Liberation Theology

It was great talking to a former student who is working on finding an academic teaching position at an independent school; I have no doubt that she will be in high demand as she seeks a history post; she shared with me her teaching philosophy as it relates to historical analysis; it was great talking to a former student that has a similar academic philosophy as I do. Her philosophy relates to mine in that it espouses the notion of social justice vis-a-vis liberation theology. My views reflect the importance of liberation theology as it too, though to a greater extent, promulgates both Christ and Marx. As I have stated here on my web page:

My teaching philosophy is shaped by the tenets of  Pragmatism and Reconstructionism.  It was my reading of Cornel West’s and W.E.B. Du Bois’s works as a high school, undergraduate, and graduate student that shaped my sense of intellectual and practical purpose. West’s synthesis of Christianity and pragmatism promulgated my construction of theodicy that finds its premise in the writings and thought processes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Dewey. My courses look to inculcate the point of view of the oppressed and alienated class, as it is this class that has traditionally been neglected among the privileged and in the literature of study. I find the teachings of Christ and Marx to be synonymous in that both look to eradicate social vice and poverty, racism and hate, as well as greed and materialism.

The writings of Karl Marx, who focused on human oppression and alienation via the effects of capitalism, attracted the attention of academic theologians that shared similar concerns. Thus, both groups saw a combined relationship between Marxism and Christianity. Liberation theology can be outlined as such:

Liberation theologians base their social action upon the Bible scriptures describing the mission of Jesus Christ, as but bringing a sword (social unrest), e.g. Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:35-38 Matthew 26:51-52 — and not as bringing peace (social order). This Biblical interpretation is a call to action against poverty, and the sin engendering it, and as a call to arms, to effect Jesus Christ’s mission of justice in this world. In practice, the Theology includes the Marxist concept of perpetual class struggle, thus emphasizing the person’s individual self-actualization as part of God’s divine purpose for mankind.

  • The church should be concerned with poverty.
  • The church should be concerned with political repression.
  • The church should be concerned with economic repression.
  • Priests should become actively involved in trying to solve these problems.
  • Priests should move beyond general activity to: a.) Direct political action b.) and direct involvement in attempts to change political and economic systems, even by actual participation in revolutionary activity.
  • The establishment of a religious community to help guide such political and economic units. (Contemporary Political Ideologies by Lyman Tower Sargent, pg. 212, 7th edition)

My former student and I concluded that if academics and religious “folk” came to term on reaching a conclusion on how to help the poor and the oppressed, there might not be a need for true liberalism, hence, a large government. However, the reality is that in order to achieve social justice, one must depend on the federal government — as seen in the American south circa 1960 during the reign of Jim Crow.


33 thoughts on “Liberation Theology

  1. I love your passion for this. Your students are lucky. This is what we need to instill in the teaching of history. I am going to adopt this as my new mission.

  2. Very fascinating. The link between Marx and Christ isn’t one I’d thought of before. Though, once you put it out there, it makes sense.

    Your guidelines are correct, I think. Like Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, so unlike your Christians.” Closing the gap between the teachings and the practice of religious leaders seems to be a perpetual struggle.

  3. Dear Mr.Carson
    I agree people should be able to rise to the level of their abilities no matter if they are rich or poor. I agree that a society should help every individual reach their full potential. Every one should be given opportunities, but I believe that people who do not use this to their advantage should not be given special privileges to keep them from striving from doing their personal best. I also believe that individuals who do take advantage of opportunities should not be expected to carry the load given to everyone to take personal responsibility for ourselves. As the bible teaches, we should carry other people’s burdens when they have too many, but we should respect each person enough to allow him or her to carry their own load.

  4. First of all, there has always been an impoverished class in every society and the notion that a larger federal government will bring some kind of “social utopia” is fatuous at best. Marxism ultimately leads to more economic oppression not less as a hundred years of failure in both theory and practice have shown.

