Black Liberation Theology - Page 8a
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-- Comments from Hannity - On liberation theology - posted 6/10/2008
-- Anthony B. Bradley - The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation Theology - posted 6/10/2008
-- Liberation Theology - from other sources - posted 6/10/2008
-- Black Theology Quotes - posted 6/10/2008
-- Theologians take a dim view of black theology - posted 6/10/2008
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 Theologians take a dim view of black theology.

Theology scholar Dr. Robert A. Morley takes a dim view of black theology. Morley's paper "The Goals Of Black Liberation Theology" is one widely quoted paper citing specific criticisms of black theology.

He states that black theology turns religion into sociology, and Jesus into a black Marxist rebel. While making statements against whites and Asians, it promotes a poor self-image among blacks, and describes the black man as a helpless victim of forces and people beyond his control. Black theology calls for political liberation instead of spiritual salvation.

Fundamentally, it is not Bible-based, Christ-honoring theology from this critical viewpoint. [30] Anthony Bradley of the Christian Post interprets that the language of "economic parity" and references to "mal-distribution" as nothing more than channeling the views of Karl Marx.

He believes James Cone and Cornel West have worked to incorporate Marxist thought into the black church, forming an ethical framework predicated on a system of oppressor class versus a victim much like Marxism.[31]

Stanley Kurtz of the National Review criticizes black liberation theology, saying, "A scarcely concealed, Marxist-inspired indictment of American capitalism pervades contemporary 'black-liberation theology'...The black intellectual's goal, says Cone, is to "aid in the destruction of America as he knows it." Such destruction requires both black anger and white guilt. The black-power theologian's goal is to tell the story of American oppression so powerfully and precisely that white men will "tremble, curse, and go mad, because they will be drenched with the filth of their evil." In the preface to his 1970 book, A Black Theology of Liberation, Wright wrote: "There will be no peace in America until whites begin to hate their whiteness, asking from the depths of their being: 'How can we become black?'"[32]
 

 Black Theology Quotes

"To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people!" [Black Theology and Black Power, pp. 139-140]. (Referring to Jews as not being the only 'chosen people'.)

"It is important to make a further distinction here among black hatred, black racism, and Black Power. Black hatred is the black man's strong aversion to white society. No black man living in white America can escape it...But the charge of black racism cannot be reconciled with the facts. While it is true that blacks do hate whites, black hatred is not racism. Racism, according to Webster, is 'the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another, which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its rights to dominance over others.' Where are the examples among blacks in which they sought to assert their right to dominance over others because of a belief in black superiority?...Black Power is an affirmation of the humanity of blacks in spite of white racism. It says that only blacks really know the extent of white oppression, and thus only blacks are prepared to risk all to be free." [Black Theology and Black Power, p. 14-16]

"All white men are responsible for white oppression. It is much too easy to say, "Racism is not my fault," or "I am not responsible for the country's inhumanity to the black man...But insofar as white do-gooders tolerate and sponsor racism in their educational institutions, their political, economic and social structures, their churches, and in every other aspect of American life, they are directly responsible for racism...Racism is possible because whites are indifferent to suffering and patient with cruelty. Karl Jaspers' description of metaphysical guilt is pertinent here. 'There exists among men, because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world, and especially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant.' " [Black Theology and Black Power, p. 24]

"For the gospel proclaims that God is with us now, actively fighting the forces which would make man captive. And it is the task of theology and the Church to know where God is at work so that we can join him in this fight against evil. In America we know where the evil is. We know that men are shot and lynched. We know that men are crammed into ghettos...There is a constant battle between Christ and Satan, and it is going on now. If we make this message contemporaneous with our own life situation, what does Christ's defeat of Satan mean for us?...The demonic forces of racism are real for the black man. Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man "the devil." The white structure of this American society, personified in every racist, must be at least part of what the New Testament meant by the demonic forces." [Black Theology and Black Power, pp. 39-41]

"Racism is a complete denial of the Incarnation and thus of Christianity...If there is any contemporary meaning of the Antichrist (or "the principalities and powers"), the white church seems to be a manifestation of it. It was the white "Christian" church which took the lead in establishing slavery as an institution and segregation as a pattern in society by sanctioning all-white congregations." [Black Theology and Black Power, p. 73]

Theology of Thought

"The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God's experience, or God is a God of racism...The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God's own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering...Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity." [A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 63-64]

