Radvent Day 26, Evening– Set Prisoners Free

They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid. Micah 4:4 NRSV

“[It] will be impossible to radically reimagine theology when some of ​our “freedom dreams” are the stuff of other people’s nightmares. We can’t possibly reimagine justice for the most vulnerable among us if we believe that God errs always on the side of those who are positioned within this nation state as having proximal access to power…”
Darnell Moore


Hidden in the violent throes and mysterious depths of scripture are invitations to imagine a story unlike the one it envelops you with. It invites you to consider a world unlike the one it depicts. It invites you to imagine a world where kings do not wage war against hope and devastate the very breath of creation. It invites you to imagine a story that is free from bondage; a story that does not need to dream of freedom, for freedom is the air we breathe. Scripture’s complicated relationship to humanity is due, in part, to humanity’s complicated relationship to itself. Scripture is thus, in part, the retelling of humanity’s story, infused with the Divine’s own telling of what might be possible instead. 

Humanity’s imprint on Scripture is the many ways in which the Divine is made out to justify humanity’s worst impulses and most sinister acts. The Divine’s imprint on Scripture are the many moments of dreaming, and imagination breaking forth and breaking free from humanity’s grips on the story. 
Much of Scripture is a story of warfare. A divine and profane battle for the truth. Whereas humanity seeks to justify its oppression of the poor and the other, principally through a diverse array of carceral practices and attempts to use the name of the Divine to approve of such evil, the Divine is in pursuit of the abolition of not just the lie humanity seeks to tell, but of the very evil it has made the law of the land. 

What humanity seeks, in its profound trauma, is to incarcerate. The Divine seeks to liberate. On Christmas Eve we get the foretelling of the liberation story. 

Since that very first Christmas Eve, in the liminal space right before the One said to be the light of the world broke forth with an infant’s cry, out of the most holy temple of the Divine Mother’s womb, the world has found itself on the precipice of two realities. 

Shrouded in darkness and giving birth in secret, in hiding from the militant forces of the carceral state, the most holy and radiant Mother Mary presses through labor pains pointing to two possible worlds, and the choice we have to make. The old world and the old story, one of suffering and oppression, militancy and violence, or the new world and the new story, one of “freedom dreams” and liberation songs, of mutual care and deep rest under abundant vines and fruit-filled fig trees.
As the Divine Mother labors through the night, she reminds us that much like it was her consent to the liberative movement of producing life with the Divine, it is our choice to make liberation reign.

Liberation, abolition, is a choice. It is not for lack of dreaming or imagination, but instead the lack of will and consent that prevents the setting of the captive free, the tearing down of prisons and the abolition of the carceral state, defunding of police departments and establishing in their stead, systems of care and safety that benefit the whole of creation.

Freedom from oppression. Freedom from violence. Freedom from need. Freedom from fear.

Abolition begins with daring to dream with a Liberating God, and then consenting, like Mary, to making it so. Abolition requires that we not just imagine a different world, but that we summon the will to make it so. 

May we be so bold. 

Michael Vazquez is an experienced public theologian, homiletician, and community organizer who has worked to advance justice and inclusion in religious spaces — affecting institutional policy change and changing the public narrative in support of the LGBTQ community and communities of color. He is the Religion and Faith Director for the Human Rights Campaign

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