The Marxist-Christian Tension
During the past two decades Latin American liberation theology has grown in both scholarly treatment of religious themes and political influence in society. With the reforms of the Second Vatican Council from 1962-65, the proceedings of the Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin in 1968, and the publication of Gustavo Gutiérrez's seminal work in 1971, 1 radical theologians and religious social activists have taken the cue to involve their theologies and their lives with the problems of poverty and oppression in their societies. Influenced by alternative theological approaches and readings of Scripture, scholars and activists both have often forced confrontations with ecclesiastical and secular authorities as they challenge the moral legitimacy of Church behavior and state policy.
With confrontation, the political importance of liberation theology becomes apparent once its capacity for critical social theory is appreciated. For an adequate social theory that explains contemporary society, including the origins and nature of its social problems, can provide clearer directions to the religious individual as how to behave efficaciously as well as ethically. And, as we have seen, given the initial commitment to human liberation, the religious individual finds moral force, even obligation, to select political paths of