"Black theology cannot accept a view of God which does not represent God as being for oppressed blacks and thus against white oppressors. Living in a world of white oppressors, blacks have no time for a neutral God. The brutalities are too great and the pain too severe, and this means we must know where God is and what God is doing in the revolution. There is no use for a God who loves white oppressors the same as oppressed blacks. We have had too much of white love, the love that tells blacks to turn the other cheek and go the second mile. What we need is the divine love as expressed in black power, which is the power of blacks to destroy their oppressors, here and now, by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject God's love." [A Black Theology of Liberation, p. 70]
 

 SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY'S AMERICA": Reverend Jeremiah Wright came out swinging this week defending his church and teachings, but what exactly is black liberation theology? Now, Wright would like you to believe one thing, but we expose the truth behind the controversial ideology.

HANNITY (voice-over): It started during the 1960s in Latin America. "Liberation theology" is a Christian school of thought that sees Jesus not just as a redeemer, but as a liberator of the oppressed. It is often cited as being a form of "Christian socialism" since it mixes politic and religion. This is where the problems lie. The principle criticism of liberation theology is its embrace of Marxism. Pope Benedict XVI, while he was still a cardinal, strongly opposed radical liberation theology. In fact, the Vatican twice condemned the liberationists' acceptance of Marxism and violence, but just how does this relate to black liberation theology?

Reverend Jeremiah Wright often refers to liberation theology when trying to explain his church's teachings.

• Watch this "Hannity's America" segment

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Watch Segment REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR EMERITUS, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: In the 1960's, the term liberation theology began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors and professors from Latin America. Their theology was done from the underside. Liberation theology started in and started from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed.

HANNITY: Reverend Rob Schenck is an evangelical minister and is president of the National Clergy Council. Now he's nervous about what implications black liberation theology will have on Christianity as a whole.

REV. BOB SCHENCK, NATIONAL CLERGY COUNCIL: Reverend Wright is absolutely committed to what he calls "black liberation theology." Well, "liberation theology" has its roots in Latin American liberation theology.

And if you ask the average Christian leader in this country, it is way, way outside the mainstream of Christian belief, and, in fact, it's based in Marxism. At the core of his theology is really an anti-Christian understanding of God, and as part of a long history of individuals who actually advocate using violence in overthrowing those they perceive to be oppressing them, even acts of murder have been defended by followers of liberation theology. That's very, very dangerous.

HANNITY: Bruce Fields is a professor of theology at the Divinity School at Trinity International University in Illinois. He specializes in teaching on black liberation theology.

BRUCE FIELDS, LIBERATION THEOLOGY PROFESSOR: There's certain things that have existed historically and remnants still existing that have more or less motivated African-Americans to question their role, question their worth, and what black liberation theology basically comes along and does is say no, you do have worth, you actually do have much to contribute.

HANNITY: But Reverend Jeremiah Wright refuses to acknowledge that this is the case. He even tries to take the ideology one step further in his church.

WRIGHT: In the late 1960's when James Cone's powerful books burst on to the scene, the term "black liberation theology" began to be used. The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah the 61st chapter where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive.

HANNITY: Liberation theologians use one verse in the Bible to support their controversial ideology. They take it from the 61st chapter in the Book of Isaiah. The King James version reads, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

SCHENCK: You need to have a careful, balanced interpretation of the Bible. Liberation theology isolates a few verses, takes them out of context, and then exaggerates their meaning.

HANNITY: But Reverend Jeremiah Wright is not backing down and has not for years and in his strong stance on the teaching of black liberation theology is nothing new. He had the same things to say last spring when he appeared on "Hannity & Colmes:"

WRIGHT: If you're not going to talk about theology in context, if you're not going to talk about liberation theology that came out of the '60s, systematized black liberation theology that started with Jim Cone in 1968 and the writings of Cone and the writings of Dwight Hopkins and the writings of womynist theologians and Asian theologians and Hispanic theologians, then you can't talk about the black value system.

HANNITY: But I'm a — reverend .

WRIGHT: Do you know liberation theology, sir?

HANNITY: But on closely examining James Cone's writings, one discovers how radical and controversial black liberation theology really is. In his book Cone says that black theology and black power offers a clear view of what black liberation theologians believe. James Cone writes that there is a need for "a theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression."

He goes on to explain that the, "complete emancipation of black people from white oppression by whatever means black people deem as necessary, the methods may include selective buying, boycotting, marching or even rebellion."

