"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Progressive political movements often speak about history as if it were a conscious agent. Marxists in particular personify history by making economics deterministic. But a materialistic viewpoint cannot really sustain a personified historical tendency because it cannot consistently attribute personal agency to what after all is simply transient conglomerations of material forces.

Those of us who are not materialists, however, can see an intelligent hand working in the midst of historical forces, bending the universe toward justice in the words of Martin Luther King. Those of us who continue to develop the insights of liberation theology use Moltmann's words as a guidepost, "...theological concepts do not limp after reality... They illuminate reality by displaying its future." And Gustavo Gutierrez, "...[Theology] is to penetrate the present reality, the movement of history, that which is driving history toward the future. To reflect on the basis of the historical praxis of liberation is to reflect in the light of the future which is believed in and hoped for. It is to reflect with a view to action which transforms the present. But it does not mean doing this from an armchair; rather it means sinking roots where the pulse of history is beating at this moment and illuminating history with the Word of the Lord of History, who irreversibly committed himself to the present moment of humankind to carry it to its fulfillment." - Gustavo Gutierrez, "A Theology of Liberation"

One of the central insights of liberation theology is formulated by Paul, "For freedom, Christ has set us free." (Gal. 5:1). What is the nature of this freedom? We are now free to love. "In the language of the Bible," writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "freedom is not something man has for himself but something he has for others... It is not a possession, a presence, an object, ... but a relationship between two persons. Being free means 'being free for the other,' because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free." In other words, human freedom is freedom from all the social structures that reinforce our selfishness, as well as the personal decisions that result in a fixation on self.

The economic practice that incarnates this spirit of freedom is well summarized in the Communist Manifesto, "an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." Or in words closer to the present, "Solidarity is for me to do well, I have to be concerned with others doing well and vice versa. The economy causes me to seek benefits in ways that benefit others too." - Michael Albert, "Parecon and Solidarity"

The "freedom" which Paul speaks of is the primordial condition for the free development of humanity. In contrast to those forms of Christianity that treat humanity as the passive recipient of spiritual gifts dispensed as heavenly commodities, liberation theology sees human development as the field of grace, where we receive God's gifts through participation in liberating action, in which growth in consciousness, the awareness of the economic determinants of our ideological creations and therefore, the freedom to reorder those determinants, is the outward expression of the inward transformation.

In this perspective, temporal progress in the sense of greater control over natural processes, accompanied by an ever-deeper insight into how human societies repress their own potentiality for freedom, is seen as the continuation of the work of creation. The central project of Christian economics and politics becomes the overturning of the structures of sin, understood as those social structures which incarnate the spirit of selfishness, which reduce one segment of humanity to objects for another segment, which represent breaches in the solidarity that God wills for humanity, the humanization which is incarnate in Jesus Christ.

The theological correlative of economic and social liberation is participatory salvation, a spiritual praxis in which human beings create their own salvation through growth in consciousness by reflection on liberating action. According to Gutierrez, "...only the concept of the mediation of human self-creation in history can lead us to an accurate and fruitful understanding of the relationship between creation and redemption." - Gustavo Gutierrez, "A Theology of Liberation"

"The human work, the transformation of nature, continues creation only if it is a human act, that is to say, if it is not alienated by unjust socio-economic structures." - Gustavo Gutierrez, "A Theology of Liberation" The praxis of salvation is therefore the humanization of those socio-economic structures so that human beings can assume their own destiny. From this perspective, faith, far from being a hindrance to social liberation, actually sheds a new light on the process of liberation which would not be available without that faith. Progress is not simply a process of greater and greater control over nature through the application of reason, but is guided by an intelligence that pulses at the heart of the world, bending us toward justice in a way that lives beyond our material interests.


Moon said...