    Second, let’s be clear. Liberation theology is not Christian theology. If you are a Christian then you are called to test all things in light of scripture (Acts 17:11). (Unfortunately, the noted scriptures above regarding social unrest requires tortured hermeneutics). From a scriptural perspective, both the poor and the rich, the oppressed and the oppressors, are afflicted by sin and are in need of salvation. As Romans 3:23 states “All have fallen short of the glory of God”. The Lord preached the gospel of salvation to the poor (Luke 7:22) but He also preached the same message to the rich (Luke 5:32; 10:1-10). His concern is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence” (2 Pet 3:9). Further, the gap between the the rich and poor is not THE cause of man’s predicament; it is merely one symptom of it (see Jer. 5:26-29). It was not primarily the bourgeoisie that needed to be overthrown; it was man’s sin – his selfishness and greed – that needed conquering (1 Pet 2:24). Rather than redefining sin and redemption in terms of socioeconomic class struggle, one should concentrate on spiritual reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ as that was His focus (ie. evangelism). If we truly strive to have class reunification as oppossed to class struggle it comes by a revolution of the human heart which can only be found in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17). The principle in the biblical worldview is once this revolution of the heart occurs (Jn 3:3), we no longer view people as white, black, brown, male, female, Jew, Gentile, etc – but just people (albeit still sinful) with equality and sacred in the eyes of God.

    Now, does God have a special concern for the poor? Absolutely, and salvation – by His own design – is more readily accepted by the less fortunate (Matt. 19:23). And while not perfect, Christian ministries, churches and para-church organizations have followed suit and continually gone to the ends of the earth to feed, cloth, educate and aide the impoverished – largely funded in free market societies.

    Finally, contrary to what liberation theology espouses, Christ came not to be a model political revolutionary but to die on the cross for man’s sins as the Lamb of God (Matt 26:26-28). True utopia, social and otherwise, will not be attained on earth until He comes again – believe it or not.

  5. Rob:

    Yes he will come again. Though you missed the purpose of the post. It is not so much about the political nature nor creating utopia on earth. Furthermore, it is not about political revolutions; it is about looking at contrasts then drawing conclusions on taking care of the poor. Look at the last paragraph.

    I enjoyed your comment; however, I do believe Christ put governments on earth to address the problem of vice and poverty. Sure, much like that of people, governments (in the collective of individuals here) are full of sin. But, can be used to organize “organizations” to take care of the poor. Even in the 21st century, the U.S. does not espouse any one faith, but it does protect various faiths to do the will of God — which is to serve Him by taking care of the poor. The point of this post is to draw a relationship on how God uses man and man’s philosophy to do His will. I suspect you disagree with me, but hey, that is okay. As long as we serve a greater power, nothing else matters.

  6. “The church should be concerned with political repression.”

    Great point Carson. Because you are an academic and understand this, I wonder how many people forget that Pope John Paul II made this part of his Cold War mission? The Catholic Church played a major role in using political stability and economic wealth in bringing an end to the USSR.

  7. Jaylon:

    He is really the only Pope I emphasize in my European history course; his impact is too great to be ignored. And, his contribution to the collapse of communism circa 1989 is historically profound.

  8. Mr. Carson
    I actually have a question about a statement.
    Priests should move beyond general activity to: a.) Direct political action b.) and direct involvement in attempts to change political and economic systems, even by actual participation in revolutionary activity.

    The knowledge that i have achieved from this statement has made me come to this conclusion. If priests should have involvement in the political world, why would people believe them and their opinions about ideas? If the priest was to bring in his own beliefs, this could create arguments because people have different religious views on ideas. Wouldn’t this create even more disputes?

  9. Carson-

    Yes, “the authorities (governments) that exist are appointed by God” (Rom 13:1b) but the problem is large federal governments are inefficient and prone to being a cesspool of waste, fraud, fiscal irresponsibility and beuracracy while an intrusion on liberties, life and commerce.

    And yes, God is sovereign and omnipotent thus can work through man’s godless philosphies for His good and will if He wants to. But I’d argue that is not normative and caution the bible is replete with examples of God turning His back on (ie. disciplining) those nations who deny Him.

    Thus, my point (and contrary conclusion) is neither Liberation theology nor Marxism is the answer for taking care of the poor or social justice. Both are flawed and been roundly denounced as both heretical and dangerous by the Vatican, scholars and evangelicals alike. The current Pope Benedict XVI has written: “it would be illusory and dangerous to ignore the intimate bond which radically unites them (liberation theologies), and to accept elements of the marxist analysis without recognizing its connections with the (Marxist) ideology, or to enter into the practice of the class-struggle and of its marxist interpretation while failing to see the kind of totalitarian society to which this process slowly leads.”

