liberation theology

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liberation theology,

belief that the Christian Gospel demands "a preferential option for the poor," and that the church should be involved in the struggle for economic and political justice in the contemporary world—particularly in the Third World. Dating to the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and the Second Latin American Bishops Conference, held in Medellin, Colombia (1968), the movement brought poor people together in comunidades de base, or Christian-based communities, to study the Bible and to fight for social justice. Since the 1980s, many in the church hierarchy have criticized liberation theology and its advocates, accusing them of wrongly supporting violent revolution and Marxist class struggle, but its advocates have argued that its positions were in agreement with the church's social teachings about the poor.


See studies by P. Berryman (1987), A. Hennelly (1989), and J. R. Pottenger (1989).

Liberation Theology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.... There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostle's feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

These New Testament verses from the Bible, and many others like them, have inspired the study of what has formally been titled liberation theology. It is an understanding or Christian interpretation that insists that the purpose of the Gospel is to liberate the downtrodden and disenfranchised. In the past it was called the social Gospel, identified with liberalism and contrasted with a conservative theology stressing the need for individual salvation.

Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, was a Baptist, a tradition known for its emphasis on personal salvation. But in his published sermon, "An Experiment in Love," he argued that "It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love." He took his arguments to the streets where, armed with the weapon of liberation he had found in the words of the Bible, he guided the civil rights movement in mid-twentieth-century America.

What he said was not new. The whole genre of music once called the "Negro spiritual" was invented by African slaves who were forced to accept Christianity but were not allowed into white churches. Well-known songs such as "Jordan's Stormy Banks" and "Deep River" were testaments to the hope for freedom, even if that freedom came only at death. They were sung by black slaves out behind the barn while waiting for their white "masters" to finish the Sunday morning worship service inside the church.

But liberation theology, though long practiced by those who believed love had to have a social component, received its formal name in the 1960s after Vatican II (see Vatican Councils). Roman Catholic priests and nuns in Latin America began to very publicly side with the poor in their fight for social justice. Many of them paid the ultimate price for their struggles, murdered in places like Guatemala. Others were often criticized by Vatican conservatives such as Cardinal Ratzinger, who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He claimed liberation theology emphasized liberation from poverty rather than sin. His arguments were countered by those who claimed that the very poverty prompting the need for liberation theology was brought about by sins the Christian Church had committed in the sixteenth century.

In the Americas and Africa, in Europe and the Far East, liberation theology still inspires Christians of all denominations to fight entrenched political forces that prevent freedom for all. It is still accused of being thinly disguised communism, as evidenced by the words of the book of Acts cited above. These words, especially during the anti-Communist McCarthy era of 1950s America, were an embarrassment to many conservative preachers, who wondered whether the early disciples were really communists.

But it seems obvious that liberation theology, along with the many evolving theologies, or methods of biblical interpretation, opening up today (feminist theology, narrative theology, historical theology, and so on), is here to stay. In the words of the song that has become the theme song of liberation theology, "Deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday."

References in periodicals archive ?
16) Pieris discusses these two foundational realities of "Thirdworldliness" and "Asian" in Asian inter-religious liberation theologies in his essays "Toward an Asian Theology of Liberation," in Asian Theology of Liberation, 69-86, and "The Place of Non-Christian Religions and Cultures in the Evolution of Third World Theology," in Asian Theology of Liberation, 87-110.
One such example is that of Janet Pais, in Suffer the Child: A Theology of Liberation.
Present at the meeting with the editors of The Monthly Review was a Puerto Rican Catholic sister who felt my work was important, and she suggested that I meet with the editors of a new journal, Theology in the Americas, an American offshoot of the theology of liberation movements in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Regarding the concerns of this article, however, the most interesting reading of A Theology of Liberation is offered by Tom Moylan.
Communities of resistance and solidarity: A feminist theology of liberation.
Boff, a former priest who resigned after official censorship from the Vatican against his theological and ideological positions, is a key representative of the Theology of Liberation.
The journal proposes to be a contribution to the theology of liberation from the Nicaraguan perspective, and it is jointly published by the Seminario Teologico Bautista and the Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales.
Therefore, a critical feminist theology of liberation seeks to interrupt the patriarchal silencing of women and to make women visible as God's agents of grace and liberation.
A Palestinian visitor once inquired if we in Britain needed a theology of liberation.
The Theology of Liberation (TL) appeared in the social, historical, and cultural context of Latin America, with the aim of contributing to the life and thought of the worldwide Christian community.
In part this is an intellectual development--Gustavo Gutierrez's book A Theology of Liberation, which gave voice to the new Catholicism, will prove to be more important by far to the history of American religion than any document Silk cites.
In the Indian context of caste-based discrimination against the Dalit communities, Dalit theology emerged as a theology of liberation.