it Skepticism or Class Warfare?
Humanist Perspective on Liberation Theology & Poverty)
Christian, I know you see it... and many of you are disgusted. You're partially
right, Christianity is under attack and skeptical writers (like myself) remain
targets of your wrath. If only the world were this simple!
not supposed to discuss class in society; it's a taboo that we pretend just
doesn't exist. However, matters of class pervade Christianity. Those that
understand how it plays itself out are confronted with a dilemma that will
likely reframe the whole secular/religious outlook.
should know that the greatest enemy of true Christianity has gone virtually
undetected and that an uninformed portion of the secular movement unwittingly
does their dirty work! While secularism and religion tangle over the creed; this
enemy exploits issues of hatred, which facilitates their greed. Humanity suffers
for this, especially the poor. What enables them is our preoccupation with
epistemological truth rather than our being informed of the more significant humane
issues in this global game of class warfare.
I see skeptics against religion and believers against skepticism it tells me
that society is confused and upset with something they don't understand.
shouldn't be skeptical vs. religious friction in society! A humanist esteems
the important role each side plays. If both sides were functioning properly we
would be mutually focused upon the greatest problem afflicting society today;
that being the character issue of greed.
can't fix what we don't understand. Few Christians understand how they came
to be divided; now they seem to think of secularism as their great foe.
Meanwhile, some secularists seem to think that religion poisons everything and
is the world's greatest problem. One thing does lead to another; this is why
we are unnecessarily pitted against each other.
may, Christians are not upset with us for asking questions... are you? Doesn't
skepticism come in handy whenever someone is trying to take advantage or to play
a practical joke on you? It's a fact; Christians employ skepticism as well
(but to lesser degrees). If I have correctly understood you, you're more upset
with the residual effects of the skeptical movement directly or indirectly
harming your charitable work in society.
is "thick skinned" enough to handle skepticism, especially if you were to
compare it with Islam. Christianity has matured to such a point to where a
critic's life isn't threatened like it is with Islam (example Salmon Rushdie).
This should go without saying, certainly no person of faith takes kindly when
one tries to "show you up" or to poke fun or belittle you. Personally, I
look forward to the day when skepticism matures enough to permanently discard
inflammatory disparaging of religion.
movements eventually have factions that often distort the core values of its
founders. These factions predictably seek to re-direct the original
design/direction resulting in consternation in its posterity
that frequently pits one man against another. It's certainly a distraction
away from the founder's intent. Nowhere is this more evident than in religion;
skepticism has had it's own rifts as well.
Tradition vs. The Lesser Tradition
develop the title's thesis without writing a book, I need to delve into the
little known schism within Christianity concerning what the revolutionary Jesus
(expressed as a compliment) taught and how that directly impacts the human
condition still today. The grand point of conflict didn't originate with
skepticism... it started within religion itself soon after Jesus' death. It's
a bigger, more newsworthy story than the current religious/secular clash of
today is. In my opinion, nobody explains this better than the exceptional essay How
Jesus' Message Was Hijacked written by Howard Bess. [Note: this subject
matter must be understood to comprehend what is transpiring today... please stop
Christianity IS under attack. Please don't confuse my employing a homonym
(poor) as patronizing or pity... there is a version of Christianity favored by
wealth and another version that is attuned to those in poverty. Rich
Christianity is the favored son and "Teflon coated" while Poor Christianity
has some powerful enemies that a casual observer wouldn't normally identify as
the "usual suspects" in opposition to religion.
Christianity pumps up the Justin Bieber's and the Tim
Tebow's but hardly a word is heard about the poor Catholic or Lutheran
community difference maker toiling on the other side of town. They want to
project the "proper" image of success, which is far different than the
message of sacrifice and compassion that Jesus spoke. Just recently the Vatican
reached out to boxing champ Manny Pacquiao to be more like Tebow...I hope the
heart of the champ would be more like Jesus and side with the lesser tradition!