    Jaylon – Pope John Paul II had for years devoted himself to establishing a balanced policy on political activism for Roman Catholic clergy. He staunchly advocated social justice (and sanctity of life issues), but also consisently warned the clergy about becoming too involved in secular affairs and about the dangers of Marxism (as you noted).

  10. Carson-
    Very interesting. Now I understand why you enjoy teaching social history so much in class.

    You are correct in stating that, as a whole, man is flawed and sinful and without Christ deserves eternal seperation from God. Carson’s arguement is not directed at accepted Christian doctrine, but rather that the church as whole has a duty to serve the poor. Likewise, society has a responsibility to help one another (I’m not stating it needs to give all our money to the poor and move to a utopia, I’m a realist. I understand that is not possible or particullarly right). What liberation philosophy is, from my interpretation, is tying together those two points, the church’s and society’s duty to humanity. As said by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” If we have been given these talents and gifts, is it not our duty as Christians to help others? Is it not our duty as Christians to show love to the others? Is it not our duty as Christian to go beyond class, race, religion, or other distractions and serve the world? So what’s so different between Christian theology and Liberation theology?

  11. Carson

    I must first tell you that I have so much respect for not just your intelligence, but your willingness to create a forum in which people can engage in a discussion about matters not superficial. I also must add that I love how you embrace others to challenge what you wrote about in a positive free forum. This is what true education is all about. As a Christian, I do agree that God must be trusted. He places all things on earth for reason. The great thing about this Liberation Theology is that its man’s effort to address the ills on earth. It does not render all of the solutions, but it is an effort. I trust God to use man for his purpose. He clearly put you on earth to challenge many conventional thoughts. This is a great thing. We must be challenged to think. I do not agree with Liberation Theology, but as James stated above, I see how God has used man to address such matters. All views are not popular, but each view brings us closer to God. You have done that.

    I found this statement and do this it is a good one:

    “Marxism may be a useful tool in identifying the class struggle that is being waged in many Third World countries, but the question arises whether the role of Marxism is limited to a tool of analysis or whether it has become a political solution. Liberation theology rightly exposes the fact of oppression in society and the fact that there are oppressors and oppressed, but it is wrong to give this alignment an almost ontological status. This may be true in Marxism, but the Christian understands sin and alienation from God as a dilemma confronting both the oppressor and the oppressed. Liberation theology’s emphasis upon the poor gives the impression that the poor are not only the object of God’s concern but the salvific and revelatory subject. Only the cry of the oppressed is the voice of God. Everything else is projected as a vain attempt to comprehend God by some self-serving means. This is a confused and misleading notion. Biblical theology reveals that God is for the poor, but it does not teach that the poor are the actual embodiment of God in today’s world . Liberation theology threatens to politicize the gospel to the point that the poor are offered a solution that could be provided with or without Jesus Christ. “

  12. 1)”…society has a responsibility to help one another.” Says who? You are not going to unite people for goodness sake to do such things. I love this. Get rid of God but expect people to do “goodness” for the sake of goodness. True Government zombie.

    2)Caseywill–your slobbering comments about carson. Get a room.

  13. Carson – great post. This summer, I was able to spend some time working at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco, which believes and practices many of the tenets of liberation theology. They serve three hot meals a day to anyone who is willing to wait in line as well as provide free medical services, counseling, etc. to San Francisco’s homeless population. It’s a great ministry – a great model for what the government should be doing all across the country (the city subsidizes much of Glide’s efforts).

    Rob – Interesting points. However, you are mistaken in stating that liberation theology is not Christian theology. Liberation theology is widely recognized, even by those who disagree with it, as Christian theology. I would be curious to know how you arrived at this conclusion.

    I also believe you are missing the point of Carson’s post. He is not at all attacking Christianity or denying salvation, etc. He is just saying (and I agree with him) that the church should be more active in efforts to eradicate poverty and the extensive social stratification that is currently plaguing our country and world. You say that “Liberation theology nor Marxism is the answer for taking care of the poor or social justice.” I would be curious to know what your solution you would propose for “taking care of the poor or social justice.” Because, by studying the history of our world, we can all conclude that social stratification, poverty, and other such problems that we currently see all over our world (especially the U.S.A) have led to the downfall of some of the greatest nations and empires the world has ever seen.

