Bishop Dan Martins on Liberation Theology

Bishop Dan Martins has written a good reflection on the House of Bishops discussion of liberation theology over on his blog "Confessions of a Carioca". Well worth the read HERE  (hat tip to Bart, whoever he is.)
Bishop Dan raises an important question, 

" As I continue to ponder the ramifications of the rapid advance of the post-Christian era in western society, it strikes me that Liberation Theology may actually presume a Christendom paradigm, in which the Church advocates for the Christian poor in challenge to their Christian exploiters. In such a model, evangelization is not a paramount concern; the cast of characters in the drama are presumed to already be evangelized, to already be part of the community of the altare Dei. But what if this is no longer the case?"

Great question awaiting a great answer.


  1. Mark, I read Bishop Martins' reflection, which is well worth reading, and wrote a long comment. When I hit preview, my comment disappeared, and I don't have the heart to try to say it all again. In brief, liberation theology is only retro insofar as the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and the long tradition of the church are retro. Christians have not always practiced the principles of liberation theology well, but they are surely nothing new.

    Abp. Óscar Romero expressed my view far better than I ever could in the following excerpt from one of his prayers:

    It helps, now and then, to step back
    and take the long view.
    The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
    it is beyond our vision.

    We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
    the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
    Nothing we do is complete,
    which is another way of saying
    that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

    No statement says all that could be said.
    No prayer fully expresses our faith.
    No confession brings perfection.
    No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
    No program accomplishes the church's mission.
    No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

    This is what we are about:
    We plant seeds that one day will grow.
    We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
    We lay foundations that will need further development.
    We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

    We cannot do everything
    and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
    This enables us to do something,
    and to do it very well.
    It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
    an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

    We may never see the end results,
    but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
    We are workers, not master builders,
    ministers, not messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own

  2. See re the Tea Party.

    If the greatest capitalist exploiters-of-the-poor in the USA aren't Christians (and many/most of them are?), their apologists certainly are!

    Ergo, if Liberation Theology only applies in a case of "Christendom", then in the US, we're in luck (so to speak).

  3. I think Bp Martins is only half-right about this. The context of much of the early liberation theology was societies which still operated in the Christendom model. However there is a great deal of work being done now in liberation theologies in contexts where the Christendom model is not and often never was present, e.g., in Asia. In Latin American base communities there was a great deal of evangelization of people who had been alienated by a hierarchy that was part of the oppressive system. That kind of evangelization is possible in other contexts, even among those who have had no contact with the church as they see Christians involved in struggles for human rights and the environment - two of the areas where there is considerable writing from liberation theologians.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.