David Limbaugh's "Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against
Christianity" takes one down the expected but well trodden "left vs.
right" path; he misses his mark because nowhere can one find reference to the
warfare against the verboten subjects involving poverty and societal class as
expressed by the enemies of the lesser tradition. Seems that nearly all the
attention goes to contrived "rich cat fights" of religion rather than the
basic essentials of humanity that Jesus was obviously more concerned about.
gets way too much credit... or should I say blame for the deterioration of
religion within society. Ex-minister isn't against religion, nor does it
disparage it. Bigger than the secular movement are forces that have great
ability to manipulate terms of the human condition. What routinely gets referred
to as aggressive secularism (truth be known) could well be the work of
aggressive capitalism! However, the man in the pew doesn't call it this
though; he calls it aggressive secularism.
movement is unimportant in the scheme of humanity unless we make a significant
contribution to improve the human condition. En route to
this objective we must be wise to avoid clever manipulations that routinely
occur due to being uninformed or being biased against religion.
At this point "does it improve the human condition" is the great
defining/dividing line within both secularism/skepticism and religion
I don't care for rich Christianity (great tradition) but I recognize that it
is intrinsically bound with poor Christianity (lesser tradition).
If I were to choose to fight the great tradition, I understand that
ultimately my efforts will harm those that benefit from the lesser tradition
(that being those in poverty). I've been critical of skepticism for being used
as unwitting pawns in this game of class warfare.
was right when he stated "for ye have the poor always
with you". Jesus' response to the poor is the reason for the divide
within Christianity. Could secularism's wedge issue be our response to
poverty? Question, does skepticism/secularism even have a response to poverty?
Is it our business?
this writer looks at the skeptical movement, I see plenty of intelligent people
that are voracious readers absorbing everything they can consume that could be
used to advance the human condition. As an "armchair historian" that has
perused humanist literature, this ex-minister finds these words from the Humanist
Manifesto III quite compelling:
to the greater good of humanity. The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason,
inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life
well and fully."
critical eye upon our movement notices the absences of the above fighting for
the heart of humanism. They assume our name but betray our principles.
Essentially the same thing that happened in Christianity has recently occurred
with secularism. Ex-Minister hasn't been accommodating of this new fangled
arrangement; yet I'm labeled as an accommodationalist within our movement and
shunned. Skepticism/secularism uninformed by poverty must not be allowed to
identify as humanists! We should only accept those heartily accepting our
principles rather than following leadership of those provoking us to fight
has a great ability/capacity for performing good deeds or for facilitating bad
ones. Ultimately, any quantifiable assessment distinguishing the good from the
bad guys hovers around the question "does
it improve the human condition?" Skepticism certainly doesn't operate in a
vacuum. We can make a difference if we are informed of the socioeconomic
ramifications that are so woven into societal day-to-day activities by the
lesser tradition of Christianity.
following the lesser tradition of Christianity are the great caretakers of those
in need (they are religious humanists). My questions to organized secularism
are: 1) should we choose to fight or belittle them? 2) should we seek to better
understand their work and serve as diplomatic or statesmen like guardians as
humanists? 3) should we try to
compete and place our financial resources into the fray to show that we are
somehow better than they? I think our best option is to allow the lesser
tradition their "high ground" and pick the second option. Humanists pick
option 2, atheists pick options 1 or 3. This in good measure is how to
distinguish a humanist from an atheist.
response to poverty is what this ex-minister understands to be pure Christianity
(lesser tradition). I think it is difficult to understand poverty with what I
like to call the traditional American "one size fits all" mindset that
people are poor because they are lazy. Truth is that there are many other ways
to fall into poverty. This writer's years of absorbing life in a poor country
as well as our own struggles to escape poverty has definitely shaped my opinion
upon secularism and a proper response as a secularist towards Christianity.
agree with the Apostle Paul when he states, "if any would not work, neither
should he eat"( 2 Thessalonians 3:10)... basically if a man is able but
unwilling (lazy) we shouldn't have to provide for their lazy carcass.
