Voices (1997): 81-98. says:

"Asian theologies are contextual theologies; they are also people's theologies. Being truly rooted in the Asian realties they are given different names such as: Theology of Struggle, Minjung Theology, Dalit Theology, and there are women's (Feminist) theologies, They reflect on the deeper yearnings of their religions and cultures, critically rejecting some and reaffirming others. In the past, the Asian churches, by an large, a product of western missions, were content with repeating, without reflection, the confessions of faith evolved by the Western churches. Creative theologies in Asia began to emerge in the 19th century when the churches started relating their faith to the questions and concerns peculiar to Asia . This theological encounter continues as the Church faces new problems and challenges. We have embarked on a new journey, breaking the tutelage of our erstwhile Western masters. A new stage in this journey has begun as we are on the threshold of 21st century. How do we articulate our agenda for the future?"

Rev. K. C. Abraham stated, “Freedom struggles are new paradigms for theologising the experience of the peoples of the third world.” This model is a different praxis from the traditional Christian mission methods. This practical theology is not discarding theoretical Christianity, but embodies actions, which help transformation. The ‘action-directed thoughts’ and ‘thoughts-directed actions’ provide the praxis. Freedom struggles directly challenge exploitation and give a new agenda for mission-oriented action and its reformulation. Here mission is in partnership and for strengthening the commitment of unity with others"

 Early proponent included  apart from A.P. Nirmal, James Massey, M.E. Prabhakar, M. Azariah, K. Wilson, V. Devasahayam and F.J. Balasundaram  

 
Prof. Dr. James Massey

Rev. Prof. Dr. James Massey currently is the Director of the Centre for Dalit/Subaltern Studies and Community Contextual Communication Centre, New Delhi and Hon. Secretary of the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (University), West Bengal . Privatdozent, the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main , Germany . He is also working actively for inter-faith dialogue in the Indian context with special interest in Sikh religion. For his work in Sikh religion he was awarded Doctor of Philosophy by Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt , Germany , and again Post-Doctoral Academic Degree (Habilitation) in the field of “Religious Studies” by the same University.

Dr. Massey is the translator of the Punjabi Bible and has authored and edited more than 20 books, which include: Masihiata: Ika Paricaya (Punjabi, 1976); Doctrine of the Ultimate Reality in Sikh Religion (1990); Towards Dalit Hermeneutics - Re-Reading the Text, the History and the Literature (1994); Dalits in India: Religion as a Source of bondage or Liberation with Special Reference to Christians (1995); Roots of Dalit History, Christianity, Theology and Spirituality (1996); The Movement of the Spirit (1996); Down Trodden: The Struggle of India’s Dalits for Identity, Solidarity and Liberation, (1997); Current Challenges and Church Response (1998); Dalits: Issues and Concerns (1998); and Minorities in Democracy: The Indian Experience (1999). His recent publications include Minorities and Religious Freedom in a Democracy (2003) and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: A Study in Just Society (2003)  

M. E. Prabhakar expanded on the Dalitness of Jesus, stating that "the God of the Dalits ... does not create others to do servile work, but does servile work Himself."  He also suggested that Jesus experienced human, and especially Dalit, brokenness in his crucifixion.  Prabhakar has developed a Dalit creed, which reads in part:

"Our cries for liberation from harsh caste-bondage
Were heard by God, who came to us in Jesus Christ
To live with us and save all people from their sins."

Bishop Vedanayagam Devasahayam (b. 1949) of the Church of South India followed Nirmal as head of Dalit theology at the Gurukul Lutheran Theological College , and further developed Nirmal's ideas, writing a number of books.  He himself is a dalit.

"We want the Indian church to declare its identity as the church of and for the Dalits, in order to work towards their liberation," said Devasahayam, according to WCC. " We also want the Indian church to encourage the expression of the Dalits' culture in church life, worship and theology."