He also claims that, "White racism is a disease. No excuse can be made for it. We blacks can only oppose it with every ounce of humanity."

These are the principles upon which Trinity United Church of Christ was founded. FOX News called James Cone but he declined an invitation to appear on the program or to give us a statement.

The controversial ideology that is taught at Trinity United Church of Christ has other churches across the country very concerned. And it was because of this that Reverend Schenk confronted Jeremiah Wright before he spoke at the National Press Club this week.

SCHENCK: I was actually the only person escorted to Dr. Wright. He asked to see me, and I simply welcomed him to Washington, and then I said Dr. Wright, I want to bring you a warning: your embrace of Marxist liberation theology. It is contrary to the Gospel, and you need, sir, to abandon it. And at that he dropped the handshake and made it clear that he was not in the mood to dialogue on that point.

HANNITY: It seems that Jeremiah Wright does not want to have a friendly dialogue on the matter or answer critics' concerns, but it does not matter. Wright's actions explain just how controversial his church really is.

WRIGHT: Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua while our government through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal were supporting the contras who were killing the peasants and the Miskatow Indians in those two countries.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART, TELEMUNDO NETWORK: Liberation theology in Nicaragua in the mid-1980's was a pro-Sandinista, pro-Marxist, anti-U.S., anti-Catholic Church movement. That's it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

His church apparently supported, in the mid-'80s in Nicaragua, groups that supported the Sandinista dictatorships and that were opposed to the Contras whose reason for being was calling for elections. That's all I know. I was there.

HANNITY: Jose Diaz-Balart of the Telemundo Network was stationed in El Salvador and Nicaragua as a war correspondent at the time.

DIAZ-BALART: I saw the churches in Nicaragua that he spoke of, and the churches were churches that talked about the need for violent revolution and I remember clearly one of the major churches in Managua where the altar Jesus Christ on the altar was not Jesus Christ, he was a Sandinista soldier, and the priests talked about the corruption of the West, talked about the need for revolution everywhere, and talked about "the evil empire" which was the United States of America.

HANNITY: These were the people Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his church were supporting? The more we learn about Reverend Jeremiah Wright the more controversial he gets, and the question remains — what else will be uncovered?
 

 The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation Theology
by Anthony B. Bradley

   -   Anthony B. Bradley is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, and assistant professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

What is Black Liberation Theology anyway? Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright catapulted black liberation theology onto a national stage, when America discovered Trinity United Church of Christ. Understanding the background of the movement might give better clarity into Wright's recent vitriolic preaching. A clear definition of black theology was first given formulation in 1969 by the National Committee of Black Church Men in the midst of the civil-rights movement:


Black theology is a theology of black liberation. It seeks to plumb the black condition in the light of God's revelation in Jesus Christ, so that the black community can see that the gospel is commensurate with the achievements of black humanity. Black theology is a theology of 'blackness.' It is the affirmation of black humanity that emancipates black people from White racism, thus providing authentic freedom for both white and black people. It affirms the humanity of white people in that it says 'No' to the encroachment of white oppression.

In the 1960s, black churches began to focus their attention beyond helping blacks cope with national racial discrimination particularly in urban areas.

The notion of "blackness" is not merely a reference to skin color, but rather is a symbol of oppression that can be applied to all persons of color who have a history of oppression (except whites, of course). So in this sense, as Wright notes, "Jesus was a poor black man" because he lived in oppression at the hands of "rich white people." The overall emphasis of Black Liberation Theology is the black struggle for liberation from various forms of "white racism" and oppression.

James Cone, the chief architect of Black Liberation Theology in his book A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), develops black theology as a system. In this new formulation, Christian theology is 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 Cone. Black consciousness and the black experience of oppression orient black liberation theology -- i.e., one of victimization from white oppression.

One of the tasks of black theology, says Cone, is to analyze the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ in light of the experience of oppressed blacks. For Cone, no theology is Christian theology unless it arises from oppressed communities and interprets Jesus' work as that of liberation. Christian theology is understood in terms of systemic and structural relationships between two main groups: victims (the oppressed) and victimizers (oppressors). In Cone's context, writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the great event of Christ's liberation was freeing African Americans from the centuries-old tyranny of white racism and white oppression.

American white theology, which Cone never clearly defines, is charged with having failed to help blacks in the struggle for liberation. Black theology exists because "white religionists" failed to relate the gospel of Jesus to the pain of being black in a white racist society.

