Liberation Theology

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Transcript of Liberation Theology

  • 1. Liberation Theology

2. Latin America 3. LT: a Christian response to economic injustice

  • An intellectual and social movement in Latin America beginning in the 1960s
  • Rooted in Christian faith and Scriptures and developed from conscientious members of religious orders.
  • Members of the religious orders are committed to the vow of poverty and do not own property individually, nevertheless they enjoy a standard of living and security that separates them from the daily agony of the poor.
  • The question then arose for some of them: what is the ideal of poverty in a situation where most are suffering dehumanizing poverty, andwhat should the Church and Christians do about it?


  • The theologians who formulated liberation theology had close contact with poor communities - didnt teach in universities and seminaries.
  • Since they spend much time working directly with the poor themselves, the questions they deal with arise out of their direct contact with the poor.
  • Liberation theology interprets the Bible through the experiences of the poor.
  • It deals with Jesus's life and message: The poor learn to read the Scripture in a way that affirms their dignity and self worth and their right to struggle together for a more decent life.


  • The poverty of people is largely a product of the way society is organized therefore liberation theology is a "critique of economic structures".
  • Phillip Berryman described the liberation theology in the following terms:
    • "Liberation theology is:
      • 1. An interpretation of Christian faith out of the suffering, struggle, and hope of the poor;
      • 2. A critique of society and the ideologies sustaining it (profit, power, pride);
      • 3. A critique of the activity of the church and of Christians from the angle of the poor".

6. Brief History of Colonial Latin America

  • Spanish Crown (1485-1530) Golden Age
    • Ferdinand (Aragon) and Isabella (Castile)
      • United kingdoms = new power of Iberian Peninsula/Europe
      • Reconquista/Crusades Evangelize the world
      • Columbus (1487 1506)
        • Honor, riches, pride (Capitulations of Santa Fe)
        • Zealot: believed he was the bearer of Christ to heathens
    • Treaty of Tordesilla
      • Pope Alexander VI divide the world between Portugal and Spain

7. Conquistadors and Colonization seeking treasure

  • Hernn Cortz 1519 enticed by gold, conquered Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) with less than 1000 men in 1521.
  • Francisco Pizarro 1532;168 men (68 horses) conquered the heart of Incan Empire by tricking the Sapa Inca (king).
    • Emperor attempted to buy his freedom by filling a large room with gold and silver this only fuels the flames of greed for riches.
  • European advantages
    • Horses
    • Guns
    • Surprise/naivet
    • Germs

8. Role of colonies

  • To enrich the Crown with bullion, raw materials and labor
  • The colonies' central purpose was to serve the interests of the metropolis [Crown] by producing raw materials needed to manufacture in the home country, and then by providing a market for what was made(Bakewell, 2004, p.368)
  • Mercantile system of a kingdom created monopolies that provided raw materials to the homeland.Monopolies ensured the Crown got their slice of the wealth (taxation). Over-taxation, inefficiency in production, high prices to colonies.

9. Major colonial sources of wealth

  • Brazil:
    • red dye (brazilwood), sugarcane, cotton, coffee, gold and emeralds, cacao, rice, Indian labor
  • Mexico and Latin America:
    • silver, gold, sugar, leather Indian labor

10. Role of the Church in the Medieval/Classical worldview

  • Gods Church on Earth > Roman Catholic Church
    • Pope was closest to God (hierarchy), was considered authority of God on Earth
  • Notion of church-state separation was scarcely conceivable in this time(Bakewell, p 138, 2004)
    • Kings were faithful and obedient to the pope, tantamount to obedience to God
    • Kings had the divine right of God and appointed bishops in their kingdom
  • Function of citizen of kingdom was to be loyal and supportive of king, and thereby God, by being obedient, faithful to position in life.

11. Consequences of a rigid, hierarchical social/ political/ economic structure, in which the Church and State are intimately intertwined:

  • Leaders of the Church benefit from close relationships with heads of state.
    • Church leaders do not advocate for change of this structure, that is,a more equal distribution of power/resources that would benefit the poor , because this would threaten their privileged position in society.


  • People are keenly and painfully aware that a large part of the Church is in one way or another linked to those who wield economic and political power in todays world.
  • This applies to its position in the opulent and oppressive countries as well as in the poor countries, as in Latin America, where it is tied to the exploiting classes.
  • Is the Church fulfilling [its] role when, by its silence or friendly relationships, it lends legitimacy to a dictatorial or oppressive government? (Gutirrez, p65)

13. Economic Development vs Liberation

  • Development was a movement of the 1950s to beat 3 rdworld poverty w/ economic policies
    • IMF, World Bank loans, foreign investment, new technology
  • development consists in increased wealth or, at most, a higher level of well-being
  • development is atotal social process , which includes economic, social, political, and cultural aspects
  • Development failed to lead poor countries out of economic stagnation and oppressive poverty.
  • WHY??

14. Failure of economic development in the 1950s 1960s:

  • It has been promoted by international organizations [IMF, World Bank, WTO] closely linked to groups and governments which control the world economy.
  • The changes encouraged were to be achieved within the formal structure of the existing institutions without challenging them.
  • Great care was exercised not to attack the interests of large international economic powers nor those of their natural allies, the ruling domestic interests groups.
  • The so-called changes were often nothing more than new and underhanded ways of increasing the power of strong economic groups.
  • Since supporters of development did not attack theroots of evil ,they failed [to cause true growth] and caused instead confusion and frustration (Gutirrez, p26).
    • Gutirrez defines the root of evil as being the inherent selfishness of man

15. Three interpenetrating levels ofliberation

  • Liberationexpresses the economic, social and political aspirations of oppressed peoples and social classes that put them at odds with wealthy nations and oppressive classes.
    • Liberationas the best of development is within this level of liberation, which includes internal and external liberation of man.
    • Liberationas man assuming conscious responsibility for his own destiny.
    • Liberation from a theological perspective: Christ is the one who liberates us, from sin, from sinful structures, which is the ultimate root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression (Gutirrez, 36-37).

16. Role of the Church 17. Basic Principles of LT 18. Priority of Praxis over Theory 19. History as a Focus of Theology 20. Reading the Bible