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Understanding Liberation Theology
Daniel Levine’s Popular Voices in Latin American Catholicism fills our minds with age old questions and yet provides us with the information needed to answer these questions. Throughout his writings, though obviously more concentrated in Chapter two, Levine unveils the history and worth of what is called liberation theology. Though Levine details the uses and importance of this lesser known religious outlook, I believe he does a better job of allowing us to very much understand the central ideas, beliefs, methods, and history of the liberation theology.
Levine states, “Liberation theology comes together as a theory and a set of guidelines for action around issues of poverty and the poor,” (pg. 39). We must understand that this outlook has not evolved from nothing, but came from the Latin American response to Catholicism and their changes since the Second Vatican Council. Rarely in American society do we as citizens who are wealthy enough to support families, feel as if the view from the lower class is one of significance. This statement may be blunt; however we as a society of levels, stages, or classes show the poor as they did hundreds of years ago. Liberation theology, however, “values solidarity and shared experience identifies strongly with people whose loves are deformed by oppressive structures,” (pg. 39). Theologians explain that they insist on the need to view religious issues through the eyes of the poor, to experience what they live through and to, “live with them in ways that undercut long-established social and cultural distances between the church and average believers,” (pg. 40).
Obviously the concern for the poor is not new in the Christian community. What I expressed earlier is that our society does not view them as of same importance or value. Sure, we pity the poor, set up charities, promote programs to help the needy, and set up homeless shelters. However, what sets liberation theology apart is how the poor has a role, a promoted and distinguished role, in church, politics, and in society.
To sum up the understanding of liberation theology we must grasp the major themes. The four themes that are the basis for liberation theology are,
“…a concern with history and historical change, second the return to biblical sources, third a stress on the poor and a related emphasis on doing theology in a way that enhances the value of everyday experience and the insight of average people, and finally CLONE and complex relations with Marxism” (pg. 40).
Understanding the past few paragraphs will allow any and all readers to grasp what sets liberation theology a part form the likes of Catholicism. However, comprehending these four basic themes allow for an even better understanding of the ideas, beliefs, and concepts that are the foundation for liberation theology.
First, when Levine states, “a concern with history and historical change,” he does not mean the Latin American community and/or all who follow the theology as defenders of certain beliefs or concepts claimed to be eternal. He does state that change itself is viewed as necessary, a good thing, and indeed inevitable. Basically, the theology expresses that the followers must new themselves as a church living in a world that is evolving. Levine expresses just that by stating, “This requires theologians to see the church in historical terms, as a community of believers living and changing over time and space,” (pg. 41). The idea is to value and learn from this ever changing world and take “signs” and occurrences accordingly.
The return to biblical sources hinges on the actions of Vatican II and their reforms which put religious texts into local languages. This has allowed for massive popularity boost in traditional Bible study. Allowing the poor and illiterate to participate and comment on the Bible and its stories increases the value of popular insights and in turn enhances the value of the poor. This flows very well into the third theme of liberation theology. Bible study has allowed for a massive entanglement of ideas and values among the poor which has created an influx of involvement throughout the poor community. This increased involvement has been a solid foundation for a major theme of valuing the poor community of viewing the surrounding world through their eyes.