Religion and Politics in Latin America: Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy

Religion and Politics in Latin America: Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy

Religion and Politics in Latin America: Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy

Religion and Politics in Latin America: Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy

Synopsis

What drives religious people to act in politics? In Latin America, as in the Middle East, religious belief is a primary motivating factor for politically active citizens. Concluding that religious motivations are important in their own right, Lynch challenges traditional views and raises important questions about the relationship between religion and politics in Latin America. This volume concentrates on Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy. Nicaragua and Venezuela are used as case studies of how these two philosophies have fared when vested with political power. For Latin American scholars, this timely volume describes the motivations behind important political actors.

Excerpt

The relationship between religion and politics has recently become a pressing question for political scientists. Events in the Middle East are unintelligible without an understanding of the religious conflicts that motivate political actors in that part of the world. Perhaps because of the violence connected with sectarian strife, the importance of religion is most obvious in the Middle East.

In Latin America, although the stakes are less dramatic, they are no less important. Religious belief is the primary motivating factor for many of Latin America's politically active citizens. Nevertheless, North American scholarship on religion and politics in Latin America has tended to fall into one of two less-than-useful categories.

On the one hand, many scholars treat religious belief as though it is necessarily merely a veil for some other sort of interest. No one can actually believe in religion, we are told; people only use religion to hide their real motivations. On the other hand, many scholars treat religious politics as thought this were the purview just of ecclesiastics. To know what relationship exists between religion and politics in Venezuela, for example, a scholar need simply interview the bishops and clergy. This ignores the substantial hold that religious belief has over laypeople, including many well-educated and sophisticated citizens.

This book treats the two most important lay religious movements in the Latin American Catholic Church: Liberation Theology and Christian Democracy. There is a great need for original scholarly treatment of these movements. Existing literature on Liberation Theology is written . . .

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