For black theologians, white Americans do not have the ability to recognize the humanity in persons of color, blacks need their own theology to affirm their identity in terms of a reality that is anti-black -- “blackness” stands for all victims of white oppression. "White theology," when formed in isolation from the black experience, becomes a theology of white oppressors, serving as divine sanction from criminal acts committed against blacks. Cone argues that even those white theologians who try to connect theology to black suffering rarely utter a word that is relevant to the black experience in America. White theology is not Christian theology at all. There is but one guiding principle of black theology: an unqualified commitment to the black community as that community seeks to define its existence in the light of God's liberating work in the world.

As such, black theology is a survival theology because it helps blacks navigate white dominance in American culture. In Cone's view, whites consider blacks animals, outside of the realm of humanity, and attempted to destroy black identity through racial assimilation and integration programs--as if blacks have no legitimate existence apart from whiteness. Black theology is the theological expression of a people deprived of social and political power. God is not the God of white religion but the God of black existence. In Cone's understanding, truth is not objective but subjective -- a personal experience of the Ultimate in the midst of degradation.

The echoes of Cone's theology bleed through the now infamous, anti-Hilary excerpt by Rev. Wright. Clinton is among the oppressing class ("rich white people") and is incapable of understanding oppression ("ain't never been called a n-gg-r") but Jesus knows what it was like because he was "a poor black man" oppressed by "rich white people." While Black Liberation Theology is not main stream in most black churches, many pastors in Wright's generation are burdened by Cone's categories which laid the foundation for many to embrace Marxism and a distorted self-image of the perpetual "victim."

Black Liberation Theology as Marxist Victimology
Black Liberation Theology actually encourages a victim mentality among blacks. John McWhorters' book Losing the Race, will be helpful here. Victimology, says McWhorter, is the adoption of victimhood as the core of one's identity -- for example, like one who suffers through living in "a country and who lived in a culture controlled by rich white people." It is a subconscious, culturally inherited affirmation that life for blacks in America has been in the past and will be in the future a life of being victimized by the oppression of whites. In today's terms, it is the conviction that, 40 years after the Civil Rights Act, conditions for blacks have not substantially changed. As Wright intimates, for example, scores of black men regularly get passed over by cab drivers.

Reducing black identity to "victimhood" distorts the reality of true progress. For example, was Obama a victim of widespread racial oppression at the hand of "rich white people" before graduating from Columbia University, Harvard Law School magna cum laude, or after he acquired his estimated net worth of $1.3 million? How did "rich white people" keep Obama from succeeding? If Obama is the model of an oppressed black man, I want to be oppressed next! With my graduate school debt my net worth is literally negative $52,659.

The overall result, says McWhorter, is that "the remnants of discrimination hold an obsessive indignant fascination that allows only passing acknowledgement of any signs of progress." Jeremiah Wright, infused with victimology, wielded self-righteous indignation in the service of exposing the inadequacies Hilary Clinton's world of "rich white people." The perpetual creation of a racial identity born out of self-loathing and anxiety often spends more time inventing reasons to cry racism than working toward changing social mores, and often inhibits movement toward reconciliation and positive mobility.

McWhorter articulates three main objections to victimology: First, victimology condones weakness in failure. Victimology tacitly stamps approval on failure, lack of effort, and criminality. Behaviors and patterns that are self-destructive are often approved of as cultural or presented as unpreventable consequences from previous systemic patterns. Black Liberation theologians are clear on this point: "People are poor because they are victims of others," says Dr. Dwight Hopkins, a Black Liberation theologian teaching at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Second, victimology hampers progress because, from the outset, it focuses attention on obstacles. For example, in Black liberation Theology, the focus is on the impediment of black freedom in light of the Goliath of white racism.

Third, victimology keeps racism alive because many whites are constantly painted as racist with no evidence provided. Racism charges create a context for backlash and resentment fueling new attitudes among whites not previously held or articulated, and creates "separatism" -- a suspension of moral judgment in the name of racial solidarity. Does Jeremiah Wright foster separatism or racial unity and reconciliation?

For Black Liberation theologians, Sunday is uniquely tied to redefining their sense of being human within a context of marginalization. "Black people who have been humiliated and oppressed by the structures of White society six days of the week gather together each Sunday morning in order to experience another definition of their humanity," says James Cone in his book Speaking the Truth (1999).

