Every now and then I find something that cries out to be passed along.  Or someone writes to me with a question about liberation theology, or just plain theology for that matter, and I struggle to come up with a response that brings light to the topic.  This blog is a record of the most intense of those discoveries and exchanges.  You are welcome to submit questions and comments using the contact form on this site.  Time may not allow me to write in response to each question (I am a volunteer) but I will do my best to pick illuminating questions and write thoughtful answers.  I also include here occasional posts from friends that bring light to some corner of our predicament.

Dennis Rivers,  Editor


A seminal text that restores women’s stories to early Christian history and reclaims the place of women in a groundbreaking analysis of how power politics influenced the content and interpretation of the bible.

Reviews and endorsements as shown on the publishers website:

“This work is a first within the discipline of New Testament Studies.”
—New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant scholarly treatise which succeeds in bringing to our consciousness women who played an important role in the origins of Christianity.”
—Sisters Today

“One of those mind-arresting thought-turning books that angles the reader’s way of seeing old texts in new and fruitful ways . . . The vision she offers is engaging, enlightening and utterly interesting. Most important, it is plausible.”
—The Christian Century

“Ground-breaking, quietly but completely radical, thoroughly in union with Christian tradition at its best, and a cause for great hope in the church of the future.”
—Best Sellers

“New information and fresh insights expressed in facile prose make In Memory of Her a satisfying book.”
—National Catholic Reporter

“Must reading for scholars and students of the early church and New Testament, for church people (‘leadership’ included), for feminists and likely for others as well.”
—Choice

From a review on Amazon:

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (born 1938) is a leading feminist theologian, who identifies herself as a Catholic. She is currently a Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. She was the first woman elected as president of the Society of Biblical Literature. She has also written books such as Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet : Critical Issues in Feminist Christology.

She states in her Introduction the the 10th Anniversary Edition, “As I finished the book in 1982, I became acutely aware that I was attempting to speak to two very different audiences: women in the academy and churches, and the academic community of religious studies and theology. Still, my effort to complete the manuscript was stymied because I subconsciously feared that neither audience would appreciate the book’s feminist rhetoric. Since I had decided early on not to write another popularizing book on ‘women in the Bible,’ I deliberately chose critical biblical scholarship and its discourses as my mode of operation. Nevertheless, I did not wish to write an academic book on ‘women in early Christianity.’ Instead, I set out to explore the problem of women’s historical agency in ancient Christianity in light of the theological and historical questions raised by the feminist movements in society and church.” She later adds, “In Memory of Her is firmly planted within liberation theories and theologies in general, and feminist epistemologies and interpretive practices in particular.”

The book is named, of course, after the anonymous woman who anointed Jesus in Mark 14, about whom Jesus said, “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.’ Schussler Fiorenza points out that “The name of the betrayer (Judas) is remembered, but the name of the faithful disciple is forgotten because she was a woman.”

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

“Texts such as Rom 16:1-3 or 16:7 suggest that leading women in the early Christian missionary movement did not owe their position to Paul. It is more likely that Paul had no other choice but to cooperate with these women and to acknowledge their authority within the communities.” (Pg. 48)

“Women who belonged to a submerged group in antiquity could develop leadership in the emerging Christian movement because it stood in conflict with the dominant patriarchal ethos of the Greco-Roman world.” (Pg. 92)

“Although Phoebe (Rom 16:1, ff) is the only person in the Pauline literature to receive an official letter of recommendation and although she is given three substantive titles—sister, diakonis, and prostatis—her significance for the early Christian mission is far from acknowledged. Exegetes tend to denigrate these titles, or to interpret them differently, because they are given to a woman.” (Pg. 170)

“The Pauline literature and Acts still allow us to recognize that women were among the most prominent missionaries and leaders in the early Christian movement. They were apostles and ministers like Paul, and some were his co-workers. They were teachers, preachers, and competitors in the race for the gospel.” (Pg. 183)

“Women were among the prophetic leaders of the Pauline communites. Luke characterizes Mary and Elizabeth, as well as Anna, as prophets. He mentions the four prophetic daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9)…” (Pg. 299)

“While—for apologetic reasons—the post-Pauline and post-Petrine writers seek to limit women’s leadership roles in the Christian community … the evangelists called Mark and John highlight the alternative character of the Christian community, and therefore accord women apostolic and ministerial leadership.” (Pg. 334)

“Because the spiritual colonization of the male as divine, men have to relinquish their spiritual and religious control over women as well as over the church as the people of God, if mutuality should become a real possibility.” (Pg. 347)


Look for this book in your local library, order from your local bookstore (ISBN=9780824513573), or click the button below to see online bookstore links.








