You’re cute, tumblr.
Hooookay time for another 3am potentially-grossly-uninformed unpopular opinion post!
I’m currently reading a bit of Gutierrez’s liberation theology, and he talks about our duty as Christians to stand up in the face of oppressive governments and systems, and that our faith and theology are not true faith and theology until we apply those things in effort to help the disadvantaged, oppressed, poor, etc.
His work comes out of the era of CELAM II, proclaiming that the Church has previously stood beside oppressive regimes in Latin America and that the Church and her members must take a stand against this oppression if they are truly to be called Christian.
I hear echoes of this in more liberal variants of theological thought from here in America (*waves at Jesuits*) (but really, they’re good guys), and especially in the words of Pope Francis, also from Latin American and no doubt heavily influenced by this school of thought.
However…I think this is too simple. Demanding of Christians that we must help this specific population, or that specific population, or those who are physically impoverished and re-mold our entire theological tradition to cater to these people in oppressed nations such that all theology must be done with respect to this, as Gutierrez suggests (and risk being called unChristian if done otherwise)—this is irresponsible and reckless sociologizing of theology. Of course theology must consider these people. But what I hear again and again from Gutierrez and others is only these people. When I hear talk of the poor and oppressed in third-world nations, it is as if they are the only people who truly matter in the world, and the only people who truly struggle. I am not saying that they do not struggle, or that they are not important, or that they are not poor. What I am saying, though, is that there is another, more invisible, and I dare say more deadly poverty lurking right under our noses. Spiritual impoverishment. No, not the beneficial spiritual poverty of John of the Cross. I’m speaking of true lack of spirituality.
The truly physically impoverished in many cases have a more vibrant, hopeful, and joyous faith than we can dare dream of. Whereas I meet modern spiritual impoverishment in the face any time I walk across campus. You can smell it. It is not impassioned atheism, but passionless apathy. It is not just a lack of spiritual devotion, but a lack of any and all passion. It is interior, spiritual death—not only to God, but to the world and all the gifts, beauties, and faculties of the soul. You cannot point to Africa and Latin America and the Middle East and tell me that these are where the problem lies. No. The problem lies everywhere, in every nation. There is poverty anywhere you look.
If Liberation Theology is about orienting the whole of theological thought towards those under the rule of oppressive governments, unjust living conditions, and threat of starvation, then I cannot accept it. Theology must have its practical application, and it is no less of a practical application to turn it towards the more elusive and hidden poverty. Ideally, theology and Christians at large should turn their ears, eyes, and hearts towards both of these impoverished populations. Personally, I make it my mission to serve the spiritually impoverished, and yet I also donate towards causes helping the physically poor. I am not advocating for a sole focus on the spiritually impoverished—both populations are important to cater to, and we would be unChristian not to do so. What I am saying, though, is that to orient the mission and theology of Christianity exclusively towards one of these populations, as Gutierrez appears to suggest, is ludicrous. Indeed, we as Christians should work towards liberation of the oppressed. But it is a grave error to say that only those visibly impoverished are oppressed. We must also liberate the spiritually sick, spiritually impoverished, and spiritually dying from the oppression of the Enemy.
Those who are physically impoverished and oppressed have displayed the strongest faith I’ve ever seen. Those who are well-off and not by any remote sense physically oppressed seem to be the more spiritually poor.
Indeed, no one will hear the cry of this poor, for there is no cry to be heard.
We have corporal AND spiritual works of mercy for a reason.