Class 5 - Liberation Theology
Pat Conover, April 22, 2008
Liberation Theology was developed by independent-minded Roman Catholics in Central and South America as a protest to the support of the Roman Catholic hierarchy for the status quo governments that were oppressing the common people. In this context, Christian liberation theology has two prominent lines of justification: the story and the facts of political and economic oppression, and appeals to the biblical stories of liberation such as the story of Moses and the escape from Pharoah's Egypt.
You can find liberation theology themes in the preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other African-American leaders, but it was feminists who are most prominent for claiming liberation theology by name in the United States. As is South America, but in a Protestant or independent Christian context, as well as in non-Christian contexts, the fundamental appeal is to the story and the facts of patriarchal oppression. It is worth noting that feminist theology was more interested in the kinds of oppression faced by white women, particularly white women with advanced educations, and this led to a separate liberation theology for black women which was developed under the name of womanist theology. This class session will work with feminist theology because it is more familiar to Seekers.
The key word for liberation theology conversation is persuasion. For most liberation theologians, persuasion means building a compelling case for a dramatic revolutionary change, as in ending patriarchy. Compelling means both intellectual and emotional grounding. For Christian feminists this includes a re-reading of the Bible with an eye to supporting feminist arguments and the development of feminist liturgical materials that change the language of Christendom. Above all, liberation is aimed at political, economic, and societal changes that empower women. In Seekers, this goal is established in our core documents as the goal of shared leadership. We have expanded our understandings of sharing leadership but, in our beginning, the sharing of leadership meant the leadership of a woman and man team who jointly issued the original Seeker's call.
Assignment for small groups
Each group should consider itself a team working together to write a statement supporting the liberation of women. Initially divide up so that one writes a story, one develops factual statements, and one provides a biblical justification. Put the three contributions together and select someone to make a three minute pitch to the closing plenary group.
Think about the relationship between two concepts: freedom and destiny. How much do you want to be free from old institutions and constraints and how much do you want to create new institutions and constraints which will shape the future? Talk with someone about this dialectic.