Liberation Theology as Organizing Tool
The purpose of this article is to explain that Christianity is not intrinsically counter-revolutionary, and to give my comrades some advice on how to teach revolutionary ideas to Christian prisoners.
While I am an atheist, I recognize that many Christians can deservedly be called Comrades. Indeed, Jesus emself often spoke and acted in favor of the proletariat. However, there is a dangerous strain of imperialist pseudo-Christianity prevalent in the United $tates. The leaders of this cult, who have historically and predominately been rich white men, cherry-pick passages from the Bible in an attempt to justify their selfish agenda. This tactic of distorting Christianity has been used by oppressors from the conquistadors to Amerikan politicians and televangelists such as Pat Buchanan. It's been used to justify the conquests of indigenous people, manifest destiny, slavery, retributive punishment, and the persecution of Chican@s, wimmin, New Afrikans, queers, transgendered people, and poor people.
Unfortunately, this cultural brainwashing has infected the minds of many prisoners. To reverse this trend, we must show potential Christian comrades the following two points:
1. That certain lessons they learned do not actually represent the teachings of Jesus Christ. Rather, they reflect the imperialist demagogues who have opportunistically co-opted the Bible to suit their own capitalist and white-supremacist agenda.
2. That the real teachings of the New Testament are not only compatible with, but actually suggest, a revolutionary outlook.
For example, when you hear a Christian prisoner trying to rationalize homophobia, point out that many reputable Bible scholars claim that the New Testament does not actually condemn homosexuality. For example, in Introducing Christian Ethics by Roger Crook, we find an alternative interpretation of Paul's verses in Romans 1:16-32. The point of Paul's passage is not that homosexuality is wrong, but that God does not send people to heaven according to their adherence to traditional morality. Neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals get to heaven because of their sexual preference, but only by accepting God's gift of grace.
However, a more detailed approach eventually becomes necessary. For this, we should introduce our potential Christian comrades to Liberation Theology. The priests and theologians of this movement have actively struggled against U.$.-backed, capitalist puppet governments in the Third World in order to establish socialist governments managed by and for the people. In the book Liberation Theology, Robert Brown identifies four key themes of the movement:
- Commitment — taking a stand that unites thought and action
- Hope — the anticipation of a better future
- God's presence — the realization that we are not alone but that God is in our midst, in another persona and supremely in Jesus Christ
- A preferential option for the poor — the guideline for the kind of changes which will bring greater justice into the world (pp. 25-33)
In addition, many of these theologians have synthesized their theology with insights from indigenous spirituality, Marxism, feminism, womanism, New Afrikan studies, queer studies. The books A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone and Feminist Theological Ethics, edited by Lois Daly, are prime examples.
Remember, Comrades. "Christianity does not have to be reactionary!" Jesus was basically a socialist who preached love and tolerance for all people. Ey surrounded emself with poor people and outcasts, not bourgeois demagogues.
!Viva la Revolucion!
MIM(Prisons) responds: There have been some revolutionary liberation theology movements throughout history which provide examples of what this comrade describes. These organizations take their dedication to religion as a dedication to serving the oppressed. In Latin America there are examples of Christian groups explicitely working under the liberation theology banner to support revolutionary struggles. We have also written about the potential of Islam as a liberation theology, and Malcolm X provides a solid example of promoting revolutionary politics in this way. We have much respect for and unity with these movements. And we definitely agree that pointing religious folks in this direction is a good idea.
Quoting bible passages to religious folks to refute their reactionary beliefs or actions may indeed help reach some people. But we also shouldn't pretend that religion is all about revolution or serving the oppressed. Organized religion has a long reactionary history of its own oppression. And the bible has plenty of fuel for reactionary ideas and actions. While pointing religious folks to a more progressive interpretation, we should be careful not to mislead them into thinking that we endorse their mysticism. The very belief in a higher power discourages people from believing that they can control the development of their own and all of humanity's future.
In the end, we try to approach people where they are at. And so this comrade is offering some good tips for approaching religious folks. We just caution against leaveing the materialism out of the discussion altogether.