Hi, really I am very interested in these subjects so I write a comment. It is not about economy but about Humanization!
I think the freedom you talk about is right but as you said the nature of it is not clear, I mean there must be an indicator to find out now I am acting right or not. Surely it happened for you that although both side of your action is right but you can not decide which one is better or u can not see the next step after doing it and guess that what happens is really good or devil. So although we know the meaning of freedom or translate it as we believe but still we can understand clearly that we NEED an indicator.
And as u said there is a hand behind all things in the world so I think freedom is not ” free for other”. I know what you mean freedom from selfishness but again what is your indicator to show you that you are really doing the right, it may happens that your act is good for your mother but bad for your brother, so I think freedom is being free for God. . I mean freedom is not to act according what you recognize as true but to act according His Will. And then you would be sure of doing right although you can guess the next step or even if apparently your action is not appropriate. In this way freedom is not to love all and to be free for all. For, a really good man , I believe, is not one that all loves him , u see some loved Jesus and some tried to kill him, so in my view freedom for God surely and absolutely results in a love and an enmity.
So what we need I think is not humanization. It is also a selfish word. I don’t play with word , my mean is clear. I believe all actions must be on the orbit of God’s will to have a really healthy society because he has created the human and just he knows his needs truly. Of course I don’t deny the freedom of human and his “participation in liberating action” that is the reason of creation I believe.
I look forward to see your view on my writing, to have a creative society and we need to criticize each other .
Good luck

Boyd Collins said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments. I think we may have a genuine disagreement when you say "I think freedom is not "free for other." Jesus frees us from selfishness so that we can be free to love the other as he or she is in themselves. That is the meaning of Christian freedom for me. The indicator that you are looking for is whether we grow out of our narrow self-interest and are able to truly give ourselves to others. This is freedom which the Gospel gives to those who believe. In my faith, love of God and love of neighbor are two parts of the same coin, not opposed to each other but necessary for each other. Trying to reduce this to an eternal pattern that never changed would make human life just an endless repetition which is contrary to human nature which was meant to grow, explore, and become more god-like in the sense of more loving, more sensitive in conscience, more peaceful, and more alive.

Moon said...

Hi , glad to meet you! To tell the truth, I am 26 and for me you look like a teacher so thanks for reading my comment and writing about it!
Of course I agree with you in loving the neighbor but I think the love of God and the neighbor is in one side of a coin! Actually I don’t divide my heart eg to 5 parts; one for god , one for my family , …. But all parts of my heart belongs to God, in fact in my view it must be full with the love of God and this love makes my heart so great that can love any body so love of my neighbor is in the love of God, and to be in it, it must be in agreement with that. I mean this is love of God that guides me to love whom and how!
I think the point of disagreement is, loving others “as he or she is in themselves”.
Let me give an example; you love your daughter but u can not love a dangerous man who tries to bother her, you love your neighbor but not the man who kills him, he is a murderer, an enemy of society. Yes you cant insult the murderer, torture him,… because he is a human good or bad, but u must punish him for the sake of ur society, to have a healthy one. In this case the indicator is ur love of daughter and neighbor.
now I like to tell you that, I must love my daughter in love of God too, I cant love her as she is. I love her because of God, because she is a lovely present of Him., but if she changes to an enemy of God first I try to guide her for she has a color of God, she is His creature and first of all God loves her. but if she fights Him, no more I can love her, because God dose not love her. That is the indicator I mean.
This is freedom according to Islam to be free from ur selfishness that may includes every thing even the love of daughter, for God. And from the other point makes my heart so vast to love a person who has bothered me, and forgive him, to respect different views, not to bother the enemy when he is captured and like that.
This is the way I can be more and more God-like, for I move according to His will. Stressing the human conscience and wisdom although I don’t deny them can not solve all human problems in contrary it results to conflicts because humankind is not free from mistakes, but if I have a clear line I am sure of the correctness of that.
Besides I can have the help of my conscience every where I cant find the true way clearly. U know in Islam we have a basic principle: every thing that God says reason confirms it and every thing that reason says God confirms it. But remember a healthy reason, aware and free from selfishness . That is why every where in the world people from every culture accept that robbery, killing an innocent, immorality are bad, and in every religion u find them satanic works.
Any way that’s an enjoyable talk, thank u again.