I hadn’t heard much about liberation theology since my college days. However, the term’s been revived in a couple of recent cases.
First, was Oliver Stone’s documentary, South of the Border, starring the leftist leaders of several South American countries. Those leaders have sometimes pointed to liberation theology as helpful in understanding and combating exploitation of the poor.
The other was Glenn Beck’s weekend claim that President Obama understands the world through liberation theology. It was a surprising reference to me, as Beck’s further explanation was that liberation theology’s worldview was oriented toward that of oppressor and victim.
One can certainly see that orientation in liberation theology, as you can in many different philosophies that address the plight of the poor. Though there’s usually some reference to personal responsibility, the overriding theme is that the corrupted elites have stacked the deck to keep the poor down, and used society’s institutions to do so. This isn’t original to liberation theology.
That worldview has been at the heart of the civil rights movement in America. It’s not a fringe notion that only traces back to a “radical” Latin American interpretation of Catholicism.
Why, then, did Beck use liberation theology as the framing device for describing the President’s views, instead of just claiming that Mr. Obama sees the world in terms of victims and victimizers, consistently identifying with the underdog? Whether that’s true or not could be debated. It’s much harder to debate whether the President is an adherent of the liberation theology school of Christianity.
Thursday morning on AirTalk, we’ll talk with a theologian from Claremont School of Theology about what liberation theology proposes, and whether it relates to the version of Christianity preached at the Obama’s home church in Chicago.
Also on Thursday’s program, a debate on whether the growth in exposure to pornography is a positive or negative for our sex lives. One of our guests, sociologist Gail Dines, argues in her book, Pornland, that the consistent submission and degradation of women in porn has done serious harm to our culture. Cal State Long Beach professor Shira Tarrant will take issue with that analysis.