Liberation Theology and Land Reform Sculpture by Edilberto Merida
Shall ye alone dwell upon the Earth?

Two inescapable facts 
confronted Latin American pastors in the latter half of this 20th century: that most of their parishoners lived in grinding, abject poverty -- and that the Church represented the only viable community organization in their world. Out of this awareness came a new understanding of the very meaning of the Church's work. The movement that came to be called "Liberation Theology" began with the awareness that it is blasphemous to care for people's souls while ignoring their needs for food, shelter and human dignity. As Jesus participated in the suffering of the poor, and proclaimed to them the good news of justice and freedom, so must today's church engage in the struggle for justice in this world.

Across the "Third" 
or developing world, gross inequities persist, and deepen. More of the world's poor are crowded into ever more hopeless conditions. Yet the earth's plenty is far from running out. In nation after nation, a tiny minority of the wealthy hold vast areas of fertile land. The deadly connection between land-ownership concentration and wretched poverty is absurdly obvious on every continent.

An effective remedy 
to these horrible injustices depends on a precise understanding of their causes. After all, many "cures" have proved to be worse than the sickness. Liberationists have tried many ideological models, seeking clarity. Are the third world poor preyed on by raiders of the global economy, or by home-grown robber barons? Is the financial system to blame, or are we seeing the inevitable trauma of capitalism's march through history?

The search 
for understanding has led back, as well, to the Bible -- and there, in the ancient economic laws of the Old Testament, may be found principles that, if applied mindfully of today's economic complexities, can provide the directions out of the Wasteland -- to the Promised Land of economic sanity and justice.