I'd also agree with Paul concerning the importance of a man providing for his
own: "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own
house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (I Tim
5:8). Paul's strong words
are rational and make good fiscal sense. Yes, there are people worse than us
infidels... the Bible says so (with laughs).
far, we have discussed theory without any real world application. Some may have
thought I have been referring to some ancient philosophical change that is
merely historical. What happens though whenever someone attempts to "plug
into" the lesser tradition in our modern society? Answer: fierce conflict,
revolution and bloodshed!
this really be? Enter El Salvador and a humanist evaluation of Liberation
Theology. At this point the reader should click these two links from Noam
Chomsky concerning our subject matter.
"one of the more or less hidden
stories of the past generation is the story of Liberation Theology."
Crucifixion of El Salvador
South America, they don't call it the lesser tradition... it is referred to as
Liberation Theology! Liberation Theology is a term that most skeptics have heard
about and most would categorize it as something negatively radical.
Unfortunately, (no pun intended) the buzzword is theology rather than
liberation. Liberation from what? That would be freeing people from poverty! In
layman's terms, Liberation Theology is taking the lesser tradition (pure
Christianity) and using it to alleviate or free people from poverty.
a most interesting discussion with a Christian landowner from Nigeria about the
human condition in his country. He told me that they run oil pipes throughout
the land (some of it his) and of the ecological mess that the inevitable spills
leave behind. Not only are these spills not cleaned up, finding uncontaminated
water is difficult which creates a multitude of health concerns. If this
wasn't bad enough, what really upset him is how foreigners make a mess and
take the money and run! What to him should be a wealthy country due to the oil
is impoverished because of the blinding greed that those oblivious to the human
condition could care less about.
points about the last two paragraphs are in order. In Nigeria, there is little
to no regard for the poor and you have a multi-cultural clashing of religion
(Christianity and Islam) with bloodshed. It should be duly noted that
poverty/economics is a key element of the Arab Spring uprising within the Middle
South American Continent you have a movement that has been so moved by poverty
that within Christianity a yearning for the lesser tradition has resurfaced. One
country has a preferential option for the poor being adopted by the head of
state of an oil wealthy nation. This leader has been generously supplying
heating oil to poor North American homes for many years through Citizens
the "leader" of Liberation Theology in South America? Hint, it isn't some
clergyman! Before I reveal this person's name, let me ask you a question. What
would your response be to a politician that reduced his country's poverty rate
in half during his term in office?
According to The Washington Post, citing
statistics from the United
Nations, poverty in Venezuela stood at 28% in 2008,
down from 55.44% in 1998 before Chávez got into office.[25
American President were to cut our poverty rate in half you could figure that it
was me that lined the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue with Palm branches! Now,
I'd consider that a great accomplishment, perhaps worthy of chiseling out a
new bust in South Dakota for.
the following, see the (original
link) which was dated April 5, 2010
main proponent of liberation theology in Latin America is no longer a Roman
Catholic clergyman susceptible to censorship and crozier-bashing
but a layman. None other than President Chavez Frias.
Headline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue writes:
The President's Holy Week "Line Drives" column started off with a
reflection on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Chavez quickly defined
who Jesus Christ is for him and many Christians ... "who in our hearts and
souls bear a commitment to Christ the Redeemer, the Libertarian Christ, Christ
of the poor."
The key point of Palm Sunday, the President told readers, is that Jesus entered
into Jerusalem on the humble donkey, followed by the ordinary people greeting
him, waving palms. The same flowering of love, Chavez meditated, would lead the
Christ to confront the powerful of his time.
The dialectics of the Cross is no problem for Chavez as he contrasts those who
welcomed Christ with open arms, namely "the needy of always and of today, hungry
and thirsty for justice and those who did not rest until they saw him
crucified ... the same then and today who never satiate their appetite for
The President's theological contribution to Latin America is contained very
simply in the last line of his column. "In observing this sacred Sunday, we
reiterate that our revolution has in Christ of the dispossessed the greatest
guide in the struggle for human dignity ... we follow in his footsteps."
The faithful will not hear that message from the country's bishops but instead
one of nebulous reconciliation and national unity, which is precisely the
opposition's message. The bishops cannot even stop the spread of evangelism and
Pentecostalism in Venezuela, never mind deal with Chavez.
As Jesuit priest, Jose Gazo pointed out in an Correo del Orinoco article: Chavez
is the best of all preachers together because Chavez believes what he feels and
has the advantage of loving the people and loving Jesus.
