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“A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation”: Liberation Theology in Latin America Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2022

Introduction

The emergence and development of the theology of liberation should be considered a milestone in the churches’ history. Its establishment and growth have been subject to skepticism and hostility. A majority of its supporters consider it as having emanated from Latin and Central America. The reaction it has evoked illustrates its impact on society, regardless of the efforts by critics who have continuously ridiculed its existence. Scannone (2016), for instance, remarks that the volatile response by people from different quarters is a sign that it addresses highly sensitive topics. The liberation theology is concerned with the meaning of Christianity and the true mission of the Church which includes the fight against oppression.

Summary

The book, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation are noteworthy as the author combines his intellect as a theology professor with his knowledge of the world’s phenomena. According to Gutierrez (1971), there are various definitions of liberation including the freeing of man to allow him to take responsibility for his future. In addition, he acknowledges that it may refer to communion with God. As such, he tries to relate these meanings with Latina America, which was a place dominated by Christians, yet the people lived in oppression. While third-world countries perceive concern for society as the demand for justice, the Westerners are solely interested in development and progress.

The book’s primary focus is on the relation between faith in the word and harsh realities. This is what Gutierrez (1971) defines as the theology of liberation that advocates for the end of exploitation. For instance, sin is a historical concept that entails the breaking of relationships among men as well as those involving God. Specifically, a person can encounter the Lord as long as they have good relations with others. Likewise, man is separated from Christ as long as they erect barriers. Therefore, acts of evil have several dimensions that manifest in exploitative social structures.

The mission of the Church should involve creating a community of justice that embraces every person. Ideally, God is liberating, and Christians should be committed to building a new social order. If for any reason, the Lord’s house cannot accommodate the poor and the oppressed, then this questions the universality of biblical love. Also, this is a risk to the unity of the believers. Indeed, it is impossible to have neutrality, but this does not imply that class struggle should be ignored.

Analysis

For many years, the Church in Latin America has aligned itself with the elite in society. It neglected the grievances of the poor despite having promised liberation. Instead of a reflection on the citizens, the Catholics appeared as a model of power and success. It was people such as Gutierrez that initiated the transformation of the church after he realized how he could apply the theories he had learned to the issue of oppression. The liberation theology does “not stop with reflecting on the world, but rather tries to be part of the process through which the world is transformed” (Gutierrez, 1971, p. 12). He encourages individuals to be in control of their destinies and thereby free themselves from injustice.

Although the Latin American Church lives in the suburbs of the poor, it often seeks support from the elite. This makes it possible for Christians to accomplish their tasks and challenge their enemies. However, the theology of liberation had increased the commitment of believers to create a just society. The increasing number of revolutionary political figures led by Christian groups is likely to create conflict with the hierarchy (Brown, 2013). In addition, there is a concern regarding the fact that the interest of believers in social revolution displaces their commitment to God. Nevertheless, this is a gradual awakening by the Latin Americans to address the problem of oppression that is widespread.

The theology of liberation has declined in recent years as the leaders in the Church have been subjected to ridicule and criticism. Indeed, the problems in Latin America demand attention and believers are now advocating for social change. The bishops in the impoverished and exploited areas denounce the problems that their followers face. However, this usually makes them collide with the economic and political figures in their countries. Other stakeholders accuse them of intruding into matters that do not concern them and are regarded as Marxists (Mario & Osorio, 2009). The Catholic Church feels that this movement and Marxism are not compatible with the religion’s teachings (Mario & Osorio, 2009). Whereas theology emphasizes the role of man as the master of their fate, it lacks numerous aspects of Marxism. While it is feared that participating in the revolution is likely to weaken the influence of Christians, the problems experienced by the people ought to be addressed.

Conclusion

Although liberation theology is not as popular as it was a few years ago, it changed the Church’s role in Latin America. Christians are responsible for the welfare of the lower class in their areas. Believers should play a role in social injustice and empower the oppressed in society. Religious figures such as Gustavo Gutierrez pioneered the movement towards equality and shifted the focus of the Church from solely eternal salvation to the need for liberation from poverty on earth.

References

Brown, R. M. (2013). Gustavo Gutiérrez: An introduction to liberation theology. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Coatsworth, J. H. (2008). Inequality, institutions and economic growth in Latin America. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40(3), 545-569. Web.

Gutierrez, G. (1971). Theology of liberation. CEP.

Mario, J., & Osorio, F. (2009). Praxis and liberation in the context of Latin American theory. In C. Sonn, & M. Montero (Eds.), Psychology of liberation (pp. 11-36). Springer.

Scannone, J. C. (2016). . Theological Studies, 77(1), 118-135.

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IvyPanda. "“A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation”: Liberation Theology in Latin America." July 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-theology-of-liberation-history-politics-and-salvation-liberation-theology-in-latin-america/.

References

IvyPanda. 2022. "“A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation”: Liberation Theology in Latin America." July 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-theology-of-liberation-history-politics-and-salvation-liberation-theology-in-latin-america/.

References

IvyPanda. (2022) '“A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation”: Liberation Theology in Latin America'. 12 July.

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