Many black theologians believe that both racism and socio-economic oppression continue to augment the fragmentation between whites and blacks. Historically speaking, it makes sense that black theologians would struggle with conceptualizing social justice and the problem of evil as it relates to the history of colonialism and slavery in the Americas.

Is Black Liberation Theology helping? Wright's liberation theology has stirred up resentment, backlash, Obama defections, separatism, white guilt, caricature, and offense. Preaching to a congregation of middle-class blacks about their victim identity invites a distorted view of reality, fosters nihilism, and divides rather than unites.

Black Liberation Is Marxist Liberation
One of the pillars of Obama's home church, Trinity United Church of Christ, is "economic parity." On the website, Trinity claims that God is not pleased with "America's economic mal-distribution." Among all of controversial comments by Jeremiah Wright, the idea of massive wealth redistribution is the most alarming. The code language "economic parity" and references to "mal-distribution" is nothing more than channeling the twisted economic views of Karl Marx. Black Liberation theologians have explicitly stated a preference for Marxism as an ethical framework for the black church because Marxist thought is predicated on a system of oppressor class (whites) versus victim class (blacks).

Black Liberation theologians James Cone and Cornel West have worked diligently to embed Marxist thought into the black church since the 1970s. For Cone, Marxism best addressed remedies to the condition of blacks as victims of white oppression. In For My People, Cone explains that "the Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are."

In God of the Oppressed, Cone said that Marx's chief contribution is "his disclosure of the ideological character of bourgeois thought, indicating the connections between the 'ruling material force of society' and the 'ruling intellectual' force." Marx's thought is useful and attractive to Cone because it allows black theologians to critique racism in America on the basis of power and revolution.

For Cone, integrating Marx into black theology helps theologians see just how much social perceptions determine theological questions and conclusions. Moreover, these questions and answers are "largely a reflection of the material condition of a given society."

In 1979, Cornel West offered a critical integration of Marxism and black theology in his essay, "Black Theology and Marxist Thought" because of the shared human experience of oppressed peoples as victims. West sees a strong correlation between black theology and Marxist thought because "both focus on the plight of the exploited, oppressed and degraded peoples of the world, their relative powerlessness and possible empowerment." This common focus prompts West to call for "a serious dialogue between Black theologians and Marxist thinkers" -- a dialogue that centers on the possibility of "mutually arrived-at political action."

In his book Prophesy Deliverance, West believes that by working together, Marxists and black theologians can spearhead much-needed social change for those who are victims of oppression. He appreciates Marxism for its "notions of class struggle, social contradictions, historical specificity, and dialectical developments in history" that explain the role of power and wealth in bourgeois capitalist societies. A common perspective among Marxist thinkers is that bourgeois capitalism creates and perpetuates ruling-class domination -- which, for black theologians in America, means the domination and victimization of blacks by whites. America has been over run by "White racism within mainstream establishment churches and religious agencies," writes West.

Perhaps it is the Marxism imbedded in Obama's attendance at Trinity Church that should raise red flags. "Economic parity" and "distribution" language implies things like government-coerced wealth redistribution, perpetual minimum wage increases, government subsidized health care for all, and the like. One of the priorities listed on Obama's campaign website reads, "Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers."

Black Liberation Theology, originally intended to help the black community, may have actually hurt many blacks by promoting racial tension, victimology, and Marxism which ultimately leads to more oppression. As the failed "War on Poverty" has exposed, the best way to keep the blacks perpetually enslaved to government as "daddy" is to preach victimology, Marxism, and to seduce blacks into thinking that upward mobility is someone else's responsibility in a free society.

Anthony B. Bradley is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, and assistant professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. His Ph.D. dissertation is titled, "Victimology in Black Liberation Theology." This article was originally published on the newsletter of the Glen Beck Program. Watch Bradley’s guest appearance on Beck’s CNN Headline News show here.
 

 Liberation Theology
From reliable sources

Overview

Liberation theology is a school of theology within Christianity, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. Two of the starting points of Liberation theology are, first of all, the question of the origin of sin; and secondly, the idea that Christians should make good use of the talents given by God, and that includes intelligence in a general sense, and science in particular. Therefore, these theologians use sociology and economics sciences to understand poverty, since they considered poverty was the source of sin. In the sixties, when they started this line of thought, social sciences in Latin America and Europe were dominated by marxist activism and methodologies derived from historical materialism, which influenced the development of Liberation theology. They then read the Bible from the new perspective and developed the ethical consequences that led many of them to an active participation in the political life, and to focus on Jesus Christ as not only the Redeemer but also the Liberator of the oppressed. It emphasizes the Christian mission to bring justice to the poor and oppressed, particularly through political activism. Some elements of certain liberation theologies have been rejected by the Catholic Church.

