I’m going to begin this post by saying, I’m not an expert in liberation theology. I’ve been drawn to it ever since I lived and served in Guatemala for 3 months in 2001, and I am continually learning from it as I have spent time studying it on various trips to Brazil and Mexico City. I’ve done my fair share of reading Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff and others, and I’m currently working my way through Ched Myers (large) book, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.
You might ask yourself, what does a theology that is based in a “preferential option for the poor” have to do with suburban life?
Great question. But I have been drawn to the liberation theology hermeneutic that was taught to me during my time serving with Partners in Hope, Amextra and some of the lectures from professors at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Hermeneutic of Transformation
Based on Romans 12:1-2, the question/challenge becomes for us…what does it look like to offer our lives as sacrifices to God, not conforming to the world, therefore being transformed and renewed in the process? This is the question that many in the Mexican communities I worked with based their work on. The process of being transformed and renewed by God, and therefore helping transform the communities they were a part of by example. There is a lot of praxis to this hermeneutic that I can’t do justice to in one post, but here is my question for us living in the suburbs.
How do we sacrifice our lives to God, in order to be transformed and renewed…while living in the suburbs? What does that look like for your context?
Hermeneutic of Liberation
There are various aspects of this hermeneutic and it often depends on who you read. But what I was taught was the following:
- ver (see): to open your eyes…look around you…see the needs, hurts, joys, etc.
- juzgar (judge): based on what is seen, then determine (judge) what action must be taken.
- actuar (act): to do something…intervene.
- celebrar (celebrate): celebrate as a people, community, family.
Living in the suburbs, I wonder if we can use this hermeneutic?
Can we open our eyes to the needs, wants, pains and happiness around us, and not become numb to the consumerism, instant gratification, etc.?
Living in the suburbs, can we judge/determine how we can intervene in the lives of others, based on what we are seeing?
Living in the suburbs, based on what we see, and the judgment we make, are we able to intervene? Or is suburban life often too comfortable that it is more difficult to itnervene?
Living in the suburbs, can we then celebrate as a community, family, couple for the renewing work and transformation of God in our lives and the lives of those around us?
Like I said in the beginning of this post. I’m not an expert on liberation theology, and I know that just the mention of those words scares many away who have come to equate it more with political movements, and anti-American ideals. But I think that we as Americans, those living in wealth, often with little need, are able to learn from a hermeneutic that has it’s preference in an option for the poor. And I think we can, because though those of us living in the cities and suburbs of America many not be poor financially, but we are poor in many other ways.
We have more in common with those around us than we think, and I think liberation theology has some aspects of its hermeneutic that can be helpful to us as we live in the suburbs…and not just live, but be agents of transformation and renewal through the work of Jesus Christ.