    In addition, I respect your extensive Biblical knowledge. However, using the Bible as your only source when commenting on this blog will not gain you much respect by me or some of the other readers of this blog (I can assure you that Carson and some of his other academic friends who read this blog are much smarter than you or I).

  14. The Bible is not a sufficient read for Christians? Maybe this is another reason for the declining numbers in the church. How has activism in the church helped the black man advance? This “drunk on the Lord” approach has really done wonders there, wouldnt you say. And now the Bible doesnt nourish the Christian completely. One too many contemporary services for this guy.

  15. Denton- the Bible is a sufficient read for Christians as far as their own life governance is concerned. It’s not, however, a good tool to use when your readers, and there are many on this blog, are not Christians and do not believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God or don’t even believe in God. Also, C.S. Lewis talks in Mere Christianity when trying to prove the existence of God, that there is an innate willingness to do some good in people. That’s where we get the sentiment of “That’s not fair.”

  16. Dillon –

    We here in the US do not have the abject poverty that is found in third world countries (for example) with overt class stratification. Our church runs an ophanage in Uganda in which the children are so poor, they do not have hair anywhere on there bodies due to the vestiges of malnutrition. Now that is poor. But we are trying to do something about it by feeding their bodies and souls with the hope found only in Jesus Christ. In this country, many (not all) of the classified poor have amenities like cell phones, ipods, high speed internet, etc while receiving government provided welfare, health care and housing assistance. They would be considered well off in other parts of the world.

    I’d argue the Judeo-Christian principles and a strong free market economy is what has made this country a great (not perfect) society with unmatched liberties and high overall standard of living. Marxist countries certainly cannot say that. And if the US is so bad why is it people are still flocking to this country?

    Liberation idealogy is not Christian theology as it uses Christian terminology but pours different meaning into them thus making it doctrinally incompatiable with scripture. Doctrine is the line of demarcation when it comes to Christianity. See my initial comment for examples regarding sin, salvation, regeneration, redemption, and the second coming of Christ with supportive scriptures. Furthmore, Liberation theology is based on a humanistic worldview that incorporates the godless philsophy of Marxism. See my second comment by current Pope Benedict XVI noting the dangers therein. Although Liberation theology does rightly espouse concern for the poor and social justice (as is biblically supported) that alone does not make up for the other heretical teachings.

    BTW, to disregard the bible in a discourse about “theology” is innane. It is the basis of Christian faith and truth (1 Tim 3:16-17). Whether some on this blog choose to disregard, scoff or believe it – is up to them.

    Finally, you seem to have special powers to determine IQ via the internet. Maybe you should start a business with that…..wait then you might be labelled a capitalist. 🙂

  17. The claim “eradicate poverty” is like the war to end terror. To say eradicate sounds like a fire you can put out. A slogan for the unmotivated. Poverty has always been there and always will be. It seems its always young minds that think they are going to rid the world of anger, or get people to give more. What a waste of time. Help someone if you see them without food, or in a dispute. When people start organising large scale good works its goes from helping an individual to some great save the world campaign. And how have any of them worked. You go to solve one problem and you end up with three more.
    Doing things for goodness sake is just that. Empty and meaningless. You fed a starving man. Big deal why does it mean anything, you could have eaten the food or sold it. You adopted a kid who otherwise would have likely died young in its native country. Okay, why waste the time. Use the money you spent to buy something for yourself. What is the motivation for the God less who say its fair to do or it is the right thing to do. What order drives them. Why sacrifice. Why not steal. Why not what rules the animal world. We are shaved monkeys remember–is that politically incorrect to say. Please send my apologies to Sharpton. Why not survival of the fittest? Why not to hell with the retarded and the lame? These community center and liberation theology activists–watered down churches if you ask me– all seem very Me centered groups. It feels good. How understanding are the “for goodness sake” crowd when someone just doesnt care. We are all animals, are you saying there is a higher calling?

