Liberation theology

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Liberation theology is, as Phillip Berryman reminds us, first and foremost theology. It is theology that privileges a praxis that sees the mission of not only the Catholic Church, but also of Christianity, through the eyes of the poor and the oppressed. It arose in the 1960s in Latin America, most notably with the writings of Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. He by no means wrote in a vacuum. Yet it equally derived from movements for decolonization in Africa and Asia, from the rise of dependency theory, and from a reoriented mission of the Church through the Second Vatican Council of Pope John XXIII. It stressed concientizacion" (roughly, "consciousness-raising") and sought to understand and redress social, economic, and political structures by empowering the poor. Not merely looking outward, liberation theology likewise turned much attention towards the Church in an effort to correct its own paternalism by listening to the poor and marginalized and augmenting their own role in creating a meaningful theology to them. Thus, it is a theology as much from "below" as "above." It is often criticized as "Marxist theology," but such a view is, for those who have read of this complex and variegated movement, simply too simplistic. One does not, for example, need Marx to speak of "oppression." Jesus himself used the word tirelessly.

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