Introducing Liberation Theology
By Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff are liberation theologians, priests, and brothers who have devoted much of their careers to the pursuit and practice of liberation theology in the church and in the world. Leonardo Boff is a professor in Petropolis, Brazil; Clodovis Boff is a professor in Sao Paulo, Brazil – both have used their educational platforms to spread the knowledge of liberation theology from a Latin American base-community perspective throughout the world; however, as liberation theology is a praxis-oriented theology, the Boff brothers continue to work among the poor people (of which there are many in Brazil) to bring about the realisation as best possible the liberating message of the gospel.
In fewer than 100 pages, the Boffs give a succinct and clear overview of liberation theology – this is a theology of the poor, in which the gospel message and the character of Christ are seen as being in solidarity with the poor. Liberation theology is complex, but the Boffs reduce it to simple, understandable tenets.
There are three levels of liberation theology, according to the authors: professional, pastoral, and popular. The professional level involves academic theorists and clergy administrator types; the pastoral level involves the teaching and compassionate action of clergy and lay ministers; however, it is the popular level that is most important here, where the action is most involved in the world. Liberation theology sometimes involves confrontation – when Oscar Romero stood up to the oppressors in Central America, he was engaging in all three levels of liberation theology.
In succeeding chapters, the authors look at the primary themes of liberation theology, a brief history of the development of liberation ideas from political, social, ecclesial and theological roots, and the spread of liberation ideas worldwide. Liberation theology is sometimes seen in purely political terms, particularly in Western seminaries and churches, because those of us in the West have lost the ability to think in theological terms as a matter of course; to be fair, however, liberation theology does intend to challenge the status quo of political and economic relationships, much to the discomfort of those in the West. Liberation theologians from inside the Roman Catholic church have had to endure periods of officially-sanctioned ’silence’ and have often been branded ‘Marxists’ as a denigration of their theological standing.
Churches of all sorts have a love/hate relationship with liberation theology. Large and small, catholic and protestant, liberation theology has a tendency to challenge existing relationships between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, gender roles, and more. Liberation theology from the beginnings in Latin America have spread to encompass more communities – feminist theologians, African-American theologians, Hispanic theologians, and more have drawn inspiration from the idea that God has a preferential care for the powerless and oppressed, and that many stories in scripture, particularly in the gospel messages, show God’s care in this direction. Jesus was always more concerned for the poor than the rich, for the common people than the kings and ruling class, and liberation theologians pick up on this fact.
(Book review by Fr. Kurt Messick on AmazonUK)
“One of the finest explanations of liberation theology in the English language.”–Robert F Drinan.
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