The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of liberation theology as a new, vital force within Christianity. It had three major expressions: Latin American, Black, and Feminist. As Ron Rhodes, an evangelical scholar, indicates: "All three respond to some form of oppression: Latin American liberation theologians say their poverty-stricken people have been oppressed and exploited by rich, capitalist nations. Black liberation theologians argue that their people have suffered oppression at the hands of racist whites. Feminist liberation theologians lay heavy emphasis upon the status and liberation of women in a male-dominated society."
All three varieties of liberation theology favor political, social, and economic change. Some proponents accept selective use of violence to bring about change. Others would rely upon nonviolent means. To this extent they offer insights on the theology of war and peace.
Here we take up these three varieties of liberation theology.
Latin American Liberation Theology
Liberation Theology in Latin America
by Kevin F. Burke, S.J.
On the evening of March 24, 1980, in the tiny Central American country of El Salvador, a hired gunman stole into the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital during the celebration of the Eucharist and fired a fatal bullet into the heart of the Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. In the eyes of many, Romero was a prophet whose ringing denunciations of injustice and vigorous defense of the poor placed him at odds with the right-wing ruling elites and led him to a martyr's death. Others, however, saw him as a well-intentioned but misguided dupe who fell under the spell of leftists fighting to overthrow the Salvadoran government.
Woven through these various interpretations of Romero's legacy one finds frequent references to a movement called "liberation theology". It, too, has garnered a wide range of assessments. Its enemies claim that it endorses violent revolution under the guise of redressing social injustices. As such, they conclude, it represents a (communist) wolf in (religious) sheep's clothing. By contrast, advocates insist that it embodies the values of Jesus; its ethical and apocalyptic sense of urgency reflects, they argue, the earliest spirit of Christianity.
A Concise History of Liberation Theology by Leonardo and Clodovis Boff
Theology of Liberation: Bibliography
Liberation Theology by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (1984) [now Pope Benedict XVI]
Instruction on Certain Aspects of "Theology of Liberation" by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (August 6, 1984)
Christian Revolution in Latin America: The Changing Face of Liberation Theology by Ron Rhodes
An Evangelical Theology of Liberation by Ronald J. Sider
The Absence of War Does Not Mean Peace
A Black Theological Perspective
by F. Douglas Powe, Jr.
Saint Paul School of Theology
Many discussions on war and peace address just war theory, pacifism, or a combination of both. The usual goal of these discussions is to figure out how we can avoid war and sustain peace. The term peace in these instances is being implicitly defined as a time free from war. The word peace can be misleading if it is only understood as the absence of war.
In the United States there are periods when the country is not at war, and many whites probably believe during these times the country is at peace. For many African-Americans historically, however, even during the times when there is an absence of war, an absence of peace still exists. The threat of harm is an on-going reality for many African-Americans during so called peaceful interludes.
To better understand why the absence of war does not mean peace for many African-Americans the following four themes will be explored:
(1) the contradiction of the American promise
(2) an unjust peaceful existence
(3) King and Vietnam
(4) reclaiming shalom as a true model for peace
Black Theology, Black Power, and the Black Experience by Ron Rhodes
Feminism and the Challenges of War
by Beverly E. Mitchell
Wesley Theological Seminary
A number of women have written recent articles on feminism and war in light of the war in Iraq. Their range of views suggests that there is no definitive feminist view of war. Like the general population, there are feminists who oppose war under any and all circumstances, feminists who hate war but recognize that there may be instances in which war might be necessary, and women who recognize war as a regrettable occurrence, but lack confidence in the success of other options.
Despite the absence of a definitive feminist position, there are several recurring themes in the discussion of the problem of war in the context of Christian feminism that are worth our consideration as debate continues over the war in Iraq. These themes are:
(1) the supposed connection between feminism and peace;
(2) the impact of war on women;
(3) theological groundings for peace; and
(4) the relevance of just war theory.
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