Monday, March 7, 2011

Revisiting Liberation Theology

The air smelled so fresh, so good; there was a light rain and Spring was sweeping over us. It was last Friday morning. We have our book discussion group and then it’s coffee time with friends for another hour. Life is good. It is not so for so many, at any time, in so many places. The newspaper of the morning was a role call of terrors: blood on the streets of Lybia, rapes in Guatemala, still to be uncovered bodies in the cathedral after the earthquake in New Zealand.

The book discussed was translated from the Spanish, written by a Jesuit priest in the early 1970s. It was a theological exposition of what it meant to be a Christian. In Latin America it was a time of the poorest of the poor, of autocratic governments, and the exploitation of those poor by mostly foreign companies in collaboration with dictators. These priests of that Order called their understanding of following Christ “Liberation Theology.”

As I sat there and listened to the reading of words now almost a half of a century old, I marveled at this author’s – and that priestly movement’s – foresight and perceptivity. Egypt had blown away its military autocracy only days before. Listening to the “feel” of the words about Latin American concerns voiced a half century ago, it could have been from some American anchorperson on TV only days before.

This Jesuit cry to heaven for liberation from oppression did not last long. A few years of their protesting and proclaiming voices and they were silenced by papal pronouncement. Some accepted in submission, some chose to scatter. I suppose only God know where.

Breathing in the air of coming springtime, for whatever reason, in my mind’s eye I walked again the streets of the older Wiesbaden. I used to do that when Annelie and I returned for a visit to Germany. I noted especially the larger, misshapen trees. Typically, one might to 18 inches broad, eight feet up it would be abruptly only 12; the next might be similar except the smaller part of the tree trunk would begin twelve feet up, or six. Annelie told me that a bomb had blown away the upper tree and that was why the lower part was so much larger. I even learned the cues: the spot marked by an obviously much younger tree was where the bomb had burst. Looking down the line of trees a person could see the angle of the blast. Occasionally there would be enough of a line of trees to follow where the “payload” of a bomber had run. Now it is springtime, too, in Wiesbaden and the trees will begin to swell with the coming leaves and a summertime of beauty.

I wonder where those Jesuit priests are, how the protestors in Egypt and elsewhere will fare. The air of springtime is nevertheless sweet: there is a Creative Power at work. I would be part of that.

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