Across the years, people have given me strange looks when I confess that my faith has been shaped significantly by reading liberation theology. I do what I do in large part because of what I have discovered while exploring this very rich school of thought.
Years ago, while in seminary, I enjoyed the good fortune of sitting in a summer school class with Dr. James Cone from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Cone's course, Black Liberation Theology, provided me with hope, courage and even healing. I found him even more amazing in person than in print, which is saying a lot!
I suppose what I find most attractive about the thought of writers like Cone and Gustavo Gutierrez is the fact that everything is rooted deeply in the here-and-now.
Everything is practical.
Action in the real world is the key to every expression of faith.
Instead of becoming lost in the past or distracted by a future that will be experienced on a completely different plane of existence, thinkers like Gutierrez and Cone keep calling me back to the street and its reality.
In a system of thought like this, it becomes almost impossible for middle class types like me to rationalize my failure to engage the pain, injustice, suffering and oppression of my world.
My responsibility in this day happens to be this world or, better, that part of the world where I will find myself living today.
There is not much time for dwelling on the past, except as precursor for the present that is currently "in my face."
There is little reason to focus much on the future, it will take care of itself.
My call is to live and to act in faith for the transformation of the world as I find it.
Liberation thought demands an entering into the life of the world. To put it theologically, it calls for radical incarnation. I must enter the pain and the struggle of this world for the sake of and alongside the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
There is no way to heaven but through the earth.
My responsibility is the life and the world in which I find myself. In community with others, I am called to live out my faith from a street level perspective.
The old hymn, "This World Is Not My Home," might be true; but this world is without a doubt my current assignment, it is where I am rooted by faith, and I dare not "pass through" without thought, sacrifice and focused attention. It is what I have been given and called to engage.
Maintaining this very real, practical and "down-to-earth" focus keeps me on track. And, in this regard, I find reading Cone, Gutierrez and other liberationists to be most helpful.
They bring my faith to life and into my world.