Some of the top dogs in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are not
happy with the President's Christian discourse nor is the White House, the US
State Department or the Pentagon. It is much harder to combat Christ than Marx.
The Catholic bishops have no answer to Chavez, whom I would call the harbinger
and most vocal representative of Venezuelan popular religiosity or the People's
Catholicism but contributing a new reading, which is political. One of the key
tenets of liberation theology is the preferential option for the poor and that
has been embraced by Chavez as key to his concept of 21st century Socialism.
Gazo analyzed the gospel text that one cannot serve two masters at the same
time: money or God, capitalism or socialism. Capitalism seeks capital and
profit. When money turns into capital, it becomes a god who kills, who excludes.
Chavez has become a unlikely prophet for his own backward Catholic Church and a
possible inspiration to a revival of liberation theology for Catholics and
Much to the dismay of Rome and Washington, liberation theology could be back ...
thanks to Hugo Chavez!
has your understanding of our world radically changed since reading this? These
episodes and our understanding of poverty should inform our secularism and our
approach towards religion.
response to Liberation Theology
Ex-Minister eschews politics largely for its inability to focus upon goodness
due to selfishness. Most of America's politicians are rich, religious and out of
touch. I regret to say that most suffer from spiritual problems despite their
Christian claims. There is a scene from Godfather
III when Michael Corleone meets
with Cardinal Lamberto that best describes how I view their profession of faith.
Lamberto moves toward a fountain>
Lamberto: Look at this stone. It
has been lying in water for a very long time, but the water has not penetrated
breaks the stone>
Lamberto: Look, perfectly dry.
The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been
surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated. Christ doesn't
breathe within them.
America and realize that if this essay is widely read it just might or should
open a political firestorm in an election year. There
are plenty of issues within this realm that should be brought to the forefront.
I agree with Chomsky's assessment that what went down in South America was
Theology (LT) is a matter that should rightfully concern every thinking person
upon the planet. In my opinion, America overreacted through proxy in El Salvador
in response to the implementation or seeding of LT. Hasn't history shown that
persecution of religious movements only serves to fortify resolve for the long
term? America struck a severe blow to LT but couldn't fully eradicate it.
Thirty something years after El Salvador it is back with a vengeance in South
America because we suppressed religious freedom and poverty hasn't been
much as I admire Chavez from afar for his achievements to reduce poverty, LT
greatly concerns me as a humanist. The very fact that LT is an option tells me
that society has turned a blind eye towards the human condition. LT is literally
a poor man's version of a theocracy. One thing could easily lead to another.
poses a unique question/challenge to the extent in which religious freedom
should be extended. You cannot have "carte blanche"
religious freedom with LT because it would by its nature be subversive to a
drives this humanist and US Constitution (Bill of Rights) admirer to his wits
end. First, I believe that the state must be secular and should be receptive of
religion as long as it helps build a nation without rivaling against it's
sovereignty. LT is a theocratic state wherein secular liberty is imperiled.
Religious people should reject LT as well. What if the particular sect of LT
doesn't esteem your Protestant/Catholic, Calvinistic, Charismatic, etc.
vantage point? It is unlikely that LT would be accommodating of religious
State Department has taken on a great amount of criticism regarding religious
freedom the past few years (its in a tough position). Now lest anyone accuse me
of speaking with a forked duplicitous tongue, let me state that religious
freedom has its limits! Sharia law and LT are two
religious ideologies that would clash with democracy. They are self-governing
rivals lusting for power and control. In a world full of "masks" with
smiling religious people, one should understand if the US State Department
"smells of smoke when they are continually dealing with many fires". If
anyone is going to lead the world, I want it to be Anglo's that wouldn't
tolerate a theocracy being built!
shouldn't state that religion be allowed a free reign due to a naïve
romanticized understanding of our First Amendment. With this type of
interpretation, it could lead to a Muslim under the thumb of LT or a Christian
bound by Sharia law. No way would a non-religious person with a secular way of
life want either "straight jacket" placed upon them!
