Liberation Theology as it Relates to Economic Justice and Empowering the Poor
Liberation theology refers to the many movements of social change which assert that the Christian faith should be a basis for the self- liberation of the poor. In this context, faith goes beyond the mere religious praxis to include aspects beyond churches. Many liberation theologies exist such as feminist, black and Latin American movements. Despite having diverging view points, the key objective of all the movements is for the oppressed to work together for the removal of the oppression. The process begins with the recognition of the fact that the oppressed can do nothing about their oppression. The process takes place in an environment which supports social change. Once the political and social factors that lead to oppression have been identified, the poor can then work cohesively towards achieving liberation. The study aims at determining the effectiveness of this process in bringing economic justice as well as in empowering the poor.
Various scholars have tackled the idea of liberation theologies in various perspectives. For instance, Miley et al (2001) suggest that people create personal realities based on their interactions with the world and with others as well as their perception of how people treat them. Empowerment is therefore described as the ability to distinguish between personal problems and the external world. Liberation theologies aim at bringing about this distinction and are thus most applicable in poor and underdeveloped countries. The theories focus on helping the poor and/ or oppressed to participate in the process of changing their situations. The recognition of the fact that they should change from the current situation precedes the application of liberation theory. Biblically, the poor are not romanticized either. This is because poverty is probably the origin of deprivation and sin. Similarly, Jesus preaches a life of abundance while asking the rich to share their wealth with the poor.
In the current days, wealth is considered an acquisition of those who can gain in terms of capital. They must however be under the support of a capitalist system in order to succeed in wealth creation. Lewis (2007) purports that economic justice can be linked to liberation theologies in that essential needs are no longer limited to food, clothing and shelter, but also include work. Black liberation theology is built on the premise that God is for the poor and that He supports them. Therefore, the sole aim of the movement is to liberate blacks from white racism. The liberation theology helps the blacks to ascend white racism in their environments. Because of the precepts of black liberation theology, such theologies have been linked to Marxism rather than Christianity. The drive of black theology is to present reliable freedom for the white as well as for the black societies.
Although liberation movements arose from Latin America, black liberation has been in the spot light over the years due to its linkage to Marxism. From the point of view of Althaus – Reid (2006), black theology promotes a victim mentality among the blacks in the country and can result in hated among the races. However, James Cone, who started the black theology intended for it to be a source of liberation for the blacks due to the argument that Jesus Christ would support liberation. In conclusion, it can be argued that liberation theology surpasses religious factors.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella. 2006. Liberation theology and sexuality. Aldershot, England: Ashgate
Lewis, Hannah. 2007. Deaf liberation theology. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Pub.
Miley, Karler & DuBois, Brenda. 2001. Generalist social work practice: An empowering approach. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
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