When I was in seminary I studied under one of my great professors, Dr. Allison, liberation theology. I studied women’s liberation of Rosemary Ruether and Mary Daly; Black liberation of James Cone; and the poor’s liberation of Gustavo Gutierrez. Nicaragua is the only country where liberation theology was taken to its logical conclusion with a government intent on focusing on the poor in the 1980s, then the Contra War destroyed most of their hopes and dreams.
What is liberation theology? Basically it is a belief that the Divine has a preferential option for the poor and that our actions as faithful people is to liberate people from poverty and chains that hold us down in any way we can. The liberation of the Jewish slaves in Egypt…Passover…is a focal point of liberation theology. It is a concrete example of the Divine wanting the beloved people to be free at a high cost.
Then the Lord said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land… (Exodus 3:7-8a)
The prophets taught that the poor were to be lifted up and a nation is judged on the way it cares for its oppressed. One example of this is Isaiah:
The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?" says the Lord GOD of hosts. Isaiah 3:14-15)
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." (Luke 1:46-55)
And then we have Jesus…
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Therefore as Jews and Christians we are judged, called, summoned to end poverty and free the bounds of oppression. There should be no question on this.
But we as Jews and Christians have failed miserably and there are more people living in poverty than ever and the gap is growing. There are more slaves than ever which leads me, Kathleen, to Easter…the Resurrection.
We have a Christian friend, who said that if this life was all there is then it would be okay with him. But it is not for me…
I look around me and see pain and suffering. People…good, faithful people…struggling to survive each and every day…to just get by and this life is not enough for them…it cannot be.
Yes, it is. Knowing or believing that…as we work to ease the burden of poverty in our little section of the world… this life is not all they get. That this life for all the ones who have suffered greatly by our greed, our selfishness, our ignorance, and our lack of empathy and actions is not the end…I have to believe that a time will come in the great mystery of death that will ultimately release them to the arms of a Divine that will love them, cherish them, provide all they need and will have the last word and that word will be good…that is what I need to get by…my crutch…my hope…my own liberation.
(All Biblical quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version on-line)