This essay delves into and delineates the uniqueness of three expressions of liberation theology within the context of each other. It further presents a critical view of the three expressions, reflecting on the totality of the concepts and themes. It is evidenced that liberation theology has elicited a lot of controversies in theology. This essay assumes the prerogative to analyze both the strengths and the limitations of each expression against a conscious threshold.
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Liberation theology has largely branded itself as a humanistic doctrine attempting to interpret the scripture based on the poor man’s point of view. It emphasizes the upgrade of the economic status of the underprivileged in society (Ellis, & Otto, 2007). This school of thought is of the argument that the church concentrates its efforts on the liberation of the poor from a life of squalor and oppression. Contextualizing the implications of liberation theology is imperative, as theologians try to understand the different emphases between processes of theologies and liberation theologies (Ellis, & Otto, 2007).
The emergence of liberation theology in the 1960s led to new and vital development in Christianity. These developments formed the basis of the three expressions in liberation theology. These include the Latin American, the Black, and the Feminist expression, all of which responded to some form of oppression. The expressions favored social, political, and economic change while offering more insight into the theology of war and peace (Brockman, 2001).
The Latin Liberation Theology
Latin American liberation theologians hold the poverty-stricken society have been oppressed and exploited by rich and capitalistic nations. Latin Liberation Theology was conceived in 1968 at the Second Latin American Bishops Conference in Colombia. Their main agenda was to study the Bible and to vouch for social justice in the Christian fraternity (McGrath, 2006). With reference to Brockman (2001), God’s Kingdom was a historical project brought about when the poor take action to create a world of justice for everyone (p.97). The redistribution of wealth to enhance the economic status of the poor in Latin America adopted a definite Marxist flavor. It viewed reality in terms of class struggle and viewed the Latin American oppression in an international capitalistic perspective (Brockman, 2001).
The Liberation theology encompassed the dialectical Marxism model. It was mired in Marxist dogma and revolutionary effects (McGrath, 2006). The right-wing governments spontaneously perceived it as subversion from the norm. Latin American expression craved for social change through non-violent and political means. However, it did not rule out the use of revolutionary means to subvert its failure (Brockman, 2001).
Evaluating Latin Liberation Theology
This theological expression presented a prophetic call to strengthen the economically deprived in society. It relied on an intellectual and religious paradigm in tackling the concrete struggles for justice and love in an endeavor to uproot the dehumanization of the poor, which resulted from classism, racism, and ethnocentrism (Brockman, 2001). Its agitation for activism and attempts to make history relevant were valuable contributions. The expression captured the biblical call for the cultural role and tried to implement the secular dichotomy that had infected evangelicalism positively in the past centuries (McGrath, 2006).
However, the limitation of this expression arose from the submergence of Latin liberation theology into the dogmas of maxims. Those in support of this doctrine at times adopted an approach bordered on utopianism. And because Marxism was by large associated with a violent revolution, the expression faced ethical dilemmas, given its failure to embrace biblical concepts of what is just. Socialism, as fronted by this expression, was also likely to fail in bringing about civil and political freedom. It demanded a centralized control that was incompatible with civil rights like those found in the United States Bill of Rights (Ellis, & Otto, 2007).
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The Black Liberation Theology
Liberation passed over from South America to the Black liberation theologians who alleged their people had suffered oppression in the hands of racist whites. As the liberation theology drifted from South America, the Black expression adopted Marxism ideologies. The Marxist doctrine was radical in approach and humanistic and was found on no scriptural basis (Ellis, & Otto, 2007). Liberation theology in South America was geared towards liberating Christians, mostly Catholics, from economic and social bondages, whereas the black liberation theology attempted to stir up a revolutionary conception among the blacks in America (McGrath, 2006).
Blacks had suffered oppression under the yoke of slavery and were thirsty for economic and social emancipation. Boff (2006) notes the root-course of the oppression was vested in elitists, capitalism, and exclusive systems of power. The black liberation adopted liberation theology. Its foundation was in Latin American Catholicism. Their liberation theology was to fight for emancipation. Apparently, the black expression was a racially, and ethically charged struggle clinching on the theology of liberation as its weapon (Boff, 2006).
Evaluating the Black Liberation Theology
The Black liberation theology attempted to address the systemic racial and ethnic injustices by adopting intellectual and religious support structures to establish what Justice Aquinas referred to as an egalitarian ethnic community (Boff, 2006). The point of social justice was the removal of oppressive and exploitative class structures, otherwise called classism. The limitation of this theology is that it could suffer the same fate as the Latin liberation theology, in which case both expressions are viewed by the church and state as false humanistic doctrines disguised in ostensibly sound theological conceptions (McGrath, 2006).
Feminist Liberation Theology
Feminist liberation theology puts emphasis on the status and liberation of women folks in a male-dominated society. In every patriarchal society in the world, women are oppressed. They include young children and elderly women (Brockman, 2001). This theory seeks to free women who have been demoralized and objectified by male aggression sexism. Liberation theology addresses the issue of male chauvinist and sexual injustices based on scholarly and religious grounds (Grenz, & Olson, 1992).
The three expressions discussed in liberation theology tend to respond to some form of oppression. They all exhibit a commonality of purpose achieved under different settings, and each is having a definite outcome. The Latin American liberation expression put it that the poor have been exploited by the rich and the capitalistic. This expression borrows significantly from the Marxist ideals. Black liberation expression argues that blacks have suffered oppression and racism perpetrated by the whites, and therefore there is a need for their emancipation by all means necessary. Feminist liberation expression emphasizes the liberation of women in a male-dominated society.
Boff, L. (2006). “The Church, Charisma and Power.” Diercksmeier-Trans. New York, NY: Crossroads.
Brockman, R. (2001). “The prophetic role of the Church in the Latin America.” Christian Century, 100 (10).
Ellis, M. H., & Otto M. (2007). “Expanding the View: Gustavo Gutierrez and the Future of Liberation Theology.” New Yoke: Orbis.
Escobar, S. (2003). The new global mission: The gospel from everywhere to everyone. Downers Grove (IL): Inter-Varsity Press.
Grenz, S., & Olson, R. (1992). The 20th century theology: God and the world in a transitional Age. Downers Grove (IL). Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN-13: 0-8308-1525.
McGrath, E. (2006). “Christianity: An Introduction.” Blackwell Publishing.