  18. I should probably let Dillon answer this, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.

    Rob- no one ever said you couldn’t or shouldn’t use the Bible in a discourse about theology. People, myself included, have simply mentioned that you might want to understand that the entire readership here does not view the Bible as the inspired word of God and that in order to make your points, you should use other sources. And yes, it would be the same if you were quoting from the Koran or any other book believed by its religious devotees to be sacred and inspired/written by their god. I am also willing to bet that Dillon is judging intelligence on the internet by the thoughtfulness of the arguments presented by commenters and by basic things learned in elementary school such as spelling and grammar. I’m also willing to concede that Dillon is smarter than I am. You know, if I’m allowed to do that. One last thing: simply stating that we don’t have the abject poverty here in the United States that is present in other countries is not a good argument towards not fixing our stateside problems. That would be tantamount to my announcing “Well, I’m 25 pounds overweight, but since my neighbor is 200 pounds overweight, I don’t need to do anything about my weight problem.”

    Denton- doing things for goodness sake still gets good things done. So yes, there is a point. First a hungry kid and then a kid with a full belly is a point. In addition, there is some selfishness that goes on with being good. If am nice to people, they are generally nice to me, meaning that things work out better for me. I answered that question in my previous post, but as C.S. Lewis is not the Bible, it’s possible that you missed it. And, poverty can be eradicated. Easily? No way. Possible? Sure. It’s a tangible problem with quantifiable solutions and therefore it can be eradicated.

    • Kristi…the Bible isn’t the inspired word of God? I believe that statement alone is a testament as to why some of the readers on this blog believe in liberation theology as a sound and viable school of thought. It is because, as a society, we have strayed from believing the Bible is the inherent word of God that has brought us to this debased view of God.

      I find this to be a sad state of affairs entirely. We don’t get to modify the teaching of the Bible to suit our own needs…which is exactly what is happening here. If the teachings offend your sensibilities, maybe one should pay more attention to one’s own actions.

      As a society we should be concerned about social poverty and the likes but, never to the deterement of others. Meaning…we should, as individuals, take a stand for those issues we want to strive to make better. If we take a stance that involves government control, then nothing effective will change. Look at the government “intervention” during the most recent hurricanes. It is the “people” who effect the change..not the government.

      Finally…while probably not as “intellectual” as some want to deem others…the dialog is ineffective when insults start getting involved.

      • I didn’t say the Bible wasn’t the inspired word of God. I said that a lot of people, outside the church in particular, don’t believe it to be the inspired word of God, therefore reducing its capability to be considered as a source in an academic argument.

        I presume you’re referring to the FEMA breakdown with Hurricane Katrina, when you make mention of government intervention. I’ll grant you that: it was poorly managed. However, government intervenes in a lot of things that you use all the time, that work well, such as infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, etc), police, fire fighters, hospitals and clinics, and the list goes on. I could name some private organizations that have caused great harm to society and to individuals, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that all private organizations are bad, just as one poorly cited example of government intervention going wrong isn’t evidence that all government intervention is bad. Incidentally, I would love for churches and other non-profit and non-government groups to solve the health care problem and the poverty problem. However, as our churches aren’t doing that (and before you all freak out, I realize there are benevolence programs and that many are trying and doing a good job providing aid) I would rather the government try then just ignore the problem.

        Additionally, if the insults you’re referring to are the times that Dillon or myself commented that other people were more intelligent than we are or than other commenters on this post are, I fail to see how that’s a huge problem. The fact is, in a written argument, such as a debate on a blog, writing skill is important. If I can’t understand what you’re saying, your arguments fail to work to prove their points.

  19. Rob –

    You are right, the United States is not nearly as poor as Uganda. However, you are comparing apples to oranges here. Try comparing the poverty statistics of the United States to countries with similar GDP’s and let me know what you come up with. I am sure that almost every country that you research (most of them will be E.U. countries) will have a much lower poverty rating than the United States does.

    I would be interested to know where you are getting this statistic about poor people in the U.S. having iPods and high speed internet. Keep in mind that many of the poor in Appalachia do not have running water, neither do the poor extremely impoverished urban communities.

    “Unmatched liberties?” I will not even go there. However, I will say that this “strong free-market economy” that you speak of, with all of it’s greed and lack of regulation, is causing our current economic “troubles.” Despite what a large majority of the American population believes, government regulation in the economy is NOT a bad thing and does not equal Communism.