The Rt. Rev. Dr. M. Azariah

(1934 -2012)

Former General Secretary, CSI Synod and Former Bishop in Madras

Hailing from the semi-literate Christian parents from Chengalpattu near Chennai he, had his college education in Madras Christian College and worked in Government Cooperative Department for a short spell before being invited to work as a the Welfare Officer in Church run Leprosy Hospital in Manamadurai. From there he joined the CSI and became the Bishop

He was the pioneer of Dalit Christian's struggle in India who took initiatives to motivate the global ecumenical movement to be concerned about the struggles of Dalit  Christians in India . He constantly  challenged the ecumenical movement in 1980s and 1990's and called the attention of WCC to express its solidarity and support to Dalit's  struggle, especially through the UN Human Rights bodies and its sub-commissions

 

Dalit theologians felt the need to consciously reflect upon the oppressive situation of Dalits in India .  This is in direct relation to the Black Theology of America.  In that I have quoted the following:

"Black theology deals primarily with the African-American community, to make Christianity real for blacks. It explains Christianity as a matter of liberation here and now, rather than in an afterlife.

"According to Black religion expert Jonathan Walton: “James Cone believed that the New Testament revealed Jesus as one who identified with those suffering under oppression, the socially marginalized and the cultural outcasts….”

"Black liberation theology contends that dominant cultures have corrupted Christianity, and the result is a mainstream faith-based empire that serves its own interests, not God’s….

"Liberation from a false god who privileges whites, and the realization of an alternative and true God who desires the empowerment of the oppressed through self-definition, self-affirmation, and self-determination is the core of black liberation theology."

Now replace "Black" with "Dalit" we have the new Dalit Theology.  It will then read:

"Dalit theologians felt the need to consciously reflect upon the oppressive situation of Dalits in India . "Thus, when Dalit theologians speak of Dalit theology," says James Massey:

"Dalit theology deals primarily with the Outcaste communities of India , to make Christianity real for them. It explains Christianity as a matter of liberation here and now, rather than in an afterlife.

"According to Dalit religion  "the New Testament revealed Jesus as one who identified with those suffering under oppression, the socially marginalized and the cultural outcasts….”

"Dalit liberation theology contends that dominant cultures have corrupted Christianity, and the result is a mainstream faith-based empire that serves its own interests, not God’s."

Evidently Dalit Theology is the reinterpretation of the Liberation Theology and Black Theology in the context of Indian society.  Hence Nirmal's assertion  that the development of the theology from themselves in itself is a liberation that it expresses a Dalit Christian voice is true.

Some Dalit theologians say Dalit theology can be done only by the Dalits who have experienced sufferings and who understand the pain of people.  Thus they tend to present it as exclusive and contradictory to the other contextual theologies of India . According to them . "This exclusivism is necessary because the chief tendency of all dominant traditions - cultural or theological - is to accommodate, include, assimilate, and finally conquer others. Counter -theologies or people’s theology therefore need to be on guard and need  to shut off the influences of the dominant theological traditions."

However these extreme exclusiveness of the right to Dalit interpretation to Dalits alone is not really a necessity or theologically acceptable proposition.  Such an attempt would imply that there are contradictory interpretation possible for the Gospel.  Is there a Capitalist Theology, Dalit Theology, Black Theology, White Theology etc which are contradictory to each other? 

The Emerging Dalit Theology: A Historical Appraisal by George Oommen points out:

Thus
"Balasundaram,  says, "Dalit theology is not and can’t be exclusive. A theology that is exclusive can’t be Christian. Dalit theology is pursued for others’ liberation also."

 K. Wilson expresses it is as follows: " Christian Dalit theology does not forbid Christian Dalits from working with non-Dalit authentic Christians, the renascent Hindus, the reformed Muslims and humanistic forces from various other faiths and ideologies, on a common human platform and thus hasten the process of establishing a human and humane culture which is why the Word became flesh.

Philosophy as a persuit and analysis of truth takes its tools and data from anywhere. Just as Marx took the Christian socialist concepts and developed Marxism, Theologians can use both secular and religious ideas of other religions to explore and develop contextual theologies. We still use dialectical analysis of Marx and other Marxian tools.  This is why we see the influence of Ambedkar's (who is an Atheist) influence in Dalit theology. So also we see the influence others like Gandhi,  and other theologies like the liberation theology from Latin America ,  and even Black Theology. There is no harm in these.  I remember when I visited the Kozhencheri Bridge as soon as it was finished.  Someone asked, "I wonder the engineer who built this bridged believed in God."  Is that relevant?

