In the Company of the Poor book written by anthropologist and physician, Paul Farmer and theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez uncovers one of the most hazardous problems of the modern society, namely, the essence of poverty. According to the authors, the conversion is a prerequisite to solidarity. Under the term conversion, they understand the transformation of society and people. The conversion would lead to the liberation of the political and socio-economic point of view from exploitation and oppression of the poor.
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It would also allow building a “new world” and “new person”. It is a historical process in which people consciously develop their own destiny through social change. Moreover, the deepest level of liberation – religious one that is a deliverance from sin and the connection with God would be achieved. Authors believe that the whole society is in need of conversion to its proper organization in order to eliminate the issue of poverty.
Solidarity is the protection of the poor and marginalized layer of the population. Farmer and Gutiérrez state that to be a Christian means to live in solidarity with everyone in faith, hope, and love. Solidarity is a benevolent act of unity with the poor and, at the same time, a liberating protest against poverty involving the poor themselves. Consequently, objects of care and charity become subjects of action. According to the authors, globalization of the economy is to help people recover the solidarity between communities and to resist against the alienation of man from man.
The theory described by Farmer and Gutierrez is called liberation theology and explores the possibility of fighting against poverty by suppressing its source, which is a sin. The poor and marginalized are considered structurally sinful as they accept discrimination without resistance and without trying to throw off the shackles. At the same time, violence is not considered a sin, if applied with the aim of the resistance to oppression.
However, liberation theology is not only a traditional call to help the poor in the form of charity, but call for the political change of society. In particular, Farmer and Gutierrez wrote that the cause of global poverty is unjust and sinful social structures related to the incorrect arrangement of society. It is not an accident. Poverty cannot be healed by generosity, and equality on the planet would not prevail until the establishment of new economic order (Farmer and Gutiérrez 65).
Therefore, the poor need to fight against the barbaric and unjust system of private property based on the exploitation of social relations that infringes on poor human beings. Thus, liberation theology investigates relationships between Christian theology and political activities, especially in the field of social justice, poverty, and human rights. Hence, a fundamental code of spirituality and ethics of liberation theology is not conventional “do good and avoid evil”, but “do good and fight evil” principle.
Speaking of Farmer’s medical work, the discussed concepts are operative in terms of hermeneutics praxis. In other words, liberation theology inspires him, gives hope, and provides spiritual background for his work. Farmer comprehends that poverty is a reason for plenty of deaths and a preferential option for the poor that reflects the equal love of God for everyone regardless of income. Consequently, he tends to provide an appropriate and available health care for the poor in rural and under-resourced regions in developing countries, for example, in Haiti.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that Christian salvation is unattainable without economic, political, and social liberation as a significant sign of human dignity.
Farmer, Paul, and Gustavo Gutiérrez. In the Company of the Poor: Conversations between Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013. Print.