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A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez - The Friendly Hermit
All who wander are not lost...
A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez
bdouville From: bdouville Date: July 24th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for sharing this. I browsed through A Theology of Liberation three years ago (when I was writing a chapter of my dissertation which entailed some knowledge of liberation theology), and my overall impression was "I didn't expect it to sound so orthodox." From doing a surface-level read, it could have been a papal encyclical. But as I read these passages, it seems that the orthodox language belies the radical content.

There would have been a theology of liberation even without this book; Latin American liberation theology (both ideas and practice) pre-dates this particular volume. What it did was to provide a systematic foundation and justification for a spirituality of political liberation. (This is kind of ironic, consider the passage above in which he basically says that theology should precede action rather than provide a religious justification for action.)

When I read what he has to say about secularization, I sense that he was probably influenced by Harvey Cox's The Secular City (1965), or by other secular theologians of the sixties. I was never fully convinced by the secular theologians. For one thing (and this might be a criticism of Gutierrez too), while they were trying to apply their faith to the wider world, I wonder if their guilty of only widening the distinction between the "city of God" and "city of men." I know that this wasn't there intent; I trust that there purpose was to open the door for a worldly Christianity (but not "worldly" in the sense that fundamentalist evangelicals use that term). But perhaps there's a danger that it could lead people to believe that the world of faith, rather than being integral, is of secondary importance, or even marginal importance, when compared to the world of action. In other words, do secular theologies (including liberation theology) ultimately undermine a theological or faith-based worldview?

(And I'm asking this as a sort of agnostic Christian, which may be a contradiction in itself. And as a leftist who does music at a fairly conservative evangelical Anglican church. So I'm probably not in a position to criticize anybody. I'm just raising some thoughts here.)

Anyways, it was good to read this. Perhaps one day, I'll sit down and do a careful, thorough, thoughtful read of Gutierrez from cover-to-cover.



p.s. Incidentally, Gutierrez spent an extended period of time in Montreal in the sixties, while he was forming his ideas for this book. And Montreal was a VERY activist place in the sixties, with a vibrant, cutting-edge radical left scene, inspired by anti-colonial ideology. So maybe Canada -- or at least French Canada -- can take some credit for this articulation of liberation theology.

p.p.s. I should have remembered that I have an LJ icon precisely for posts like this one.

Edited at 2013-07-24 01:34 pm (UTC)
legolastn From: legolastn Date: July 25th, 2013 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I should preface this by saying that I did not do a "careful, thorough, thoughtful read of Gutierrez from cover-to-cover." :) Thoughtful, perhaps, but there were boring bits (probably those very orthodox arguments you mention) I just skimmed over. My purpose in reading wasn't to understand every nuance of his argumentation but rather just to give me a better sense of what had inspired later works and to look for particular nuggets of wisdom I found interesting/inspiring/challenging.

I don't read the passage about theology and action the same way you do - I don't think he's saying theology should precede action. If anything the language of "accompany" and "linked to" suggests (an ideal?) that they develop side by side. But, yes, it is clear from the book that liberation theology is already a thing and that the purpose of the book is not to "create" it but to systematize the arguments for it.

I'm not really familiar with secular theology beyond Bishop Spong, who I find interesting but is not the approach I resonate with most. I think there's something to be said for your argument that secular theology basically leads to a non-religious/non-theological culture but I think Spong would probably respond with something like: If so, so what? In his view there is no other option that has full integrity so if that's the inevitable result, so be it. I think Gutierrez's arguments are of a slightly different vein and actually does a pretty good job of arguing faith isn't secondary or marginal - that action without faith or that marginalizes faith is in danger of going off the tracks and, at worst, is outright dangerous. I can't speak to whether his arguments have veracity beyond saying that for me personally liberation theology one of the few things that has kept me within the fold of organized religion. And, yes, there is a certain irony in an agnostic Christian saying secular theology is a problem because it undermines faith, and probably also a certain irony in agnostic Christians debating the finer points of theology. :D
bdouville From: bdouville Date: July 25th, 2013 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Most United Church seminaries are full of agnostic Christians debating the finer points of theology. :)
legolastn From: legolastn Date: July 25th, 2013 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haha, perhaps! They don't call us Unitarians Considering Christ for nothing.