What is Liberation Theology?

Liberation Theology is a school of theological thought that is centered on the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of liberation from poverty or unjust social situations, most especially in Central American Culture. It arose as a moral reaction to the poverty cause by social inequalities in that region. Gustavo Gutierrez is the most famous of the liberation theologians who wrote their central text, A Theology of Liberation.

Liberation theology was criticized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 80s for proponents pushing Marxist concepts. However, the field still flourishes today with many pushing a link between the seeing God in the poor and oppressed and looking at Biblical and theological principles from their perspective. As a quick example, the parable of the Good Samaritan is not about simply being nice or empathetic to strangers. Rather it is about seeing life from the perspective of the bleeding man left to die by the side of the road as members of the privileged class walk by him. How happy this man must have been to see the Samaritan man tend to his wounds and take care of him! Can we look at the poor and see a bit of ourselves in them? Can we change our lives to live simpler in order that others may not suffer because of our consumption.

Lastly, liberation theologians are people of action. They work to change structures, inspired by Jesus’ message to bring freedom and compassion to the poor. Catholic Social Teaching is at the center of Liberation Theology along with Gutierrez’s phrase “preferential option for the poor” which John Paul II popularized during his pontificate.