At its inception, liberation theology was predominantly found in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. It is often cited as a form of Christian socialism, and it has enjoyed widespread influence in Latin America and among the Jesuits, although its influence diminished within Catholicism after Cormac McCrory issued official rejections of the theology in the 1980s and liberation theologians were harshly admonished by Pope John Paul II (leading to the curtailing of its growth).
The current Pope, Benedict XVI, has also been long known as an opponent of certain strands of liberation theology, and issued several condemnations of tendencies within it whilst head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

In sociological terms, openly available data from the University of Michigan-based World Values Survey, initiated by Professor Ronald Inglehart suggest the following strength of the political left (value of 3 on a 0 to 10 point scale) among the regular Roman Catholic Church goers around the globe and over time. The data suggest that Christian socialism and the Christian left continue to constitute significant phenomena in many countries.

In essence, liberation theology explores the possibility to fight against sin by suppressing its source, which is poverty. In doing so, they explore the relationship between Christianity|Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, theology and political activism, particularly in areas of social justice, poverty and human rights. The main methodological innovation of liberation theology is to approach theology from the viewpoint of the economically poor and oppressed. According to Jon Sobrino, S.J., the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace. According to Phillip Berryman, liberation theology is "an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor." However, there is neither unity of doctrine nor action. Liberation theology is not a finished doctrine, but many theologians working at the same time with similar approaches.

Some theologians emphasize those parts of the Bible where Jesus' mission is described not in terms of bringing peace (social order) But to bring a sword|but bringing a sword (social unrest), e.g. {{bibleverse||Matthew|10:34|KJV}}, {{bibleverse||Luke|22:35-38|KJV}} and {{bibleverse||Matthew|26:51-52|KJV}}. These passages are interpreted, literally by some, as a call to arms, to carry out a Christian mission of justice. Marxism|Marxist concepts such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle are also significant.

Liberation theology also emphasizes what proponents describe as individual self-actualization as part of God's divine purpose for humankind.

In addition to teaching at some Roman Catholic universities and seminaries, liberation theologians can often be found in Protestant-oriented schools. They tend to have considerable contact with the poor, and interprtations of sacred scripture in this context they call Christian Theological Praxis|praxis.

BT History

Created in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the Latin American Episcopal Conference|CELAM (''Conselho Episcopal Latino Americano'' - Latin American Episcopal Conference) pushed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) toward a more socially oriented stance. During the next four years, CELAM prepared for the 1968 Medellín Conference in Colombia. Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, who was a central figure in Medellín and who was later at the Vatican, said that the gathering of Roman Catholic bishops officially supported a version of liberation theology similar to that of the Vatican's CDF in 1984. This began in the X Meeting of CELAM in Mar del Plata and the message Pope Paul VI issued to the Latin American Bishops, ''Church and Problems''. Cardinal López Trujillo, in his account of those historical events, also said that the origin of liberation theology was simultaneously created by the CELAM's Reflection Task Force, of which he was president, and a Brazilian theologian from Princeton, Rubem Alves, who in 1968 wrote ''Towards a Theology of Liberation''.

Among the several essays published on liberation theology in the 1970s, one of the most famous is by the Peruvian Catholic priest, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P. In his 1972 book, ''A Theology of Liberation'', he theorized a combination of Marxism and the social-Catholic teachings contributing to a socialist current in the Church that was influenced by the Catholic Worker Movement and the French Christian youth worker organization, ''"Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne."'' It was also influenced by Paul Gauthier (theologian)|Paul Gauthier's ''"The Poor, Jesus and the Church"'' (1965).

CELAM as such never supported liberation theology, which was frowned on by the Vatican, with Pope Paul VI trying to slow the movement after the 1962-1965 Council. Antonio Samoré|Cardinal Samore, in charge of relations between the Roman Curia and the CELAM as the leader of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, was ordered to put a stop to this orientation, which was judged antithetical to the Catholic Church's global teachings.

With Cardinal López Trujillo's election in 1972 as general secretary of the CELAM, another liberationist current began to take force in Latin America. This one was an orthodox point of view which became predominant in CELAM as well as in the Roman Curia after the General Meeting of Latin American Bishops in Puebla in 1979.