    You also act like Marxist principles are a bad thing. Please do some research. While Marxist ideals were influential in the creation of Communism, Marxism and Communism are not synonymous. Marx stated that “the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle.” Tell me if, after examining the history of our world, you can honestly disprove this statement…because I cannot. Marxism is a fundamental part of MANY philosophies and ideologies – I think you would be surprised.

    There is nothing wrong with the Bible. However, citing scripture is just not a valid argument in my opinion. It may work for some, but it does not work for me. Would you ever write a research paper (even for a theology class) in which you only cited the Bible? Of course not. I personally believe that truth can be found outside of the Bible.

  20. Kristi & Dillon –

    Regarding the the Bible, I stated it is the “basis” of all truth. I fully understand some who read this blog do not agree. But those who identify themselves as Christians are called to. As such, felt it necessary to cite specific scripture (and the head of the largest Christian denomination) to support the claim that Liberation theology is not Christian theology. Certainly other sources can and should be used for other topics and forums.

    Regarding Marx’s statement “the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle.” Ok, perhaps foundationally true but why? I submit it is man’s innate sinful nature as the root cause of all struggles and thus the “basis” of this truth.

    Regarding poverty, all societies have had an impovished class. Marxist ideas may wax altruistic but in practice lead to more not less oppression. So we’ll just agree to disagree that a larger, more fiscally irresponsible and intrusive federal government is the answer.

    Dillon, I do however admire your ministry involvement – keep up the good work.

  21. –Kristi–Listen to the text book crap you spill about hunger,” tangible problem with quantifiable solutions.” What a laugh. So arrogant. You hold the key to ending hunger. With no example in the world of how you or anyone have ended hunger , you can. How do you calculate for all of the different motivations and actions of different people today and tomorrow. Is your solution that dynamic. Those models look good on paper but dont factor in all the facts of life. Because you cant. Are you going to End selfishness and greed and crime too. People will just accept your word, that goodness is at work. As to your admitting the selfishness of doing good. What a confession. You have reduced God work to a selfish justification. I help because I get a tangible. Is that still your motivation? When there is nothing in it for you on earth, it isnt you who will be expected standing there feeding the needy. Like the churches that become Community condom and abortion dispensers, they lose their focus and in doing so fade away. They always do. They take up the “liberation/man” causes or some other perversion message and eventually the self centered motivations surface and interest fades. You dont stay motivated cleaning the excrement of a dying child or tending to the bed sore of a dying man because you Get something out of it. How childish for you to say. I know its become sport to throw a snicker bar at a runny nosed kid and then put that on your college resume as “im a good person, look at me”, but that isnt serious work. That isnt lasting work. Keep the Marxist political dung that motivates you–Im sure that will last–out of the works of the many who do this for something greater then self,not man. Just as you have told the church to stay away from the motivations of the state, keep your man-centered motivations out of my synagogue/church and dont force me to sponsor your other-than-God hunger-ending adventures. And lastly, honey, if the CS Lewis comment was a smack, you’re gonna have to try harder than that. Good day.

  22. First…. Secondly, I realize this is a blog and therefore comments do not get as much editing as a formal essay would. Thirdly, simply telling me that you don’t like my argument, including referencing Lewis, is not a response to my argument. It’s the behavior of a petulant child. Fourthly, I never said that I had the key to ending hunger, simply that it was possible, not that it was probable or easy. If you would stick to arguing with what I’ve actually said, we could make some headway. Fifthly, I haven’t told the church to do anything. In addition, I’m not sure what at all you mean by “telling the church to stay away from the motivations of the state.” I don’t know what that means, and I haven’t done it. Finally, because I have a lot to get done before in the morning, what models are you referring to? Because simply saying that there are some and then shoving them aside because you don’t like them or because they haven’t worked in the past isn’t a good argument.

  23. Kristi — I must agree with Dawn here. Are you saying that you do not believe God’s power inspired the writing of the Bible? I just want to make sure.


    Thanks for the clarity on insults; I think this is a healthy discussion because clearly there are two camps here – – and both do not agree. However, in the end, if we are Christians, it is important to remember that we are here to serve his will; I think many of us disagree on the process of taking care of the poor and the vice and ills of society. That is okay. We should respect our differences. I love that we live in a world of diversity.