Dalit Hermeneutics for Liberative and Praxis Oriented Exegesis

The essential missiological principle is this:

God wanted to communicate with the sinful man in order to redeem mankind.  As a result God took the form of Man.   This is the Incarnation.  But when he wanted to incarnate God had a problem. Mankind was distributed all over the world and had developed many different cultures and languages.  So he had to choose one culture and one language to incarnate and embed the Gospel in that.  The choice was made and that was the Hebrew Culture and the language then was the Aramaic language.  Again He had to choose what tribe and level he was to come into.  Again He chose, Judah in the lineage of David instead of the levitical or any other caste.  So Jesus was indeed born as a King by right, but in the family of a Carpenter.  There Jesus embeded his teachings and entrusted it with his disciples.  After resurrection he met his disciples 

(Mar 16:15-20)

 

 

The commandment was to reinterpret and embed the Gospel into all the cultures of the world in the language and symbols they understand.

The message is the same- the gospel.  But inorder that each culture may understand it, it needs to be reincarnated in symbols and forms and expressions.  This process does not end here.  Culture is composed many subcultures such as the caste.  It needs to be interpreted in terms of each caste and class, and then again in terms of each person.  Thus it is an going process whereby, Christ is born in every heart.  Each person understands and experience Jesus in their own personal way, in their own unique situation.  There is a movement from sinful alien person to God's people.  There is movement from "no people" to "God''s people"  This goes to all levels until all creation is redeemed.

In this sense God incarnates in every person, every caste, every tribe, every culture in their own unique way.  When we are talking about Dalit theology therefore we are talking simply about the expressing Gospel in terms of the experience of these broken people to bind them and join them into the household of God.

The following is the lesson in Missiology I have taught in the Sudan Theological College  taken from my book on  "Cultural Anthropology for Missions"
http://www.oration.com/~mm9n/articles/Missions/index.htm

Cultural Anthropology for Missions

"And Jesus said to them: go ye into all the world and proclaim the gospel...''

Mark 16:15

This is what We usually call the GREAT COMMISSION.

It has two parts:

1. Go into all the world.

This implies that the missionary has to go personally. A personal presence is required for the transmission of the gospel. It is not just a message which can be transmitted by words alone; it needs a person as whole. The world in the original implies tribe.

2. Preach the gospel. This implies the communication whose content is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thus by the great commission. Jesus has commissioned us to go and preach the gospel personally to all the tribes. Each tribe has its own culture. lf we want to communicate the good news effectively we need to understand these cultures.

"As the father has sent me, even so I send you" John 20:21

God the father sent his son Jesus Christ as the good news. He could not have made it known in any other way. Jesus himself entered the world and revealed the good news. Thus the INCARNATION was the first cross cultural evangelism.

Since Earthians had more than one culture God prepared a particular nation, prepared them to receive the Word and then sent his Son into it. This nation happens to be the Jewish nation.

Thus Jesus entered the Jewish culture, identified himself with the Jews, lived their life and delivered the good news to them which was he himself. There fore the gospel is revealed and embedded in the matrix of the Hebrew culture. But the gospel itself is supra-cultural. It is important for us to distinguish between the cultural aspects of the message from the message itself. Failure to do this has been the cause of much discord in the church right from the inception. Early in the life of the church Paul had to fight the Judaisers who insisted on gentiles to follow the Jewish cultural practices in order to be Christians.

Disciples were sent to all over the worlds . They did not preach Judaism. They preached the gospel and embedded them into the culture of the tribes wherever they vent. We have different churches all over the world with different forms of worship, rituals, ceremonies, dressing ups, clergy structures, architectural styles etc. But the content is the same the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We do not have the details of their methods, except for one culture. This is given in great detail in the book of the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters of the early fathers. Thus the first four books of the New Testament may be considered as the embedding of the good news in the Jewish culture while the remaining books tells us of the embedding of the gospel in the Greco-Roman culture. The central figure in this process has been Paul or Saul of Tarsus. He was eminently suited for the job because:

*   He was a Jew, well versed in the Hebrew traditions and scriptures;
*   He was a scholar in Greek and Roman philosophies and culture;

*   He was a citizen of the Roman Empire by birth - a very rare privilege.

