Monday, February 11, 2008


Liberation theology - challenging

I'm not sure whether that title means that I'm challenging Liberation theology, or being challenged by it, but I've been thinking, certainly. I'm really enjoying the ethics module, as I'd expected I would, and am reading ahead. I've just been reading Gorringe, who cites Segundo talking about the bottom line commitment for liberation theology is the option for the poor. I think the thing I'm trying to come to terms with is that although I absolutely accept the enormous inequalities - unchristian inequalities - that riddle our society, and the impact that has on the poorest in society, I'm not sure that I'm ready to take on board what seems to be the central tenet of liberation theology: that our first and foremost task must always be the reconstituting of society in such a way as to alleviate - and remove - economic poverty.

Are there not other unchristian inequalities that must attract our attention? Sometimes, maybe, more than economic poverty? Sometimes, maybe, we look beyond the question of inequalities, and focus more on injustice. I don't think this last point - injustice versus inequality - is particularly at odds with liberation theology. And I'm also very aware that this self-conscious theologising is dangerous in two particular ways:

  1. in liberation theology, praxis is king (and there's an intentionally imperialist piece of language), and the primal move should be from sensing of injustice to dealing with it, and then to the theology around it
  2. worst of all, I'm doing this from a position of extreme privilige. I'm a young, white, educated, healthy, safe, rich male in a happy nuclear family based around a heterosexual relationship between two waged individuals. It really doesn't get much worse than this: at least I'm not titled...
This is not a new argument, and I'm very aware of how womanist theory addresses the question of whether the aims of first and second generation (American) feminism are really consonant with the issues that are relevant to poor black women.

So, am I interested in issues about gender inequality, inequality around sexuality or sexual practice, spiritual poverty, educational poverty, emotional poverty, psychological poverty and the rest just because I'm in a position to be so? Is my privilege leading me to a leisure of choice which allows me to look beyond the real issues of Third World - or Developing World - poverty? Maybe it is. But am I wrong to look more closely at what's going on at home? Might I not start by looking at homeless people? Surely that would be acceptable to liberation theologians? But what are the reasons for those (multiple) homelessnesses? Surely there is no real poverty in our Welfare State-supported society? Surely those who are homeless, or disenfranchised, or addicts, of in abusive relationships, or complaining about lack of advancement for female or homosexual clergy are not really poor? Surely they have choices?

They may well do. But they should not be called to make those choices. And I think that this is consonant with liberation theology. I pray that those committed liberation theologians will allow that I have a true and real spiritual - and, following that - theological commitment to removing injustice. I hope so.

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Oh I have far too much to say to write it in the comments section- but I agree to engage with liberation theology from a position of the oppressor is an interesting one- but possible I think...
Buy you a beer or two at the March weekend....
Wondered whether you might pick up on this. I think it's interesting, and it really makes me think...
am currently blogging and adding a link to this :-)
A thought-provoking post, Mike, and I think I'll blog about some of the thoughts it provoked.
Well, I would have blogged about it if I could find the link to your post, but, try as I would, I couldn't find it. Usually, if nothing else works, the date or time of the post has a link, but this one didn't.

Went to Technorati and found the link by searching for "liberation theology"!

Thanks Technorati!

And then got side-tracked by a piece of Barack Obama.
And, for what it's worth, you can find what I wrote at: Notes from underground: Whatever happened to Liberation Theology?
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