    I was just looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew and reflecting on how it addresses that even the poor will, if they follow the word, enter the kingdom of heaven. I find it interesting that a few lines down it talks to those of us that are not poor; you know: the merciful, the peacemaker, and the pure at heart.

    I am open for someone to email me a post on how we can fix the problem of poverty. I realize the poor will always be among us, however, that does not mean we cannot seek ways to eradicate it. This is my greatest passion; it is my missionary work; it is how I serve. And, not just during the holiday season; I invite those of you in your community to work at shelter or spend time talking to a person that is without fortune; it is a rush; I love it.

    The intent of this post is to create a conversation about how the academic and religious world have in the past and present come together to address this topic. It is not a post about Marx, but a post about his noble ideals as they relate to the suffering; I find in Matthew 6:16 that Christ writes about how we should help the needy but to do so in a way that it is for the noble act and not the glory.


    It sounds like we are on the same page as it relates to the conclusion. We do disagree on the method/process; I do not know you or your background, but for me, it is my upbringing and experiences that has allowed me to but my trust in a strong government versus that of man at the local level. I recall my parents talking about their experiences in the deep South under the oppression of a localized system. Men like LBJ, a southerner, worked to rescue blacks from oppression.

    • Carson-

      My background relative to this discussion is I experienced firsthand the federal government’s ‘desegregation busing’ in the 1970s which involved racially integrating Houston school districts. Our high school was much like that depicted in “Remember the Titans” (which happens to be one of my favorite movies) with Denzel Washington. Racial tension ran high for some time and the school had secret service personnel in the hall ways to keep the peace as much as possible. (This was no HCHS). But it turned out for me to be a very good high school experience as being a decent athlete and student afforded me opportunities to scale the racial divide and gain some modicum of insight to race relations.

      My conern with liberation theology has been clearly stated from a doctrinal standpoint but I also have concern regarding it from a racial standpoint. Since you noted Cornel West as an influence in your thinking, I started to look into him a bit. In his book ‘Prophesy Deliverance’ he appreciates Marxism for its “notions of class struggle, social contradications, historical specificity, and dialectical developments in history” that explain the role of power and wealth in the bourgeois capitalist societies. West (and perhaps other black theologians such as James Cone) expanded this to mean capitalism creates and perpetuates ruling-class domination and vicitimization of blacks by whites. He went on to say America has been run over by “White racism within mainstream establishment churches and religious agencies”.

      I understand this to be the genesis of Black Liberation theology intended to help the black community. But did it? It seems to me that this idealogy may have hurt more than helped by promoting racial tension, victimology and Marxism which I content leads to more oppression (as stated previously). One thing I learned in my high school days is racism cuts both ways. It is truly an issue of sin which all mankind is affected by and needs to repent of – regardless of skin color.

      I suspect you have a different view from your upbringing but wasn’t LBJ’s “War on Poverty” essentially a failure? Didn’t it or hasn’t it kept far too many blacks perpetually enslaved to federal government and seduced into thinking that upward mobility is someone else’s responsibility? Wouldn’t greater upward mobility in 21st century America be achieved by embracing rather than demonizing our free market society? And if these divisive views of Marx could be eliminated and the true Christian gospel preached, wouldn’t that be much more liberating spiritually and socially?

  24. I know this is somewhat of a tangent to the liberation theology discussion, but I’m interested to see the response.


    First, I would be curious to know when government control of any aspect of the United States economy has ever truly stimulated the economy?

    Second, I happen to be researching poverty as my debate topic so I’ve done plenty of research on the subject. In researching the GDP’s of each of the world’s countries in an effort to compare the poverty rates of comparable countries to the United States . In 2008, the United States had a total GDP of $14.26 trillion dollars (, accounting for nearly a quarter of the Gross World Product (seems to me that the United States’ free market economy has done alright in the world market). The only comparable GDP that I could find was that of the European Union, which happens to be comprised of 27 European nations, at $18.14 trillion. The nearest single nation to the United States was Japan at $4.924 trillion and next was China at $4.402 trillion (notice neither of those happen to be E.U. countries as you so predicted). According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate in the United States is 13.2%. In comparison, a research study by Kyoto University shows that the poverty rate in Japan is 15.3%.

