‘New Jubilee’ in the Gospel of Luke and the Citizenship Amendment Act

Posted: January 30, 2020 in General

CAA-770x433Jubilee is one of the most significant themes in the OT that envisions an ideal nationalistic kingdom for the people of Israel. Luke quotes Isa 61:1-2 in 4:18-19 as Jesus’ programmatic pronouncement of the Gospel. The Third Gospel as a whole orchestrates its ideological framework based on the Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus. But in Luke, Jubilee demonstrates a meaning beyond the traditional and nationalistic understanding of it. The Lukan narrator takes the message of Jubilee from the OT and reinterprets it for his new Sitz im Leben that comprises of the poor and the oppressed communities. In that sense, the Lukan understanding of the New Jubilee, as a gnomic and universalistic concept, can encompass the feelings and the aspirations of all people in everywhere and ever contexts. In today’s Indian scenario, the New Jubilee concept introduces a new paradigm that can transform the existent realities.

The Lukan concept of New Jubilee can be considered as a paradigm to the contemporary Indian context. Milgrom foregrounds Jubilee as a “rallying cry for today’s oppressed.” The Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19) stands out as a persuasive artistry that moves the entire discourse of the Gospel forward as a rhetoric. Jesus, as one who was endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and as an anointed one, proclaims the programmatic pronouncement with efficacy. As the statement rightly elaborates, his main concern was proclamation of good news to the poor. As the Lukan community was in an expectation of a transformative and liberative voice, Jesus’ utterance inaugurates a new paradigm that focuses on the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed communities of his time. Mija states that, “The poor belongs to the Kingdom now.” In that sense, the socially, religiously, and politically marginalized communities of the Indian society can take advantage of the New Jubilee message.

Lukan Jesus proclaims the message of release. In the Gospel, the God of solidarity and God’s way of solidarity through Christ are at the foreground. As God is in solidarity with the oppressed communities, the Lukan poor is at the focus of his mission. God expresses his solidarity through the means of healing, comforting, encouraging, empowering, and leading to liberation/salvation. The ‘poor’ in the Indian context is not merely an economic category, but also those who are spiritually, socially, and physically vulnerable. The ‘prisoners’ is a broader category as they are captives—ideologically, structurally, that can be political, religious, cultural, and social in nature (Luke 4:1-5; 7:36-50; 11:37-53; 20:20-26). The existent realities of the Indian context seeks a paradigmatic touch through the New Jubilee message. It can bring peace and harmony to transform the society.

The ‘blind’ constitute not only physically blind people but also those who are blind to the broken realities of others and the true values of life. The ‘oppressed’ refers to those who are subjugated by the dominant in particular contexts. In the contemporary Indian scenario, the poor, Dalits, Tribals, Adivasis, women, and children undergo various socio-political and religio-cultural stigmas on a continuous basis. As a gnomic/universalistic Gospel, Luke has the power and potential to engage with the contemporary realities of the Indian society. As Luke and the Lukan Jesus envision a New Jubilee in the theological focus, the Lukan message has the potential to establish an egalitarian community within the social, economic, religious, political, and cultural realities of our country. In that sense, the Nazareth Manifesto is embedded within the wider text with a potential to transform human cultures.

The Lukan framework does not treat Jubilee in the old perspective, but rather in a renewed and contextually pragmatic manner by looking at the core realities in the socio-political and religio-cultural contexts. The current Government of India does not emphasize the minority rights as they exist as proponents of a majoritarian propaganda. The Ghar Wapsi issues, holy cow ideology, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) are used to stabilize a majoritarian propaganda that curbs the freedom and security of the minority religious communities of the country. This is the context in which the New Jubilee ideology can bring forth a radical transformation.