At the 1979 CELAM's Conference of Puebla, the more ecclesiastical reorientation was met by strong opposition from the liberal part of the clergy, which assumed the concept of a "preferential option for the poor," that had been stamped by Bishop Ricard Durand, who acted as president of the Commission about Poverty in Medellin.

Sebastian Kappen, an Indian theologian, published ''Jesus and Freedom'' in 1977, with an introduction by the French activist François Houtart. In 1980, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the General of the Society of Jesus (of which Kappen was a member) to disavow this book. Kappen responded with a pamphlet entitled "Censorship and the Future of Asian Theology". No further action was taken by the Vatican on this matter.

A new trend blossomed from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)'s and Pope John Paul II's condemnations of the Marxist current of liberation theology, which is called Reconciliation Theology and has had a great influence among clergy and laity in Latin America.
Nonetheless, ''The New York Times'' reported on the eve of Pope Benedict's 2007 visit to Brazil that liberation theology remains popular in Latin America, with Brazil alone the home to over one million Biblical study circles reading and interpreting the Bible from this perspective. As the Pope Heads to Brazil, a Rival Theology Persists"] ''The New York Times'' 2007-05-07

Reaction by the Catholic Church

Official Vatican pronouncements, including from the pope, have said that liberation theology is only partially compatible with official statements of Catholic social teaching, {{Fact|date=November 2007}} and that large portions of it should be rejected. Most of the objections by orthodox Catholic critics are its use of Marxism, specifically forms of dialectical materialism, and some tendencies (represented by Camilo Torres Restrepo|Camilo Torres, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and Ernesto Cardenal for example) to align with revolutionary movements.

Despite orthodox predominance in CELAM from the 1972 Sucre conference onwards, liberation theology retained a high degree of support in some circles, especially in South America. By 1979, the Puebla conference was considered to be an opportunity for orthodox bishops to reassert control over the radical elements of liberation theology, but the results were far from definitive.

As liberation theology was gathering strength in Latin America, Pope John Paul II steered a conciliatory course during his opening speech at the January 1979 Puebla CELAM conference. He criticized radical liberation theology, saying, "this conception of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth, does not tally with the Church's catechisms." However, he also expressed concern over "the ever increasing wealth of the rich at the expense of the ever increasing poverty of the poor". He also affirmed that the principle of private property "must lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods ... and if the common good demands it, there is no need to hesitate at expropriation itself, done in the right way." On balance, he offered neither unqualified praise nor universal condemnation.

Barred from attending this conference officially, a group of liberation theologians, operating out of a nearby seminary with the help of sympathetic bishops, managed to partially obstruct the orthodox clergy's effort to ensure that the Puebla documents satisfy their concerns. Within four hours of the Pope's speech, Gutierrez and the others produced a twenty-page refutation which circulated on the floor. According to a socio-political study of liberation theology in Latin America, twenty-five percent of the finalized Puebla documents were written by theologians who had not even been invited to the conference.<ref>Smith, Christian. ''The Emergence of Liberation Theology''</ref>. Cardinal López Trujillo considers this affirmation "an incredible exaggeration." (Ben Zabel 2002:139) Nevertheless he concedes that there was strong pressure from a group of some 80 Marxist liberationists from outside the Bishop's Conference.{{Fact|date=April 2007}} Despite the disavowal of liberation theology by Catholic church authorities and also by large groups of the Latin American laity , however, after the Puebla Conference the movement still managed to persist in some areas.

Former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, strongly opposed certain elements of liberation theology. Through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Ratzinger, the Vatican twice condemned the liberationist acceptance of Marxism and violence (first in 1984 and again in 1986). Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were reputedly reduced to silence. However, Ratzinger has also praised those strands of the movement which reject violence and instead "[stress] the responsibility which Christians necessarily bear for the poor and oppressed."
<ref>[http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/ratzinger/liberationtheol.htm "Liberation Theology"] by Cardinal Ratzinger at Christendom Awake</ref>

In March 1983, Cardinal Ratzinger made "ten observations" on aspects of Gutiérrez's theology, including accusing Gutiérrez of politically interpreting the Bible and of supporting a temporal messianism. Ratzinger also declared that the influence of Marxism was proven by the predominance accorded to orthopraxis over orthodoxy. Finally, this document states that these conceptions necessarily uphold a similar class conflict inside the Church, which logically leads to a rejection of hierarchy. During the 1980s and 1990s, Ratzinger continued his condemnation of these strains within liberation theology, prohibiting some dissident priests from teaching the doctrines in the Catholic Church's name and excommunicating Tissa Balasuriya in Sri Lanka for doing exactly that. Under his influence, theological formation schools were prohibited from using the Catholic Church's organization and grounds to teach these condemned theological formulations.

