Liberation Theology, from the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez
I.. The lower classes of the populace, forced to live on the margins of society and oppressed since time immemorial,
are beginning to speak for themselves more and more rather than relying on intermediaries... They are less and
less willing to be the passive objects of demagogic manipulation and social or charitable welfare in varied disguises.
They want to be the active subjects of their own history and to forge a radically different society.
This discovery is made, however, only within the context of a revolutionary struggle. That struggle is calling the existing social order into question from the roots up ...private ownership of the means of production will be eliminated because it enables a few to expropriate the fruits of labor performed by the many, generates class divisions in a society, and permits one class to be exploited by another. In such a reordered society the social takeover of the means of production will be accompanied by a social takeover of the reins of political power that will ensure people's liberty...
For a long time, and still today in the case of many people, Latin American Christians displayed an almost total lack of concern for temporal tasks. They were subjected to a type of religious upbringing that viewed the "hereafter" as the locale of authentic life... On the surface it seemed to bear the hallmark of spiritual and religious traits, but in reality it stemmed from a seriously reductionist view of the gospel message... The gospel message was thus rendered as innocuous as a lap dog. From such a gospel the great and powerful of this world had little to fear and much to gain. Their support and backing of it was quickly forthcoming.
...Social injustice began to surface as the fundamental cause of the general situation. How could one claim to be a Christian if one did not commit oneself to remedying that situation? ...More and more we see a converging trend, initiated by young people in particular. In ever widening circles people began to abandon positions that did not go beyond some form of developmentalism rooted in reformist principles. The socialist revolution in Cuba opened up new political horizons... The figures of Camilo Torres and Che Guevara sealed the process irrevocably and had a decisive influence on various Christian sectors in Latin America... To the "institutionalized violence" condemned by the Medellín episcopal conference was added the indiscriminate use of force (imprisonment, torture, and assassination). That is how "order" was to be maintained in the face of popular movements and uprisings.
Love of neighbor is an essential component of Christian life. But as long as I apply that term only to the people who cross my path and come asking me for help, my world will remain pretty much the same. Individual almsgiving and social reformism is a type of love that never leaves its own front porch... On the other hand my world will change greatly if I go out to meet other people on their path and consider them as my neighbor, as the good Samaritan did... the gospel tells us that the poor are the supreme embodiment of our neighbor. It is this option that serves as the focus for a new way of being human and Christian in today's Latin America. But the existence of the poor... is not neutral on the political level or innocent of ethical implications. Poor people are by-products of the system under which we live and for which we are responisble... That is why the poverty of the poor is not a summons to alleviate their plight with acts of generosity but rather a compelling obligation to fashion an entirely different social order.
The realm of politics today entails confrontations between different human groups, between social classes with opposing interests, and these confrontations are marked by varying levels of violence. The desire to be an "artisan of peace" not only does not excuse one from taking part in these conflicts; it actually compels one to take part in them if one wants to tackle them at their roots and get beyond them. It forces one to realize that there can be no peace without justice. This is a harsh insight, and it disturbs people who... with the best of good will, confuse or identify universal love with some fictitious harmony.
But what does the gospel message command us to do? It tells us to love our enemies... The gospel does not say that we are not to have enemies; it says that we are not to exclude our enemies from our love.
...Viewed as the result of social injustice which is ultimately rooted in sin, poverty is now taken on insofar as it is a way of bearing witness against the evil it embodies... In this respect it is assumed for much the same reasons that Christ took on the sinful human condition and all its consequences... When it is lived in authentic imitation of Christ, the witness of poverty does not alienate us from the world at all. ...Only through concrete acts of love and solidarity can we effectively realize our encounter with the poor and the exploited and, through them, with Jesus Christ. To give to them is to say yes to Christ; to refuse them is to reject Christ (Matt. 25:31-46).
---Gustavo Gutiérrez, "Liberation Praxis and Christian Faith" from Frontiers of Theology in Latin America, edited by Rosino Gibellini, translated by John Drury, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1979.