The Bible and the Third World: Precolonial, Colonial, and Postcolonial Encounters

By R. S. Sugirtharajah | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Engaging liberation: texts as a vehicle of
emancipation

I don't particularly think liberation should need theology.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

In the 1980s, after nearly twenty years of liberation theology, Juan Luis Segundo, one of its pioneers, delivered a lecture in Toronto, and in it he delineated the shifts within Latin American liberation theology. In the course of the lecture Segundo identified two types of Latin American theology: one initiated by middle-class professional theologians, and the other by ordinary people. The features of the first line of theology were the conversion of the professional class of theologians to the cause of the poor; their detection of the ideological manipulation of the gospel by the institutions and the powerful, to maintain their hold; and their commitment to provide longterm pastoral care with a new de-ideologized and humanizing gospel recoverable from the ancient texts. Segundo told his audience: 'Thus it was not the oppressed people, but the middle classes, beginning with students, who received the first features of this liberation theology as a joyful conversion and a new commitment. '1 The context for the first model was the university, and its proponents were a theologically trained cadre. The middle class acquired a new theological vision and made liberation their new commitment at the cost of risking their physical comforts and material privileges.

The second model of Latin American theologizing, Segundo observed, arose as a result of the irruption of the populist

____________________
1
Juan Luis Segundo, Signs of the Times: Theological Reflections, tr. Robert R. Barr (Maryknoll, NY, Orbis Books, 1993), p. 71.

-203-

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