Monthly Archives: July 2014

Liberation Theology

I posted this comment on a religion blog in the thread ANALYSIS: To understand Pope Francis, look to the Jesuits.

Ah yes, the Jesuits! I spent 5 years of my life at a Jesuit university and found the order quite refreshing following 4 dreary years under the thumb of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The latter group emphasized order, rules and dogma while the Jesuits embraced academic inquiry and social justice. The contrast could not have been more clear.

I surely developed my version of liberation theology from the many theology classes I attended there. Some detractors within the broad umbrella of Catholicism refer to liberation theology as Marxism as if Jesus were from some privileged upper class. That foolishness is beyond absurd. No doubt this is why I so often challenge those who would twist the words of Jesus into some comfortable and innocuous message rather than his mandate to be our brother’s keeper. Period.

That Pope Francis is a Jesuit and embraces liberation theology puts him in the crosshairs. I seriously fear for his life. There are way-too many people within the Catholic Church who find that philosophy a challenge to their personal lifestyle. The example of the unexplained death of Pope John Paul I ought to alarm those skeptical of assassination of Popes. Further, the public openness of Pope Francis as he gets close to those who come to greet him places his safety in jeopardy.

Nonetheless, he will not shy away from demonstrating his love, his tolerance and his call to justice for all. After all, neither did Jesus.

I did not have to wait too long [less than 2 hours] for feedback. It was from a conservative Catholic with a different point of view; he and I often are on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Fundamentalist Christians of any denomination interpret the life of Jesus in a strange and odd way. Their emphasis is on ‘savior’ rather than model or teacher. There is another thread on this site about that topic.

If liberation theology was NOT the principle of Jesus then I have read the Gospels wrong. Surely one must recognize that these Gospels have been redacted as well as written for a specific audience. Not only that, but we do not have the original texts of any of the 4 writers. As a result we have words placed on the lips of Jesus that he probably did not speak.

Nonetheless, what is consistent in the canonical gospels is Jesus’ work with the poor, the outcast, the disenfranchised and the other. He had little tolerance for the well-to-do and clearly no tolerance for the Roman government. Yet, here in the 21st century, many fundamentalist Christians embrace both the power of the military as well as an economy clearly tilted towards the well-to-do. It expresses itself as the right-leaning governance style of the Republican Party.

This current actualization of the old Republican Party embraces and encourages a governance style that places the military assets of the United States in a dominant role in geopolitics. Adherents often speak of ‘our oil’ which, in fact, lies under the soil of another nation. The George Bush Administration’s War on Iraq is a glaring example of that agenda. ‘No Blood for Oil’ was a common placard seen on street corners held by those few, brave souls who protested the invasion of Iraq. Sadly the protesters were outnumbered by ‘patriots’ who believed the propaganda spread by the Bush Administration and its minions in right-wing media outlets.

Many conservative Christians championed the invasion with Bible in one hand and an American flag in the other. They sang, “Onward Christian Soldiers” as they cheered the bombs bursting over Baghdad in March of 2003. President Bush used the word, crusade’ in making his cause- a dog whistle for the conservative Christian base of his political party. After all, Iraqis were Muslims!

Apparently the 100,000 dead Iraqis and the 2,000 dead Americans were of little consequence to those who cheered on the war. The oil fields were safe and the American thirst for oil was at last sated.


What does it mean for a nation to condemn our neighbors to a hell of our own making?

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove chose the title of this post, not I. Yet this subject has become one of great interest to me, personally. I know a man who is awaiting trial for murder. I know him well. I’ve known him since he was eleven! I never thought that we’d takl to each other through a microphone with glass separating us!

Wilson-Hargrove writes:

For every season, there is a message. “Do not be afraid.” “Let my people go.” “Take up your cross.” “I have a dream.”

In America today, I’ve come to believe, God’s Word for us is, “Go to hell.”
Unbeknownst to most Americans, our justice system changed radically in the late 20th century. Like most countries in the modern West, roughly one in a thousand Americans were in prison in the early 70s. Today, we incarcerate 1 in 107 Americans. Over 7 million adults are currently in jails, in prison, or on probation. More than 65 million US citizens now have a criminal record, while another 11 million undocumented people live outside the the law, subject to seizure and deportation.
Legal scholar William Stuntz has described the past 40 years as the “collapse of America’s criminal justice system.” Noting the ways “law and order” has landed more black men in prison today than were in slavery in 1850, Michelle Alexander calls it the “new Jim Crow.” Or, as Piper Kerman puts it, “orange is the new black.”

But none of this analysis captures what one person experiences when he is cut off from his community, denied any opportunity for growth, subject to constant humiliation and threat of bodily harm, and told that he is permanently condemned to this status of “criminal” or “illegal.” What does it mean to be told, “You’ll rot in prison”?


I enjoyed reading the brutal honesty of Walter Kaufmann piece below. The word “heretic” has always been an emboldening term that catches my fancy. One thinks of those many heretics of old who were skewered by the oh-so righteous religious superiors. Pathetic in the brutality, shamefull in its actuality.

Had I lived in ‘those times’ I surely would have been put to death, condemned as a heretic. Maybe I was in a former life.

Walter Kaufmann

When I was eleven, I asked my father: “What really is the Holy Ghost?” The articles of faith taught us in school in Berlin, Germany, affirmed belief in God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and I explained to my father: “I don’t believe that Jesus was God, and if I can’t believe in the Holy Ghost either, then I am really not a Christian.”

At twelve, I formally left the Protestant church to become a Jew. Having never heard of Unitarianism, I assumed that the religion for people who believed in God, but not in Christ or the Holy Ghost, was Judaism.

A few months after my conversation with my father, but before I left the church, Hitler came to power, Warned of the persecution that my decision might entail, I replied that one certainly could not change one’s mind for a reason like that. I did not realize until a little later that all four of my grandparents had been Jewish; and none of us knew that this, and not one’s own religion, would be decisive from the Nazis’ point of view. My decision had been made independently of my descent and of Nazism, on religious grounds…

…I do not believe in any afterlife any more than the prophets did, but I don’t mind living in a world in which people have different beliefs. Diversity helps to prevent stagnation and smugness; and a teacher should acquaint his students with diversity and prize careful criticism far above agreement. His noblest duty is to lead others to think for themselves.

Oddly, millions believe that lack of belief in God, Christ, and Hell leads to inhumanity and cruelty, while those who have these beliefs have a monopoly on charity–and that people like myself will pay for their lack of belief by suffering in all eternity. I do not believe that anybody will suffer after death nor do I wish it.

Some scientists tell us that in our own galaxy alone there are probably hundreds of thousands of planets with living beings on them, more or less like those On the earth, and that there are about 100 million galaxies within the range of our telescopes. Man seems to play a very insignificant part in the universe, and my part is surely negligible. The question confronting me is not, except perhaps in idle moments, what part might be more amusing, but what I wish to make of my part. And what I want to do and would advise others to do is to make the most of it: put into it all you have got, and live and, if possible, die with some measure of nobility.