 

So our model for cross-cultural evangelism is first

* Jesus then

* the Apostles especially Paul.

 Especially Paul only because we have a complete picture of his methodology in the Holy Bible.

 

Look at what Paul  says in 1 cor 9:19-23

''For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order that I might win the Jews; to those under the law I bcame as one under the law – though not being under the law – that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law ……… that I might win those out side the law. To the weak, 1 became weak, that I might win the weak. 1 have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”

Based on these biblical principles, the great commission to us is to go into every tribe in the Sudan and preach the gospel.

What Jesus did in bringing the good news to the Hebrews, and what Paul and the other Apostles did in embedding the good news from the Hebrew to the Greco-Roman culture, it is your duty to do in the cultures of the Sudan ."  Put Dalits instead of Sudan we have the principle laid out.

In this model Dalit Theology is the embedding of the Gospel into the cultures of the Dalits of India in the symbols and languages of the involved people.  Who is more suitable for this job other than those Dalits who had the privilege of receiving the Gospel first and have internalized from knowing the cultures from which the gospel is translated.  As Paul was both Jew and a Roman, the translator should be both dalit and comfortable with other Christian Theologies of Apostolic Churches.  If a non-Dalit wants to go into Dalit Mission he/she should first be able to internalize the Dalit culture in its particular form (since Dalit does not really define a unique culture)

The Dalit theologians use the word "contextualisation" for this translation process.  Give the message in the language they understand.  Use the symbols they know instead of using foreign symbols.  The reasons for the dalit mass movement to christianity is, because of the missionaries effort to contextualize the good news.  What are the hindrances to the missions?

Ethnocentrism 

The act of considering our own culture as superior to those of the host culture is known as Ethnocentrism .  Ethnocentrism is the practice of interpreting and evaluating behavior and objects by reference to the standards of one's own culture rather than those by reference to the standards of the culture it belongs.  (from Himes) On the other hand

Cultural Relativism 

Cultural Relativism  is the practice of interpreting and evaluating behavior and objects by reference to the norm and value standards of the culture to which it belongs.

A missionary should make conscious effort to detach oneself from the old culture. In order to do this, one must realize that all cultures are relative and that in no sense one's own culture is any more “right” than the new one. Accept them as different but not better or worse. (Wagner)  

Most of the failures arise out of our ethnocentric tendencies. A study of the cultural anthropology will help the missionary towards this realization.

The missionary is encouraged to be fully immersed in the new culture right from the first day of his exposure. He should preferably live with the local people, travel like them, eat their food and worship with them. To avoid severe culture shock a certain amount of language learning prior to the entry will be helpful along with a study of their culture and anthropology.

Biculturalism

We believe that the absolute truths and God's standards are embedded in the Bible. The missionaries' function is to express these in the new culture - in their language and life style.

Christianity is the way of living, based on the eternal principles of God. For these principles can be lived out in a particular culture and context is determined by the culture itself. This is the cross cultural principle of Marvin Mayer based on the biblical absolutism and cultural relativism. So when we assess a cultural tradition we should assess it against the absolutes. As long as they do not violate biblical absolutes they do not need correction. Here one may differentiate between absolutes taught in the Bible and the cultural behavior and regulations connected with the Hebrews, Romans and the Greek. These practices within the culture arose to meet a particular need or needs. So it is advisable in most cases to retain the practice of the culture with little or no change. If it directly conflicts with the absolute principles. They will need replacement, which should be accomplished through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

What are the Biblical Absolutes?

Absolutes are supracultural that have eternal validity.  It is not based on any particular cultural context but can be universally applied. These principles are universally valid not only on the earth but also in heaven.

Two such absolutes can be identified immediately:

  • The Lordship of Jesus. Christ is the center of the cosmos for all ages, now and in ages to come. Anything: that takes away our focus from Jesus is idolatry.  Jesus is the Redeemer and Recreator of Cosmos.
  • Love of man, based on the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. Anything that brings pain or suffering to God or man is evil. Anything that brings joy and happiness to both man and God is good.

