Liberation theology

Robert Peter Burns rburns at chaph.usc.edu
Wed Nov 8 09:55:57 MST 1995


Jon Beasley-Murray asks a couple of questions on
this subject.  

One of the more radical, politically interesting
liberation theologians is a Uruguayan Jesuit named
Juan Luis Segundo <see his books, _The Liberation
of Theology_ Orbis, 1976, and _Faith and Ideologies_
Orbis, 1984.>  But of course Jesuits have no monopoly
on liberation theology.  Also, by no means all Jesuits
share a liberationist or even a progressive viewpoint.
You'll find political views ranging from fascism to
anarcho-syndicalism.  And like a lot of people, many Jesuits
don't think much consciously about "politics".  This
is something people on the left need to remind themselves
of from time to time.  

Like all left forces, liberation theology has been suffering
from the generalized hegemony of the right and "death of
socialism" rhetoric since 1989.  The Vatican has also been
putting the boot in in a viciously effective manner.
But of course, the reasons "on the ground" that gave rise to 
LT are stronger than ever.  To give one example, Jesuit economist
Xavier Gorostiaga reports that Nicaragua's economic output is now
at 1940s levels.  Latin neoliberalism is ever more clearly an
exacerbation of the problems of mass poverty and gross inequality.
So the LT phenonomenon is not going to disappear.  The use of 
'spiritual' as against more overtly 'political' language may
often be part of a strategy of resistance and subversion--the 
elites won't allow words like 'socialism' or 'communism', so people resort
to the metaphors* and poetry* of religion, since the authorities 
can't ban that without appearing more "obviously" to violate "human rights"
--while malnutrition goes unremarked.

*<NB: this is not _mere_ metaphor, _mere_ poetic symbolism--for
these are ways of expressing vital truths that cannot be expressed
by other means *without loss*.  I don't think socialists should
be committed to the view that all truths must be expressible in
terms of science.  Some *must* be expressed in poetry, myth, religious
imagery, etc.  The human capacity for transcendence requires this, IMO.>

Peter Burns SJ
rburns at scf.usc.edu


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