economic - although they are not simply spiritual either. This concept is frequently illustrated by the observation that for Amerindian peasants {campesino indigena) 'land1 is simultaneously an economic, social, political, cultural and spiritual reality - indeed it defines their own nature and that of their community, as well as providing for their survival in a world where the material and moral aspccts of life are necessarily communitarian. When basic needs arc discussed in Latin America - particularly by the poor themselves - no philosophical distinction between 'infrastructure* and 'superstructure' exists: there is only a single reality of life or of death. When in the Third World a person loses their job or their land they lose life itself. Marginalised people risk their lives daily in the search for work and food for their families, without any possibility of education or political participation. None the less, the poor affirm their option for life - and above all their hope for a better life - in the community fiesta and in shared joy.

Thus ethics and spirituality are expressed through this concrete human experience: access to work, land, housing, or health are not only economic requirements but also clearly ethical imperatives. They reflect the ethics of life, where the defence of specific human lives is the fundamental moral imperative. Death is immoral: unemployment, hunger, and illiteracy are economic problems but also forms of death and thus a perverse ethical reality. So real life as it is lived by the poor becomes the criterion by which good and evil can be distinguished. Life, work, and land are both economic and spiritual realities. In sum, although spirituality is clearly not just a matter of the bodily life or death of a human being, adequate provision of basic needs for all is the crucial criterion for distinguishing between authentic and false spirituality - or rather between a spirituality of life and a spirituality of death,

In Latin America the notions of the 'logic of life' or the 'logic of the majority7 are widely used in both theological and radical political discourse - that is, human life is assumed to be the essential criterion for economic logic or rationality. That all should have life is the most logical or rational position: unemployment, illness, hunger, and illiteracy are illogical and irrational. Those whose lives are mainly threatened are the poor and oppressed, of course. This logic of life is opposed to the logic of the dominant economic system where the rationality is based on maximising corporate profits and private wealth. Life for all, especially for the poorest, can become illogical for the profit-maximising system. Unemployment, concentration of wealth in a few hands, marginality - and even the death of the poor - can become rational within the dominant economic system.

The satisfaction of basic needs - life for all - is therefore not seen by liberation theology as a goal, a programme, an ideology or a development model as it might be by a national economic policy maker or an international development agency. It is anterior to and more fundamental than economic policy. It is the only logical basis for an economic ideology or development model, because it is concerncd with the choice between human life and profit maximisation.

All that liberation theology has to say about life as the fundamental 'mediator' in economics can also be applied to reflections on the nature of God - and is summed up by the expression 'the God of LifeVĀ° For this theological purpose 'life' must be seen as something human and tangible, otherwise it evaporates into an abstract and purely spiritual theology. God is the God of Life because His will is essentially that all men and women should have life and life in abundance (John 10.10). The poor believe in the God of Life because He guarantees real human life for all, and particularly for them. God is the God of Life because He assumes human life as absolute truth, goodness and beauty - gloria Dei vivens homo in the words of Saint Irenaeus. The glory of God is manifested in specific human life -so this glory is at stake in the life or death of historically specific human beings. The economic dimension of life (work, land, house, health, food, education etc.) becomes the expression of the glory of God. Equally, the glory of God is dimmed in every person who suffers hunger, misery and oppression. Economy (i.e. life) and theology are thus inseparable in theory and practice-

One of the most characteristic contributions of liberation theology has been the concept of Structural sin' or sinful structures'1 - which includes the systematic violation of civil rights but where economic injustice holds a central place. For 'Western' (liberation theologians would say 'Northern') theology in the tradition of Cartesian individualism and an individual relationship to God, this is a problematic notion. The concept of sinful structures - which includes the market economy in practice - shows how personal evil can be simultaneously strengthened and disguised by social relationships. A particular economic structure (a historical system of relations between people) can easily create a series of situations which make necessary - and thus apparently reasonable - that conduct which favours one's own greed or that of one's family at the expense of the life and dignity of many others. Usually, the consequences for the poor of such greed are not immediately visible to the sinner (as they would be in an isolated rural community, for instance) because they are diffused through the market economy. As a personal sinner, an individual is seen as both responsible for and as a victim of these oppressive social structures.

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