 

To this I add a third absolute;  the concept that the whole creation - seen and unseen - form the body of God. This is why the total redemption of Cosmos becomes the final purpose of the Gospel.  As long as every organ functions as expected in consonance with the whole person of God, there is joy and peace.  Any discordant organ becoming a cancer cell brings in pain not only to the organ but also to every other part of the body of God and causes pain and suffering to God. Since this will need explanation in detail I refer the reader to my book

Cosmos - The Body of God

http://www.oration.com/~mm9n/articles/cosmos/index.htm

You may define the absolutes in some other ways. But the basic crux of the situation will boil down to the above. Further extending the concept of absolutes we may restrict ourselves to the context of earth and man and develop further sub-absolutes that have partial validity.

This is where I have problems with the liberation theology, the black theology and the Dalit theology where some tend to identify jesus as their own to the total exclusiveness of  others. Statements like "Jesus is black", "Jesus is Dalit" etc are expressions of ethnocentrism and excludes Jesus from being God of others.  The fact remains that Jesus was neither Black nor Dalit.  It so happens that Jesus was of the Kingly Tribe of Judah and was indeed a Jew.   The message and purpose of incarnation extends to all creation in part and in wholes. The purpose of the incarnation is the redemption of the total creation.  Since each part is given a certain amount of freedom of will, this process of redemption and recreation is a process of love in action.  After all every part belong to God.  Each culture, each caste and each person will have to be brought in consonance with the will of God under the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Essentially the Liberaion Theology differs from the Traditional Theology in the scope of the liberation - whether this liberation promised by YHVH and Jesus are within the period of this mundane life or beyond this life in the world to come.  With the on going failure of the Christian Commune experiments through the Christian Era, the ChristianChurches seems to have relegated the dream of the Kingdom of God to the Age to come.  To the Dalits who go through the persecution and suffering this Pie in the Sky seems a poor redemption.  It is true that sin creeped in again and again destroying the body of Christ.  But the solution is not in postponing and condoning injustice.  The solution offered by Jesus does it lie in the next world only in the past or also in this world the present?

It is here Old Testament Biblical narratives and Jewish tradition come in.

Liberation in Theology

The essential point of all liberation theologies lies in the statements:

God is the father of all humanity.

God shows no partiality.
Inequalities and oppressions of one group over other are the result of the sinfulness of man.

God is involved in history in correcting and redeeming mankind.
The Bible including both the Old and the New Testament is essentially a short summary story of God's involvement in History

The Ultimate expression of God's solution is found in the life and teachings of Jesus who is the incarnation of God in history for that very purpose.

 

The whole redemption story starts with the direct involvement of YHVH in the life of the Hebrews in Egypt .  When Jacob went to Egypt and soon they became slaves to Pharoah.  The Egyptian caste system was not very much different from that of the Indian system.  The foreign shepherd people - the abomination of the Egyptians - became ipso-facto became the outcastes of that society.  It so happenned that one of them had the privilege of education right within the home of the Pharoah.  That eventually changed the destiny of the people.  That is the Biblical story of Exodus. 

"A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there. . . . And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand." [Deut. 26:5 ff.].

Nirmal  sees this as the parallel to the Dalits where a people who were  "no people"  were called out and made "God’s people."

However there is more to it than just freedom from slavery.  Every liberation has within it an on going redemptive process for ultimate recreation of the cosmos.  There is thus at least three dimensions to the liberation.

 "First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice.

Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those thingsthat limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity”.

Third, Liberation Theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin,a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people"

 

When God called Moses at the burning bush God told Moses: "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians" (Exod. 3:7-8).

Many theologians seem to think that this was only to fulfill his promises to Abraham, to reveal his will and to call out a special people. Certainly God acted to call a special people so that through them he could reveal his will and bring salvation to all. But his will included the fact that his people should follow him and side with the poor and oppressed. The fact that Yahweh did not liberate all poor Egyptians at the Exodus does not mean that he was not concerned for the poor everywhere.  In fact the rest of the Biblical story indicates the whole plan of salvation through the Jews as special servants in the process.   