It's in all of our best interests to maintain a secular state that
allows a measure of religious freedom. Unchecked religious freedom carried to
its sectarian extremes is radical; boundaries need to be set!
pretense of religious freedom needs reworking that results with pre-set clearly
defined parameters that are in place before the next crisis arises. Staunch
secularists can be just as prone to lusting for power and control as greedy
clerics can be, why not nail down religious freedom boundaries beforehand and
leave matters of trust out of the equation?
Response to Poverty; Mollifying Liberation Theology
If a frank
discussion and a careful, informed consideration of a means to alleviate poverty
doesn't influence your approach towards Christianity, you just might be a
heartless SOB (in my opinion). If
secularism wants to have intellectual "high ground" it must acknowledge and
properly respond (respect) the lesser tradition. Organized secularism has
mightily failed in this realm. Its one thing to be uninformed on a particular
matter that could be obscure; its quite another to ignore something that
isn't... either way, ignorance isn't a trait of truly intelligent people.
admire Christianity's lesser tradition work with those in need. I shake my
head in disbelief that well-balanced people could conceivably want to do away
with Christianity. This is where the "rubber meets the road" and precisely
the point where I jump off the secular bandwagon with its disconnect concerning
haven't been to Venezuela. I have no way of knowing if what is happening is
indeed LT (as some have reported) or a harmless application of the lesser
tradition of Christianity that offends greedy capitalists' sense of
entitlement. Regardless, poverty is a growing problem that needs resolution.
you didn't ask me, I am dissatisfied with several of the "solutions" being
bandied about: taking from the rich to give to the poor (Robin Hood), social
justice, Marx, and "trickle down" charity. Rich Christianity proclaims a
returning Savior that is too late to help. Poor Christianity emphasizes present
day nurture and is actively engaged with those in need. Secularism needs to get
to work on this issue! What was our plan again?
bone of contention with skepticism is this. We don't have a viable plan for
poverty! I see the organized movement as obtuse, failing to recognize that they
are warriors against the great caretakers that are making a difference in our
world. They evidentially think they are saving the world from religion but in
reality are tampering with the supply chain to those with needs. I think it is
cold blooded for the group without a plan to attack the religious humanist
(Christian) group that actually has a plan for poverty.
actively pursue the destruction of Christianity and to somehow seek to justify
that destruction with a token secular flail at the alleviation of poverty
results with an astounding net loss of the common good. Those that are inspired
by compassion would do well to follow the lead of pioneers like Ted
Turner and Jon
Bon Jovi (they worked with the church rather than against it to meet human
all in this thing together and somehow need to find a way to work together for a
solution. While there is a tender place in my heart for the lesser tradition
churches engaged in tending to those in need; this ex-minister doesn't want to
see churches relegated to merely being caretakers of the poor when their higher
function or niche is in the shaping of human character and the nurturing of
opinion, secularism's viable plan would not war against the lesser tradition
but rather esteem it. Religion isn't full proof and I wish it were
better... more effective in communities where poverty perpetuates due to children
being born into out of wedlock/single parent homes. These kids need to be cared
for and nurtured to enhance the odds to break the cycle of poverty.
message does our movement have to prevent the perpetuation of the poverty that
follows many of these kids? What? Are we going to ask them to watch a
biologist's video of what happens whenever a man acts with the "head"
below his belt rather than thinking with the head upon his shoulders? What kind
of response do you think you will get when you try to tell someone not to do
something? Right, expect the "lack of authority" response... "who are you
to tell me?" "God" doesn't have that limitation!
secular studies advance to such a point where we have a message that conceivably
extends and resonates with the poor, undisciplined and uneducated men;
religion is a viable alternative that should be recognized not as a literal
epistemological truth but rather as a pragmatic venture that needs to endure to
was the day when I finally recognized mythology; better was the day that I came
to accept the ancient wisdom of those setting it up!
secularists need to embrace the lesser tradition as a tonic
to soothe the annoyances of rich Christianity while reminding the hypocrites of
what Jesus was concerned about! Christianity needs to get back to Christianity
and secularism needs to be about our business. Inspired by compassion should
mean that we don't impede compassionate actions of others!
February 24, 2012 All