The Influence Of Politics On Theology And Liberation

Methol Ferré and Salazar Bondy have helped us to realize hat we must do our thinking within a basic context of oppression. Hence we must also ponder this very situation of oppression itself. We are forced to look at the overall situation from the bottom of the heap, as it were, and hence ur way of liberating ourselves from the present situation will differ from the approach of people in the dominant countries. The affluent societies have one road to take, we have another road to take. And only people within our concrete situation can truly describe the process involved.

It is precisely at this stage of awareness that a distinctively Latin American theology appeared on the scene. It could not appear before people recognized the socio-political conditioning that weighed down upon the Church and the theologian in Latin America.

Let me give you a concrete example of what I am talking about. Herbert Marcuse lives in an affluent society. When he proposes ways to escape from the knotty problems of society, he does so from within the context of an affluent society. People in his affluent society consume too much and destroy too much of the goods of this world. They need a certain asceticism, and they must balance their excessive pragmatism with the spirit of playfulness. The "hippie" is the typical rebel in the affluent society. Challenging this society, the hippie refuses to bathe or to dress up or to work. And since others eat too much, the hippie gives little or no thought to food. Such a challenge would make little sense in our society. Here we must find ways to make sure that everyone can eat enough to sustain life. In short, our problems are different and therefore we must take different paths towards their solution.

Latin America is the only post-Christendom socio-cultural group among the underdeveloped nations. The other underdeveloped areas are very distinct from us in their culture, so their process of liberation will also differ from ours. Our process of liberation will differ from that which must take place in affluent societies and from that which must take place in other underdeveloped societies. But perhaps all these different processes will converge at some point in the future and help to form a new humanity.

In the meantime the Latin American Church has an important and complex role to play both in the history of the universal Church and in the history of humankind as a whole. We now realize that if we do not ponder the great process of liberation, then our theology will remain floating on thin air and never touch upon serious concrete ques tions. Our new theology is not wholly new, of course. It is actually a rethinking of all our past theology in terms of an eschatological goal. Just as our past mirrors Hebrew bondage in Egypt, so our future goal is the eschatological kingdom. And our present is the journey through the liberating desert of history. The ongoing life of the Church as a process of liberation is an essential tenet in Christian dogma. It is embodied in the notion of "passover" or "pasch," and the life of the Church is a paschal one.

We must realize that we are involved in a passage through history towards liberation. But we must also remember that concrete liberation in history is not the ultimate, final stage either. We do seek the "new man" in history, but this concrete goal is not to be identified with the kingdom of God. Some day we may have to demythologize the notion of the "new man" too, lest it oppress us and prevent us from continually moving ahead in the process of liberation.

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