Please note: Inclusion of a work as a resource in the online library and/or bookstore of www.LiberationTheology.org is based on our appreciation and gratitude for the author's contribution to one or more of the fields of theology, psychology, and ecology. Inclusion here does not indicate knowledge, approval or endorsement of this website by the author whose works we have included or quoted.


Jesus and the Disinherited
by Howard Thurman

Jesus and the Disinherited is the centerpiece of the Black prophet-mystic’s lifelong attempt to bring the harrowing beauty of the African-American experience into deep engagement with what he called ‘the religion of Jesus.’ Ultimately his goal was to offer this humanizing combination as the basis for an emancipatory way of being, moving toward a fundamentally unchained life that is available to all the women and men everywhere who hunger and thirst for righteousness, especially those ‘who stand with their backs against the wall.’
—Vincent Harding, from the Foreword




Editorial review from Sacred Fire:

Published in 1949, Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited delivers a masterful interpretation of how God works in our lives. Thurman was one of the foremost preachers and theologians of the twentieth century, and much of his work centered on the relevance of the Christian message to the contemporary struggles of black people. In this, Thurman’s masterwork, he argues that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a map for getting to the next world, but a guidebook for the empowerment of the poor and disenfranchised in this world. Thurman was one of the leading preachers of this new Social Gospel that eventually flowered in the form of the church-centered civil rights movement.

Thurman identified the central spiritual problems faced by black folks as the overwhelming stresses of poverty, racism, and a sense of spiritual disconnectedness. He then turned to the life of Jesus as a primary example of the power of love to drive the spiritual regeneration required to sustain a vision of God and self in modern society. The life of Jesus serves as a guidepost to the kind of love that is a hallmark of human spirit, success, and personal salvation. But Thurman doesn’t believe that the Gospel only applies to the individual search for salvation: He also challenges our unconscious submission to the philosophies of individualism and insists that the Gospel is a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised.

He interprets the life of Jesus within a context of the oppressed and offers incisive and liberating thoughts on man’s most egregious of sins: fear, deception, and hate. Of fear, he says: “He who fears is literally delivered to destruction…. There are some things that are worse than death. To deny one’s own integrity of personality in the presence of the human challenge is one of those things.”

While Jesus and the Disinherited was influential in shaping the philosophies of the early civil rights movement, it remains topical and deeply relevant even today. 


Look for this book in your local library, order from your local bookstore (ISBN=9780807010297), or click the button below to see online bookstore links.







[mp3player-params-title-mp3fullurl title=”Norman Lowrey Interview” mp3fullurl=”https://liberationtheology.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/norm-lowrey-interview-take2.mp3″]  

Robert F. Kennedy gave this speech, “The Mindless Menace of Violence,” in 1968 on the day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis. Kennedy himself was assassinated a few months later, making of these words his final plea to us to grow toward compassion and to renounce violence. His words still speak to us, some fifty years later, reminding us that violence has a deep grip on the soul of America. In the United States, in my view, Liberation Theology must address our profound cultural fascination with and addiction to violence. (Dennis Rivers)



A presentation by Dr. Laura Taylor, CSB/SJU Theology Dept. Sponsored by CSB/SJU Latino/Latin American Studies Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. February, 2016.


  
From the Editor, Dennis Rivers:

It feels time for a great awakening of reverence for life. One thing that amazes and terrifies me about the Sixth Mass Extinction now underway is the suicidal element in runaway industrialism: as we kill the living land and sea with our pesticides, herbicides and industrial wastes, we and everyone we love will also die. It seems to me that the blindness of greed can turn into a kind of suicidal mania. 