"In order to gather together scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred, and his father's house, and renames him Abraham, that is,'the father of a multitude of nations.' 'In you all nations of the earth shall be blessed.'

The people descended from Abraham would be the trustees of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church. They would be the root onto which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe."

At the Exodus, God acted to demonstrate that he is opposed to oppression. We distort the biblical interpretation of that momentous event unless we see that at this pivotal point, the Lord of the universe was at work correcting oppression and liberating the poor."( An Evangelical Theology of Liberation by Ronald J. Sider, Christian Century, March 19, 1980)  But then Amos reminds them that Israel is only one of those whom God cares: “Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel ?” (Amos 9:7)

My brother M.M.Cherian used to point out that the first Trade Union was organized by YHVH and it was led by Moses. 

Moses led them out and established a people's democracy with twelve tribes under the Ten Commadments without a King. “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt .” (Exodus 22:21)

“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbour.” (Leviticus 19:15)

 The experiment failed eventually when Israel opted for a King instead of God.

All though the history of Israel in the Bible the prophets reminds the nation of the importance of justice to the poor.  Among them was Amos the champion of the poor who decried the rich and the oppressors.

'For I know how manifold are your transgressions, and how mighty are your sins; ye that afflict the just, that take a ransom, and that turn aside the needy in the gate.' (Amos 5:12)

You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them.  

When God saw the cruel gaps between "the haves" and the "have nots" , the way the poor were treated, the idolatry and the shallowness of their worship services, God became very angry. God said:

"I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals.
I reject your sacrifices
Let me hear no more of your chanting
But rather let justice flow like water
And integrity like an unfailing stream." Amos
5:21

The words of Amos were adapted by Martin Luther King, Jr., whose famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. in August 1963 brought a new meaning to the words of Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

When Jesus was about to enter into his ministry he used the Isaih declaration as his Manifesto.

 

Luke 4:17-21:

“And He came to Nazareth , where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written,

 

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;

He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To preach deliverance to the captives,

and recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty them that are oppressed (bruised),

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’

 

And He closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And He began to say unto them,

‘This day is this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.’”  

 

 

 

And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years;
and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.
Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month;
on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year,
and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants.
 It shall be a Jubilee for you;
and each of you shall return to his possession,
and each of you shall return to his family.
That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you;
in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord,
nor gather the grapes of your untended vine.
For it is the Jubilee;
 it shall be holy to you;
 you shall eat its produce from the field. Lev 25:8-12

In the Jubilee, there is:
REST for the land,
RESTORATION of lost state,
RELEASE from captivity and prison,
REMISSION,
REFRESHING,
RECONCILIATION
RETURN and
REUNION .

Sins are forgiven and every one in the community is given another start.
This is exactly what the Dalits wants today.
This is just a foretaste of the ultimate redemption of the cosmos as a whole.
But this starts here and now.  It appears that when the initial commune experiments under the power of the Holy Spirit failed due to sinfulness of one or more persons within the community, the hermeneutics of the verse was changed.  These words were reinterpreted as liberation after death.  Everything was spiritualized.  It appears we have grossly misunderstood Jesus.  In that process we have reintroduced caste system and slavery.   We missed the reality that life goes on and death is only a interim period until even death will be conquerred.  Just as the Israelites refused to proclaim liberty, the church refused to proclaim the liberty here and now and postponed it to the life to come.  God may have to restart all over again.

Early Christian leaders such as Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom  called for good treatment for slaves and condemned slavery, while others supported it in an attempt to live within the given context without disruption of the social system suddenly. However within the earlyChristian Churches in Rome , they gave slaves an equal place within the religion, allowing them to participate in the liturgy. After all Christianity was then the religion of the Slaves.  They often worshipped underground in caves.  According to tradition, Pope Clement I (term c. 92–99), Pope Pius I (158–167) and Pope Callixtus I (c. 217–222) were former slaves. (See Catholic Encyclopaedia)  So we see two distinct approaches to the problem of caste within the early Christian Period.  One group condemned it and wanter equality at least in treatment and within the Church.  Others condoned the slavery for the sake of stability of the existing society.  But both groups demanded equality within the Church which was not always easy.  James points this out clearly:

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

(Jas 2:2-4)