liberation theology

(redirected from liberation theologian)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to liberation theologian: liberation theology

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 ?
Although Laudato Si' does not quote liberation theologians, the structure, content, and some precise affirmations allow us to see the encyclical in the tradition of liberation theology by highlighting the strong link between care for creation and care for the poor and its various consequences.
Liberation theologians also understood the salvation won by Jesus not as a narrow notion of spiritual afterlife, but as an "integral salvation" freeing all spheres of human life--including the material and social--from the chains of personal as well as "social" and "structural" sin.
If one's purpose is liberation and one believes this is G*d's purpose as well, then the liberation theologian claims only the liberatory scriptures as revelatory.
(24) His sphere of influence is basically Central American, but within Central America, he is a significant liberation theologian who strives to hold a local congregation together, a congregation that includes a number of members who were openly hostile to the Sandinista experiment and to LT.
De La Torre makes it clear early on that he understands himself to be a Christian liberation theologian, and these three chapters are an effort to present his understanding of liberation theology.
Pentecostalism and the Future of the Christian Churches, by American liberation theologian Richard Shaull and Brazilian sociologist Waldo Cesar, shows that despite the waning influence of liberation theology in recent years, Latin American Christians continue to offer the rest of the church lessons of critical importance, though perhaps not those we would expect.
Ateek is a Palestinian liberation theologian who founded the Sabeel Peace Centre in Jerusalem.
"There is a certain marketing of the Word of God," says Pablo Richard, a liberation theologian based in Costa Rica.
As Bishop Samuel Ruiz, liberation theologian and champion of Chiapas' indigenous peoples, faced mandatory retirement at age 75, many feared what would come next.
In Gustavo Gutierrez's An Introduction to Liberation Theology, Brown utilizes the theological-biographical approach to accomplish two purposes: to introduce one liberation theologian in particular, Gustavo Gutierrez, and to introduce liberation theology in general.
Finally, it is important to mention that to group women simply with the poor is not enough, because, as Elina Vuola rightly points out, "while a male liberation theologian opts for someone different from himself, a female feminist theologian, almost by definition, includes herself as an individual among those persons for whom she speaks".
Hence, there are essays (and responses) dealing with the Old Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, and the role of the messiah in the work of liberation theologian Jon Sobrino.