Liberation Theology summary

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  • Created on: 02-06-13 10:13

Liberation Theology


·         Grew out of the socio-political situation in Latin America during 1960s-70s.

·         Contextual and changeable theology. Responds to the plight of the poor politically and spiritually, and the theologians reflect on the current situation from a Christian perspective.

·         Act first, reflect later. Side with the oppressed against injustice, then reflect on it theologically

·         Often seen as subversive and dangerous by both Church and state- radical approach in a continent where RC church has traditionally always defined theologies.

·         Why it developed

o   Colonisation of Latin America- after Spanish + Portuguese colonisation in 1492, indigenous people forced into new culture, including Catholicism. Violently divided class society, with poor indigenous people in countryside, rich colonisers separated.

o   Independence achieved 1808-24, but rich practicing slavery continued- independence only really gained by the rich who wanted freedom to trade with Britain, so still in a European mindset.

o   RC church recognised new countries by 1830s, but Bishops had vacated dioceses which church was unable to fill- very few from Latin America, over 80% were from Europe. Liberal progressiveness supported economic development + exported goods, without the strong traditional church presence.

o   Protestant missionaries from USA brought conservative Christianity which appealed to many peasants.

o   1950s- rise of Protestantism, communism, and secularisation.

Birth of Liberation Theology

·         1955: Catholic Bishops of Latin America (CELAM) called first major conference to address situation, but were also disturbed by the social problems- began to question what they could do around a variety of social + theological issues. They discussed:

o   Role and attitude to clergy- few parish priests, so many communities acting independently

o   Communism- revolutions in Cuba and Brazil showed that people supported communist + atheist change, and church had lost touch with grassroots members

o   Radical Christian voices outside Church hierarchy- eg Paulo Friere, who taught peasants combined Christian and Marxist ideas to enable them to become self-sufficient.

·         1968: CELAM II, Medellin- aim of conference was to consider implications of Vatican II on the poor, looking at social, political, economic and cultural life in LAmerica, then theology.

o   Orthopraxis (right action) used in contrast with orthodoxy (right teaching)

o   BUT- much ambiguity, lots of rhetoric; ‘’development’, ‘liberation’ widely used, but not clearly defined.

·         Gutierrez: published full length books on LibTheol shortly after Medellin. Guttierez said the poor are those who occupy the ‘underside of history’. For church to function properly , must grow out of the people. Defined the poor in three ways: dehumanised (by lack of material goods, not poor in spirit); open to God; committed in solidarity.

New type of reformation:

·         Emphasis on authority of ordinary people

·         Works from actualy people and their historical situation

·         Reform of wider society

·         Led to many other theologies of liberation specific to certain areas, ie Black Theol, feminist theol, gay theol, African…


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