The Baptist Center for Ethics today announced release of a 13-minute DVD, “The Nazareth Manifesto,” exploring Luke 4:18-19, the Bible passage that sets the theme for the New Baptist Covenant celebration scheduled Jan. 30-Feb 1 in Atlanta.

Made possible by a gift from the Baugh Foundation in memory of John and Eula Mae Baugh, the film offers an antidote to interpretations that water down or spiritualize Jesus’ first public statement at the start of his ministry.

According to the Bible, Jesus entered in his hometown synagogue and read from a scroll of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“The Greek word behind the poor here in Luke 4:18 is the word ptochos, which means, without any kind of explanation, destitute,” Darrell Gwaltney, dean of the School of Religion at Belmont University, explains in the DVD. “To be destitute means, in its truest sense, a loss of choice.”

William Buchanan, pastor of Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., says taking the word poor and spiritualizing it “somehow or another it exonerates us from our responsibility toward the dignity of all humanity.”

“Jesus says good news to the poor,” Buchanan says. “It’s good because it’s a radical departure from the norm. Jesus came declaring a message of equity and justice. Now that’s radical. And that’s news because we had never heard that before. And so as Baptists we must take the same radical message to the world. I don’t know how we can be followers of Jesus Christ, whose mandate was good news to the poor and not also proclaim the same message.”

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of National Ministries at American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., discusses what Jesus meant by the phrase “release to the captives.”

“Part of the challenge of what it means to be Baptist in our society is to reclaim the holistic understanding of what it means to proclaim release to all captives,” he says. “We become so privatized and personalized in our society right now that we believe Jesus only provides release from psychological captivity, but I believe that Jesus calls the church to align itself with those who are in all forms of captivity.”

Brent McDougal, coordinator of Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said that gets some contemporary Baptists nervous.

“Sometimes I believe we really don’t want people to be free, because then we can’t control them, then we can’t have them to serve our purposes and the things that we want,” McDougal says. “But if we really live into the vision that Jesus has for us in Luke 4, then we’re going to celebrate liberty for the captive.”

Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, assistant professor in the School of Religion at Belmont University, interprets the term “acceptable year of the Lord” in connection with Jubilee, and Old Testament concept involving forgiveness of debt and freeing of slaves once every 50 years.

“I think that whole concept is connected to the idea of Sabbath, where God says remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy,” she says. “And so what you have with the concept of Jubilee is the expansion of the Sabbath. Not only was there to be a day of rest, but you have with Jubilee a year of rest, a year where the land would rest, a year where the people would rest, a year where there would be no wars, a year in which all persons who were enslaved would be set free.”

Interviewees look forward to studying the text together from various ethnic and cultural perspectives when various Baptist groups from across North America gather together next year in Atlanta.

“I’m real tired of apologizing for being a Baptist, and I’m looking forward to being able to say, ‘This is what an authentic Baptist looks like,'” says Bill Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga.

“I spend too much of my time saying ‘I’m not that kind of Baptist, I’m this kind of Baptist,” Wilson said. “Well, I’m ready to stand up with my brothers and sisters with enthusiasm and with a sense of pride and say, ‘This is what it means to be a Baptist.'”

Extras on the DVD include a segment on the “prosperity gospel” and readings of Luke 4 in both the King James and Cotton Patch versions.

“In ‘The Nazareth Manifesto,’ we break down Luke 4:18-19 and give our interviewees room to engage both text and context,” said Cliff Vaughn, culture editor of, who co-produced the DVD along with BCE Executive Director Robert Parham. “They don’t disappoint.”

The DVD costs $12 and is available for order at the BCE Web site.

“We believe the video can help ignite discussions about Jesus words and actions in this pivotal moment of his ministry,” Vaughn said.

Other Luke 4 resources offered by BCE include a free, on-line Bible study, The Agenda: 8 Lessons from Luke 4. The resource includes a student’s and leader’s Guide authored by prominent North American Baptists, and a Bible study commentary authored by the faculty of the School of Religion at Belmont University.

Worship resources include a hymn, “Day of Jubilee” by Ronald Poythress, a litany, sample sermons and a Communion meditation.

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