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World Association of International Studies

Post Revival of Liberation Theology?
Created by John Eipper on 02/15/13 2:31 PM

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Revival of Liberation Theology? (Istvan Simon, USA, 02/15/13 2:31 pm)

Though religion is not one of my primary interests, I find it quite fascinating to observe the very different ways that some movements within religions are viewed in the countries where they actually happen, and in the prosperous Western countries. Liberation Theology is a good example of this. John Eipper seems to view it with great sympathy. From John Heelan's comments on his comments, I surmise that is also the case for John Heelan.

I contrast this sympathy with the much less favorable view of Liberation Theology that existed in Brazil when this movement was most influential, in the 1960s and '70s.

I believe that both John Heelan and John Eipper are mistaken in thinking that what is happening with Catholicism today in Brazil with the innovative priests that sing songs during mass has anything at all to do with Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology is pretty much dead in Brazil. It never amounted to much, and in its heyday in the '60s and '70s it was not viewed with much sympathy in general by most people in Brazil, including myself. In other words, Liberation Theology was far more popular in some liberal circles in the prosperous countries of the West than in Latin America where it was born. In the liberal circles in the West it was viewed as an "option for the poor."

The "option for the poor" is part of Christianity, as John Heelan correctly points out, by quoting Scripture, and is present in traditional Catholicism as well, and yet it has little to do with Liberation Theology. For Liberation Theology is not an option for the poor at all. Rather it is a political movement involving a Communist and Marxist "option for the poor." Those that practiced it in Brazil were and are Marxists and Communists. Liberation Theology never had a single bad word to say against the barbarism that happened in China or Cuba, for example, where Catholics were being brutally persecuted, when Padre Boff was writing his Marxist theories. On the contrary, they had admiring things to say about Communism, and Communist countries. So, those that think that Liberation Theology is an option for the poor are making a major mistake. No, Liberation Theology is an embrace of Marxism as an explanation for the reasons for poverty--that is it blames Capitalism for poverty, which is obviously incorrect, since there is far more poverty in Cuba or North Korea today than for example in Brazil. Never in any place on earth was communism a solution for poverty, and has never ever produced prosperity. (China is not a counter-example to this, because the Chinese abandoned Marxism to create prosperity.)

For those that still do not realize that Liberation Theology is a fringe political movement by a handful of priests rather than something more serious in the Catholic religion and more deserving of sympathy, I recommend reading the Wikipedia article on Leonardo Boff, its best-known proponent in Brazil. I quote what Mr. Boff said about the September 11 attacks in the United States that killed 3,000 of our compatriots:

"For me, the terrorist attack of September 11 represents the shift towards a new humanitarian and world model. The targeted buildings sent a message: a new world civilization cannot be built with the kind of dominating economy (symbolized by the World Trade Center), with the kind of death machine set up (the Pentagon) and with the kind of arrogant politics and producer of many exclusions (...) For me the system and culture of capital began to collapse. They are too destructive." In the same interview he said that "One of the worst fundamentalisms is that of neoliberalism."


JE comments: These were precisely the arguments that were used to quash Liberation Theology during the Cold War.  The point, as I see it, is to ask if the models of a generation ago are still valid.

I've never interacted with Father Boff, but I did have the good fortune of studying for a semester with the other principal theoretician of Liberation Theology: Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru. I can assure Istvan Simon that Father G is no communist or apologist for Cuba or North Korea.  On the contrary, he is probably the saintliest man I've ever met.

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