In the face of this madness, I find myself practicing what feels like a new meditation mantra for our time: 

“May every heart 
be filled with infinite kindness, 
including your heart and mine, 
and reaching out in widening circles."

In this and similar practices may we find the strength the change our ways and nurture (rather than destroy) the web of life.

Here is a CNN documentary on the topic:

 

 

 


Partners in Health founder and Harvard’s Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine Paul Farmer discusses how he was influenced by liberation theology. Farmer spoke with Davíd Carrasco, the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, and HDS student Lauren Taylor on February 11, 2014. The event was sponsored by Harvard Divinity School’s Science, Religion, and Culture Program.





 

Global Health and Liberation Theology

A dialogue between Dr. Paul Farmer and Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez


When Dr. Paul Farmer came to campus in April to accept the Notre Dame Award for International Human Development and Solidarity on behalf of the global health organization he cofounded 25 years ago, he was profoundly moved by the opportunity to talk to a member of the Notre Dame community who has deeply inspired his mission to bring high-quality health care to the very poor. 

Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, the John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Theology and a Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow, is known around the world as the founder of liberation theology. 

“Fr. Gustavo is one of my heroes and has inspired much of my own work in global health with a preferential option for the poor,” says Farmer, who is renowned for his efforts with Partners In Health (PIH).  He suggested that he return to campus to hold a public dialogue with Gutiérrez—and carved time out of his busy schedule to do so.

Their dialogue, “Re-imagining Accompaniment: Global Health and Liberation Theology,” took place on Monday, October 24 as part of the “Discussions on Development” series.

The dialogue was streamed live to a Harvard University auditorium, where Farmer’s students and colleagues and PIH supporters gathered. A publication will likely result from the public dialogue.

A medical anthropologist and physician, Farmer is Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a founding director of PIH. His work focuses on community-based treatment strategies for infectious diseases in resource-poor settings, health and human rights, and the role of social inequalities in determining disease distribution and outcomes.

The Kellogg Institute’s Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity hosts the Discussions on Development series to encourage thoughtful public discussion by the University community on issues related to human development.

This 2011 event was cosponsored by the Center for Health Sciences Advising, Center for Social Concerns, Department of Theology, and Eck Institute for Global Health.





 

What Do We Mean When We Say “God”? — A sermon by Rev. Dr. Roger Ray

 


Dr Ray is the author of Progressive Faith and Practice: Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By   

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel has said that there is a new commandment: “Thou shalt not stand idly by” This book articulates a progressive faith that represents a true marriage of the academic work of the modern biblical critical movement and the historical Jesus work of the Jesus Seminar applied within the life of an active parish. Setting aside the magic and superstition found in much of traditional religious life and affirming an evidence-based approach to faith, author Roger Ray strives to apply Wiesel’s injunction to actively respond to the injustice, violence, and discrimination in the world. In concrete terms, Ray describes what progressives can embrace intellectually and morally, and how those convictions can be lived out in a faith community.


Biography:  Roger Ray earned his masters and doctoral degrees at Vanderbilt Divinity School and was a 2004 Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. A native of Kentucky, Roger has lived in Springfield, Missouri since 1991. His sermons are available on YouTube and iTunes and are now among the most popularly downloaded progressive faith messages on the internet. He is the founding pastor of Community Christian Church and he is an adjunct religion and philosophy professor for Drury University.

 

 

A one-page mini-manifesto by Dennis Rivers
and uncounted zillions of ecological kindred spirits  – 2018 revision


Painting from www.MeganneForbes.com.
Used with permission.

Most people accept that life, to at least some degree, depends on love, because we recognize that babies need food, shelter and affection, which they cannot arrange for themselves in the absence of loving parents and kin. But the idea that we have a need to care for the entire web of life and people, well known to many native peoples, is only beginning to be explored in Western countries.

The emergence of industrial society and its long-lived toxic by-products, from pesticides to leaking nuclear waste tanks, has fundamentally changed our relationship to the natural world, the ground on which we stand. For eons, wrecking the planet has been beyond human reach. But our impact on the Web of Life is now so large that I am drawn to the conclusion that complex life will only continue on Planet Earth if we care for all people as our beloved kin, and all creatures as if they were our beloved children.
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