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
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.
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?
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.