Liberation Theology
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Liberation Theology

Liberation theology is a Christian theological approach emphasizing the liberation of the oppressed. In certain contexts, it engages socio-economic analyses, with "social concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed peoples."[1] In other contexts, it addresses other forms of inequality, such as race or caste.

Liberation theology is best known in the Latin American context,[2] especially within Catholicism in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council, where it became the political praxis of theologians such as Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, and Jesuits Juan Luis Segundo and Jon Sobrino, who popularized the phrase "preferential option for the poor". This expression was used first by Jesuit Fr. General Pedro Arrupe in 1968 and soon after the World Synod of Catholic Bishops in 1971 chose as its theme "Justice in the World".[3][4]

The Latin American context also produced evangelical advocates of liberation theology, such as Rubem Alves,[5][6] José Míguez Bonino, and C. René Padilla, who in the 1970s called for integral mission, emphasizing evangelism and social responsibility.

Theologies of liberation have also developed in other parts of the world such as black theology in the United States and South Africa, Palestinian liberation theology, Dalit theology in India, and Minjung theology in South Korea.

Latin American liberation theology

The best-known form of liberation theology is that which developed within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1960s, arising principally as a moral reaction to the poverty and social injustice in the region, which is the most unequal in the world.[7] The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, who wrote one of the movement's defining books, A Theology of Liberation. Other noted exponents include Leonardo Boff of Brazil, and Jesuits Jon Sobrino of El Salvador and Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay.[8][9]

The Brazilian Catholic Church, in the world's largest Catholic country, is arguably one of the most theologically progressive Catholic congregations, due in large part to a history of violent military and political conflicts as well as a divisive socioeconomic climate. During Brazil's military rule from 1964 to 1985, the Catholic Church and its members assumed responsibility for providing services to the poor and disenfranchised, often under threat of persecution. The Second Vatican Council and the 1968 Medellín conference innovations in liberation theology entered the Brazilian Church as the Brazilian lower classes experienced sharply deteriorating economic and political conditions. Among these were an increase in landownership concentration, a decline in wages and standards of living, and a rise in the military state's political repression and violence, including mass detainment, torture, and the assassination of political opponents.[10]

Latin American liberation theology met with approval in the United States, but its use of "Marxist concepts"[11] led in the mid-1980s to an admonition by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). While stating that "in itself, the expression 'theology of liberation' is a thoroughly valid term",[12] the prefect Cardinal Ratzinger rejected certain forms of Latin American liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had long been oppressing indigenous populations from the arrival of Pizarro onward.[13]

Black theology

More or less at the same time as the initial publications of Latin American liberation theology are also found voices of Black liberation theology and feminist liberation theology.[14] Black theology refers to a theological perspective which originated in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world, which contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression. It especially focuses on the injustices committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively.

Black theology seeks to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christian theology as a theology of liberation - "a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ," writes James Hal Cone, one of the original advocates of the perspective. Black theology mixes Christianity with questions of civil rights, particularly as raised by the Black Power movement and the Black Consciousness Movement.

Dalit theology

Dalit theology is a branch of Christian theology that emerged among the Dalit caste in the Indian subcontinent in the 1980s. It shares a number of themes with Latin American liberation theology, which arose two decades earlier, including a self-identity as a people undergoing Exodus.[15] Dalit theology sees hope in the "Nazareth Manifesto" of Luke 4, where Jesus speaks of preaching "good news to the poor ... freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind" and of releasing "the oppressed".[16]

Palestinian liberation theology

Palestinian liberation theology is an expression of political theology and a contextual theology that represents an attempt by a number of independently working Palestinian theologians from various denominations--mostly Protestant mainline churches--to articulate the gospel message in such a way as to make that liberating gospel relevant to the perceived needs of their indigenous flocks. As a rule, this articulation involves a condemnation of the State of Israel, a theological underpinning of Palestinian resistance to Israel as well as Palestinian national aspirations, and an intense valorization of Palestinian ethnic and cultural identity as guarantors of a truer grasp of the gospel by virtue of the fact that they are inhabitants of the land of Jesus and the Bible. The principal figure in Palestinian liberation theology is the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.[17]

Related denominations or movements

See also


  1. ^ Dictionary of Historical Terms (1998), Second Edition, Chris Cook, ed., p. 203.
  2. ^ Løland, Ole Jakob (July 2021). Usarski, Frank (ed.). "The Solved Conflict: Pope Francis and Liberation Theology" (PDF). International Journal of Latin American Religions. Berlin: Springer Nature: 1-28. doi:10.1007/s41603-021-00137-3. eISSN 2509-9965. ISSN 2509-9957.
  3. ^ Dault, Lira (January 22, 2015). "What Is the Preferential Option for the Poor?". U.S. Catholic. 80: 46. Archived from the original on July 10, 2020.
  4. ^ Crosby, Michael (October 17, 2016). "In 1971, the Bishops Sounded a Call for Justice". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ Alves, Rubem A. (1988). Towards a Theology of Liberation. Princeton Theological Seminary.
  6. ^ "Rubem Alves - Liberation Theology Pioneer". Critical Therapy Center. New York, NY. July 21, 2014. Archived from the original on July 21, 2014. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ "Protección social inclusiva en América Latina : una mirada integral, un enfoque de derechos". CEPAL. March 1, 2011.
  8. ^ Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism (Harper Collins, 1994), chapter IV.
  9. ^ Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, First (Spanish) edition published in Lima, Peru, 1971; first English edition published by Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York), 1973.
  10. ^ Pace, R (1992). "Social conflict and political activism in the Brazilian Amazon: a case study of Gurupá". American Ethnologist. 19 (4): 710-732. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.4.02a00050.
  11. ^ Travis Kitchens (June 21, 2010). "Chomsky on Religion". Retrieved 2017 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Instruction on certain aspects of the "Theology of Liberation"". Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Wojda, Paul J., "Liberation theology," in R.P. McBrien, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia (Harper Collins, 1995).
  14. ^ Vuola, Elina (2005). "Liberation Theology". New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^ Rao, Anand (2004). Soteriologies of India and their role in the perception of disability : a comparative transdisciplinary overview with reference to Hinduism and Christianity in India. Berlin-Hamburg-Münster: LIT Verlag. p. 232. ISBN 3-8258-7205-X. OCLC 54973643.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  16. ^ Schouten, Jan Peter (2008). Jesus as guru : the image of Christ among Hindus and Christians in India. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 247. ISBN 978-1-4356-9523-8. OCLC 302001445.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  17. ^ Ateek, Naim (1989). Radford Reuther, Rosemary (ed.). Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (3 ed.). The University of Michigan: Orbis. ISBN 9780883445402.
  18. ^ a b Lia (March 10, 2009). "Interactivist: Liberation Theology". Abahlali baseMjondolo. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  19. ^ Miller, Emily McFarlan (November 30, 2020). "Progressive United Methodists announce new denomination: Liberation Methodist Connexion". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2021.
  20. ^ Astle, Cynthia (December 9, 2020). "New denomination declares 'liberation' from United Methodist Church". Baptist News Global. Retrieved 2021.

Further reading

External links

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