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Liberation Theology, Economic Inequality, and Social Justice

Liberation Theology, Economic Inequality, and Social Justice

Author: Ted Fairchild

This lesson discusses the origin and growth of liberation theology, which aims to use religion as the basis for social action in combatting the perceived evils of economic and social inequality.

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Hello, welcome back. Today we're going to talk about liberation theology. It's a movement within Roman Catholicism in which the teachings of Jesus are held to demand or at least to strongly incline one towards social action of a fairly particular sort. It's usually associated with a Peruvian priest named Gustavo Gutierrez. And there was a lot of political and economic oppression in Latin and Central America during much of the 20th Century and this is a response to that.

The force behind liberation theology is really the words and the teachings of Jesus as a means to peacefully, usually peacefully, combat inequality in the social realm. Primarily economic inequality. And Jesus' model of giving to the poor and helping those in need is used as inspiration for political protest and lobbying for redistribution of land resources to those who are disenfranchised. Although it's a movement within Roman Catholicism, some branches of liberation theology were criticized by the Vatican for spending too much energy applying standards of moral and ethical conduct to institutions instead of individuals. Other religious critics suggest that liberation theology is using religion as a mask for strictly economic and political motivations calling it Marxist redistributionism.

These critics argue that Jesus' model of giving was more in the line of selfless giving and offering of love without expectation and design compensation. Critics have called some of the activities of liberation theology political economic state-sanctioned theft.

Well nevertheless, the work of liberation theology is to initiate and achieve a greater degree of social equality and justice. Coming from an outcome-based perspective, some theories of social justice understand that the social realities of inequality really stem from economic inequalities and injustices. Social justice then stands on the side of liberation theology because it offers solid moral ground for many of the seemingly radical actions that surround the work of redistributing wealth to the disenfranchised.

Now we can review and summarize a bit. Our key term, liberation theology, was associated with the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez. And liberation theology then is the movement within Roman Catholicism in which the teachings of Jesus are held to demand or at least move one towards social action of a particular sort. And we identified that the social justice that it's mostly applied to is economic equality and redistribution of land. And those are our other key terms social justice and redistribution of wealth often in the terms of land resources. See you next time.

Terms to Know
Liberation Theology

A movement within Roman Catholicism, in which Jesus' teachings are held to demand, or at least strongly incline one toward, social action of a fairly particular sort.

Redistribution of Wealth

The taking of wealth, usually in the form of money, from one party to another, generally in the form of taxation of land redistribution.

Social Justice

The belief that groups should be held to the same standards of justice as individuals, especially with respect to economic and social inequality.