By Saswat Pattanayak
Perhaps the prevailing eurocentrism in the world makes more non-Christians celebrate this day with such fanfare, than they would observe an occasion from any other religious text. December 25 resonates in all, regardless of religious backgrounds, owing to our colonized subconsciousness. Amidst humanized samaritan renditions of a generous Santa rewarding submissive kids, most folks today set aside their intelligence while momentarily forgetting how Christianity has been the most gruesome and atrocious religion in the history of the world, single-handedly responsible for genocide of indigenous peoples all over the planet through its spread of terror and imperialism.
The only redeeming feature of this horrendously traumatic saga of lies and outright deceit is the possible salvaging of Jesus as a working class hero, albeit a nonviolent one. Like any other religious icon, Jesus too is imagined to be on the side of the oppressed and the dispossessed, on the side of truth and justice, on the side of the revolutionaries, the imprisoned and the conscientious, on the side of the internationalists, the communists and the labor organizers.
Malcolm X said, “they charged Jesus with sedition” because he went to the exploited and the downtrodden. Woody Guthrie said, Jesus was laid in his grave by the preachers, bankers, landlords, rich men and their soldiers. If every revolution needs a few myths to provide hope, every religious text provides to the believers some myths to cling unto. But for revolutions to succeed, humanization of icons is not adequate. It does not suffice to celebrate that alone which is dead, but also to embrace the best of what is living. What is needed is to recognize today’s revolutionaries as Jesus. Ideally, all religions should be declared extinct, as they historically have been tools for the ruling elites to exploit people of the world by dividing them up into various conflicting sub-groups. Unfortunately, majority of the world is still not ready to prioritize struggles for liberation from superstitions. As Lenin had said, “No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.” Until the time the working class is awakened to unite itself, we may find it empowering to wrest the gods from the tax-free temples and churches and mosques – and to find them in revolutionaries amidst ourselves instead.
And therefore, the trans woman Chelsea Manning who languishes in the jail past six Decembers for sharing powerful truths, is Jesus. Physically disabled GN Saibaba, the revolutionary from Delhi University who is suffering the brunt of a fascist Indian state for holding radical views, is Jesus. The Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera suffering from a sentence of 70 years in an American prison, charged with “seditious conspiracy”, is Jesus. Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal who remains the undying conscience of a world crying for freedom, is Jesus. Countless freedom fighters “hard-working and brave”, to quote Woody, across the globe resisting ruling class excesses and facing charges on behalf of us today, are all Jesus – today, and they are various other gods too, on other religious days. With due apologies to George Carlin, Gods don’t just need money to remain relevant; they also need great human beings, to survive their purpose.