Liberation Theology Is Critical Reflection on Praxis Essay

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Liberation theology is critical reflection on praxis and uses the Exodus biblical experience as a springboard for dealing with questions raised by the poor and the oppressed

Liberation theology has been described as the "decolonization of Christianity," (Bediako, 1995, p. 76). For one, the decolonization process involves the empowerment of previously oppressed people and the renewal of social and cultural pride. Second, liberation theology liberates Christianity from a European sphere of control and influence. Third, liberation theology is not just a political and social transformation of the application of Christianity. Liberation theology is a theological transformation of Christianity. As such, liberation theology manifests differently in the regions where it is practiced the most: South America and Africa.

Theology is, as Pears (2010) puts it, contextual in nature. Liberation theology recognizes the contextuality of theology and shifts approaches depending on the preexisting social, political, economic, and theological frameworks. It is more effective to refer to liberation theologies, plural, than to a singular liberation theology. In fact, the notion that there is one liberation theology suggests a European and therefore colonial mindset that anything other than the dominant culture stance is homogenous. Southern hemisphere liberation theologies are complex and heterogeneous, stemming from the archetypal Exodus in which the tribes were scattered. The Exodus experience is an effective springboard for dealing with questions raised by the poor and oppressed, the social context in which liberation theologies spring forth.

In Latin America in particular, the social and political context of liberation theology grew out of a need to incorporate Marxist ideology into modern democracy. The discovery of connections between Marxism and Christianity has shaped liberation theology as it is expressed in South America (Pears, 2010).
By the same token, the Exodus story has been "paradigmatic" by serving to "guide and inform human beings and societies as they oppose that which oppresses and divides them," (Pears, 2010, p. 73). Reworking the Exodus narrative into liberation theologies has been challenging, especially given its clear references to, and explicit condoning of, slavery. Boff & Boff (1992) claim that the Exodus paradigm is essential to liberation theologies because "it recounts the epic of the politico-religious liberation of a mass of slaves who, through the power of the covenant with God, became the people of God," (35).

According to Bedaiko, liberation theology fuses traditional African religions and their theologies with those of Christianity. Rather than being counterintuitive, the endeavor to blend indigenous African with Christian faith has challenged missionaries to connect more with the people who would benefit most from the paradigm shift. Storytelling, rather than "systematic expositions of dogma," have fostered unique expressions of Christian faith throughout the southern hemisphere. Biblical narratives provide apt means of forging a liberation theology that is relevant to the context in which it develops. It is not only the Exodus narrative that speaks to themes of oppression and liberation, but Exodus does provide the first layer of foundation that can help the oppressed reach a point of empowerment and hope.

Liberation theology has also been dubbed "the liberating praxis of the poor," (Ford & Muers, 1997, p. 476). Symbols of Exodus, Promise, and Liberation permeate liberation theology ideology but it has been somewhat less effective at informing praxis. Ford & Muers (1997) critique the use of Exodus as a narrative of explanation, rather than a narrative of.....

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