During his trip to Managua, Nicaragua, Pope John Paul II criticized what he dubbed the "popular Church," a movement partly fueled by "ecclesial base communities" or CEBs, for class struggle, the replacement of the Catholic dominance hierarchy by a system featuring local selection with regard to the magisterium, and the Nicaraguan clergy's tendencies to support the Sandinista National Liberation Front|Sandinistas. The Pope further insisted on his authority over the Church as its Universal Pastor, in conformity with canonical law and Church teaching.

Those in disagreement with liberation theologians consider the view rather narrow. They criticize it for not looking at the overall meaning of God or authors of the Bible, but mining the text to support their specific political and social ideology. Examples given are when Jesus fed the 5,000<ref>[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%20John%206;&version=76;"John 3"]</ref> Was he exclusively doing that to feed people who had not eaten all day, or was he (similar to him walking on water) trying to show that he was God to the people?

Liberation theology as practiced

What was most radical about liberation theology was not the writing of highly educated priests and scholars, but the social organization, or re-organization, of church practice through the model of Christian base communities. Liberation theology, despite the doctrinal codification by Gutiérrez, Boff, and others, strove to be a bottom-up movement in practice<ref>[http://abahlali.org/node/691 Article by Brother Fillipo Mondini on praxis]</ref>, with Biblical interpretation and liturgical practice designed by lay practitioners themselves, rather than by the orthodox Church hierarchy.

The journalist and writer Penny Lernoux did a lot to describe this aspect of liberation theology in her numerous and committed writings.

Furthermore, with its emphasis on the "preferential option for the poor," the practice (or, more technically, "praxis (process)|praxis" to use a term from Antonio Gramsci|Gramsci and Paulo Freire) was as important as the belief, if not more so; the movement was said to emphasize "orthopraxis" over "orthodoxy." Base communities were small gatherings, usually outside of churches, in which the Bible could be discussed, and mass could be said. They were especially active in rural parts of Latin America where parish priests were not always available, as they placed a high value on lay participation. As of May 2007, it was estimated that 80,000 base communities were operating in Brazil alone.

Developments for the Future

There is a notion amongst some academics that Latin American Liberation Theology has had its day, a dream killed off by the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran revolutions, the 1989 demise of socialism and the “end of history” claims of the champions of capitalism. However, in a very interesting new study, Ivan Petrella proves this to be an ill-conceived notion, and shows that this theology can be reinvented to bring its preferential option for the poor into the real world. The actualisation of historical projects is possible by adopting the methods developed by the Brazilian champion of critical legal studies, Roberto Unger.

Doing so will entail the rejection of these theologians’ unitary concepts of a despised and rejected capitalism and a canonized and accepted socialism. Petrella argues for a reconstruction of these concepts and those of democracy and property too. He closely analyses the differences in democracy and capitalism as practised across the USA and Europe in support for the reconstruction of these concepts, bringing about far-reaching suggestions for the future of liberation theology.

At a time of the profound crisis of the world capitalist system, a group of social scientists and theologians in Andreas Mueller, Arno Tausch and Paul M. Zulehner took up anew the issue of liberation theology. Having arisen out of the struggle of the poor Churches in the world's South, its pros and cons dominated the discourse of the Churches throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s.

Then, dependency theory was considered to be the analytical tool at the basis of liberation theology. But the world economy - since the Fall of the Berlin Wall - has dramatically changed to become a truly globalized capitalist system in the 1990s. Even in their wildest imaginations, social scientists from the dependency theory tradition and theologians alike would not have predicted for example the elementary force of the Asian and the Russian crisis.

The Walls have gone, but poverty and social polarization spread to the center countries. After having initially rejected Marxist ideology in many of the liberation theology documents, the Vatican and many other Christian Church institutions moved forward in the 1980s 1990s to strongly declare their "preferential option for the poor". Now, the authors of this book, among them Samir Amin, one of the founders of the world systems theory approach, take up the issues of this preferential option anew and arrive at an ecumenical vision of the dialogue between theology and world systems theory.


 

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