Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

One of the central problems with both Enlightenment and Romantic interpretations of Jesus, was that they failed to explain why such an eminently appealing figure - this model of rational thought, this artistic genius - had been crucified. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the answer would lie in a new image - Jesus the Liberator. This vision of Jesus was bound to be rejected because he was the righteous champion of God's justice and boldly stood in opposition to those who oppressed any man, woman, or child of the earth. He had become Incarnate not to expound rational philosophy, nor to inspire the creative endeavors of artists, but to restore a just world order, to chase all the money changers from every temple, to free any individual trapped in bondage, to give humanity back its dignity. In the modern world, the vision of Christ as Liberator still resounds in the clarion call of the civil rights movement, "Let freedom ring."
Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

One of the central problems with both Enlightenment and Romantic interpretations of Jesus, was that they failed to explain why such an eminently appealing figure - this model of rational thought, this artistic genius - had been crucified. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the answer would lie in a new image - Jesus the Liberator. This vision of Jesus was bound to be rejected because he was the righteous champion of God's justice and boldly stood in opposition to those who oppressed any man, woman, or child of the earth. He had become Incarnate not to expound rational philosophy, nor to inspire the creative endeavors of artists, but to restore a just world order, to chase all the money changers from every temple, to free any individual trapped in bondage, to give humanity back its dignity. In the modern world, the vision of Christ as Liberator still resounds in the clarion call of the civil rights movement, "Let freedom ring."

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Expulsion of the Money Changers

Outraged by what he sees as the pollution of the temple by greed, Jesus expels the money changers and makes his "Father's house" open to all who believe, wealthy and poor alike.

Master of the Kress Epiphany (attrib.)
Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift of Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, 1988.
c. 1480 - 1500
Oil on canvas
Acc. no. 88/340. PMA:J99.1710
© Art Gallery of Ontario


John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine … was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.

Inscription on John Newton's Tombstone

On May 10, 1748, as his ship was tossed about on the angry waves of the sea, John Newton looked to the heavens and implored God for deliverance. The incident became a turning point in Newton's life and came to symbolize the hazardous waters that characterize the lives of many human beings. Newton's deliverance from the storm profoundly affected his life. Once a commander of a slave ship, Newton later renounced the practice and dedicated his later life to the abolitionist movement. In 1807, shortly before Newton's death, the English government formally ended the practice of slave trading. Newton's passage from darkness to light has been immortalized in the lines of his most famous hymn, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!"
John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine … was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.

Inscription on John Newton's Tombstone

On May 10, 1748, as his ship was tossed about on the angry waves of the sea, John Newton looked to the heavens and implored God for deliverance. The incident became a turning point in Newton's life and came to symbolize the hazardous waters that characterize the lives of many human beings. Newton's deliverance from the storm profoundly affected his life. Once a commander of a slave ship, Newton later renounced the practice and dedicated his later life to the abolitionist movement. In 1807, shortly before Newton's death, the English government formally ended the practice of slave trading. Newton's passage from darkness to light has been immortalized in the lines of his most famous hymn, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!"

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

John Newton

Newton influenced, through one of the most compelling of songs, "one of the turning events in the history of the world" - the abolition of slavery.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta

Engraving
PMA:J99.1828
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


I want to tell others what I feel so particularly keen about, namely what is called non-resistance, but what is essentially nothing other than the teaching of love undistorted by false interpretations…This law has been proclaimed by all the world's sages, Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Greek, and Roman. I think it has been expressed most clearly of all by Christ…

Tolstoy to Mohandas K. Gandhi, 7 September 1910

Shortly before his death in 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, wrote a letter to an admirer in South Africa. The letter asserted Tolstoy's belief in "the teaching of love," which Tolstoy found most completely embodied in the message of Christ. The recipient of the letter was Mohandas Gandhi, and the idea became reality in Gandhi's campaign of non-violence to oppose British rule in India. Inspired by the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, Gandhi used the most radical of tools - non-aggression - to stymie and ultimately overthrow the system of British colonial rule. By the time of Gandhi's martyrdom in 1948, the world had come to glimpse, if not appreciate, that revolutions based upon h Read More
I want to tell others what I feel so particularly keen about, namely what is called non-resistance, but what is essentially nothing other than the teaching of love undistorted by false interpretations…This law has been proclaimed by all the world's sages, Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Greek, and Roman. I think it has been expressed most clearly of all by Christ…

Tolstoy to Mohandas K. Gandhi, 7 September 1910

Shortly before his death in 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, wrote a letter to an admirer in South Africa. The letter asserted Tolstoy's belief in "the teaching of love," which Tolstoy found most completely embodied in the message of Christ. The recipient of the letter was Mohandas Gandhi, and the idea became reality in Gandhi's campaign of non-violence to oppose British rule in India. Inspired by the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, Gandhi used the most radical of tools - non-aggression - to stymie and ultimately overthrow the system of British colonial rule. By the time of Gandhi's martyrdom in 1948, the world had come to glimpse, if not appreciate, that revolutions based upon hope and non-violence, upon Christ's message of love and dignity, were difficult to repulse by the mechanisms of the State.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Gandhi Memorial

The inscription accompanying this work is drawn form the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Gandhi's was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom."

The Provincial Museum of Alberta
c. 1986
Sculpture
PMA:J99.1974
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Gandhi Behind Bars

When we fear God, then we shall fear no man, however high-placed he may be; and if you want to follow the vow of Truth, then fearlessness is absolutely necessary. Gandhi's Vow of Fearlessness

Courtesy of the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai

Photograph
© Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai


… one day the South will know that when the disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in fact standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage…

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Without Jesus and the Christian tradition, the civil rights movement - had it even occurred -would have been remarkably different. Indeed, the eminent civil rights activist, the Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), was inspired by a vision of radical obedience to Christ and discipleship. King found in Holy Scripture, especially the Sermon on the Mount, the supreme expression of love for one’s brothers and sisters - a love which transcended violence and hatred. It was only through this love, embodied in the practice of non-violent resistance, that the Children of God could be united. The price of King’s discipleship was high: he was assassinated in 1968. His vision of freedom and equality for African-Americans lives on in his thunderous invocation, as powerful tod Read More
… one day the South will know that when the disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in fact standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage…

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Without Jesus and the Christian tradition, the civil rights movement - had it even occurred -would have been remarkably different. Indeed, the eminent civil rights activist, the Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), was inspired by a vision of radical obedience to Christ and discipleship. King found in Holy Scripture, especially the Sermon on the Mount, the supreme expression of love for one’s brothers and sisters - a love which transcended violence and hatred. It was only through this love, embodied in the practice of non-violent resistance, that the Children of God could be united. The price of King’s discipleship was high: he was assassinated in 1968. His vision of freedom and equality for African-Americans lives on in his thunderous invocation, as powerful today as ever, to "Let Freedom Ring!"

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt

Like Moses before him, leading the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, Dr. King worked to liberate African-Americans from socio-political, psychological, and spiritual bondage.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta

Engraving
PMA:J99.1524
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Explain what is meant by “Jesus the Liberator” and, using examples, describe how the theology of Christ has influenced world leaders and events

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