The CAA/NPR/NRIC agenda violates some of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. While CAA excludes people based on their national and religious identities, New Jubilee is inclusive of all sorts of people irrespective of their citizenship or immigrant status. While the message of the New Jubilee embraces community formation and solidarity with the oppressed, the CAA scatters the community based on various national, ethnic, and religious factors. While CAA divides the community and puts the life of many into panic, the New Jubilee restores life and thus exists as a life-sustaining ideology. The message of New Jubilee fosters basic Human Rights to live and make life possible. While the CAA curbs the Human Rights of the Muslims, Christians, and other minority communities of the country, New Jubilee gives a new hope to the hopeless and the ostracized. Thus the New Jubilee ideology exists as a paradigm in the contemporary socio-political and religio-cultural situations of our country.

In India, a large number of farmers commit suicide as they lack Governmental support to manage their lands and yield profit. Displacement of the Adivasis and their misfortune to become landless in different parts of our country is yet another concern to be dealt with. Women are raped, nakedly paraded, and brutally murdered in different parts of our nation due to their distinct identity. It is also reported that child labour is rampant in today’s Indian context. Many live under the shadow of fear of death and spend their life in seclusion. It is in this context, the message of the New Jubilee can bring a positive change. Through the New Jubilee movement, the right to speech and freedom of life can be enhanced in the community living. The New Jubilee, as a “Freedom Movement,” proliferates freedom and deals with Human Rights issues. As the CAA targets the Muslims and the minorities of the nation, millions of the inhabitants live in jeopardy. The discriminatory acts of the Indian Government does not guarantee the rights, privileges, opportunities, and benefits of the citizens in the mode of righteousness and justice. Majority of the rules and laws are made to protect the majoritarian rights and subsequently to side-line the minorities, the refugees, and the migrants. This is the context in which the Lukan New Jubilee guarantees life and protects the Human Rights. As Jesus was envisioning a paradigmatic and egalitarian society in the First Century CE context, the same ideology can be implemented with a renewed thrust, rhetorical punch, and practical implication in order to redeem the divisive, accumulative, dehumanizing, and communal tendencies of the elites.

In recapitulation, the Lukan ideology of the New Jubilee can be considered as a gnomic or universalistic concept that brings forth multifarious initiatives in community building and social transformation. It is brainstormed as an ideology that takes into account everywhere and ever realities to show solidarity with the ostracized communities. As a message of hope to the poor, the captives, the oppressed, and the blind, it can be considered as an inclusive concept to transform human cultures. The Lukan Jesus takes side with the oppressed and begins his mission and ministry with a programmatic pronouncement in 4:18-19. On the one hand, the narrator takes insights from the Old Testament idea of Jubilee, but on the other hand, he goes above and beyond the Pentateuchal and Isaianic understanding of the concept for a wider efficacy. As the Old Testament concept is mostly a space-bound and time-bound idea in its execution, the Lukan idea crosses the traditional boundaries, creates a contextual and ideological constellation with the Old Testament, the Sitz-im-Leben Jesu, and the Sitz-im-Leben Kirche, builds a dialogical relationship with the Lukan poor, and leads the discourse toward a “third space.” This quality of the Lukan rhetoric unravels myriad possibilities for creating interpretative avenues for the Indian poor. As Luke takes the attention of the reader toward the subjugated sections of the society, an Indian reader can build her/his hermeneutical spectrum to encompass the feelings and the aspirations of the Indian masses. This quality of the Gospel of Luke demonstrates its esteemed rhetorical power.

As the Third Gospel as a whole builds a rhetorical strategy by way of absorbing the contemporary realities, the Nazareth Manifesto foregrounds the New Jubilee ideology to build the narrative texture of the Gospel. An Indian reader of the Gospel can witness a paradigmatic function of it as it curbs many of the existent realities of the country. A re-reading of the Gospel in the face of the mirror realities of our country takes into account the poor, the captives, the oppressed, and the blind sections of the society for liberation and transformation. The poor, the Dalits, the Tribals, the Adivasis, the women, the children, and all other subjugated sections can build hope and identify justice once when they adopt and implement the New Jubilee ideology. In a context in which the CAA/NPR/NRIC, the Ghar Wapsi, the holy cow ideology, and the anti-conversion issues are discussed, the New Jubilee ideology enables the people to have a new smile on their faces. In sum, the Lukan ideology of the New Jubilee can be considered as a paradigm for holistic development in the nation of India and elsewhere.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

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