    Before you go criticizing other people for “not doing their research” perhaps you should do your own.

  25. “I would be curious to know when government control of any aspect of the United States economy has ever truly stimulated the economy?”

    Hey Reid! I am surprised to see you here. Interesting comment. I will give my thoughts on the first part because I do not have the energy to address the second; I will let Dillon do that. Here are my thoughts. As a historian, it is true that natural cycles have rescued the economy; however, much of that took place before 20th century; it is at this point that social economic reconstruction was needed to address global dependence.

    In the modern sense, the government is in constant regulation of the market. This lesson was learned after the 1930s. There is much debate among scholars to the “actual” impact of the New Deal. We are of course still operating under the New Deal. Some scholars credit WWII with saving the market; however, others contend that this problem forced the nation to address how speculative markets and localized measures might have an adverse impact on the economy. Thus, most academics and politicians agree that a stimulus is good and does work. But, the extent is the question and at what cost to society. Read this article I wrote here and feel free to leave a comment there. You might not agree with it, which is fine, but it does address your question some. Keep in mind that we do have a different view. Good to hear from you. I am not an economist, though I know enough to teach an intro. college economics course — that is about it.

    The government can hence “stimulate” or use “injections” to move the economy forward if spending is slow. How:

  26. Rob:

    That is a cool background story; I suspect you are a great person, seeing what you have experienced. If you are in the Houston area look me up and we will chat about what seems to be a number of things. I will admit that busing was not a great federal experiment in U.S, history; I think it was an attempt to fix a problem that could not be fixed quickly.

    I am impressed with your readings and knowledge of James Cone; I have read his work and have been a part of panels at conferences that do research involving his stuff. Yes, I have read much of West’s work dating back to my junior year in high school; I will be the first to say that he does not get it all right — though he is far smarter than I; however, I do like his approach towards John Dewy and the unfolding of pragmatism. For me, this reflects more on how I teach my classes in that I try to be democratic via a Socratic method of instruction. I do not believe in nor support BLT; I see it as being different from liberation theology.

    LT was one approach to address poverty; BLT emerged to address problems of civil rights and race. I am working on a book with a colleague in which we point to the weaknesses of BLT in an intro section. Followers of BLT mission was never one to address universal poverty — though preachers and followers of it often times addressed it.

  27. It may not be entirely relevant, but I thought I might share my social and economic philosophies:

    To be frank, I believe that societal injustice and class struggle will always exist. Man is imperfect, and thus, society – because it is comprised of men – is also imperfect. In that sense, I believe that Marx’s statement that “the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle” is an inherent, and rather obvious, truth. Even Martin Luther (the German one, not the black one) noted that “an earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects.” Thus, any attempt at the complete eradication of social injustice and class struggle would be as futile as trying to count to infinity. This is why every attempt at utopia in history has been an utter failure.

    Unfortunately, I think people too often use the age-old mantra that “life’s not fair” as an excuse not to make it any more fair or just. Even if we know and openly recognize that society will never be perfect, we still have a responsibility as dutiful citizens to make it as perfect as possible.

    The same philosophy applies to the economy: there is no perfect economic system. I would never make the argument that capitalism is perfect; I don’t think anybody would. I do, however, believe that it is the best feasible economic system that man has yet theorized. This is because man has a natural desire to better himself. Capitalism takes advantage of this aspect of human nature and this is why it has been so successful.

    Paradoxically (and unfortunately), capitalism’s strength is also its weakness. People often take the natural desire to better themselves to the excess, resulting in greed and self-centeredness. From what I can tell, this is where the opponents of capitalism most strongly disagree with it. They see capitalism as ‘economic anarchy.’

    I, however, disagree. I believe that government’s role as it relates to the economy is to regulate, but not interfere. This government exists to enforce (and determine) moral and ethical boundaries to an otherwise free-market economy. Interfering with the economy, in my opinion, only negates the positive aspects of capitalism. Of course, drawing the line between regulating and interfering is often very difficult. Incorporating theory into practice is never anywhere as easy as it seems. This is why there has been so much debate about how the government should handle our current economic woes. Unfortunately, my knowledge of our economy is not very extensive, so I really can’t propose any feasible solution. I’ll leave that to the economists.

  28. Pingback: God & Race « The Professor

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