In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Monday, October 17, 2005

Father Fernando

Today, the college where I work held a convocation. That's not all that fact, we've been having nearing one convocation per week since the start of school. I think that will slow down somewhat after this one. There is one more before Christmas break...Jane Fonda is going to speak on global women's rights. I can imagine that she will be pretty popular...more because of our brush with fame than our concern over women's rights.

I have noticed that as the academic year progresses, the attendance at convocations decreases. At the beginning of the year, everyone is excited to go deeper into a specific theme. Then, when the reality of papers, homework, and grading catches up, people aren't too excited to hear about what great things are going on in the world. That's probably why they cram so many in the beginning of the year.

But I digress...

Our speaker at today's convocation was Father Fernando Cardinal. He is a Jesuit priest and liberation theologian from Nicaragua. Quite honestly, I was a little disappointed in his presentation. He was given an hour to talk, and spent most of it on his "introduction" to his topic. When you get more than 20 minutes of introduction on an hour lecture, then you can't go into too much detail. He had some great stories about how he began to understand the plight of the poor. He was kicked out of the Jesuits for his work with the revolution in Nicaragua. However, he stayed around and was reinstated. I think he said that he was the first (or only) person reinstated into the Jesuits.

His main rationale for working with the poor and working with the revolution was the story of the Good Samaritan. He said that he never wanted to be the priest in the story. I think that was the most relevant image for him. He very easily could have been the priest, saving food and money for his church. Instead, he gave what he had to the poor of his community.

It's funny, because he never used the term "liberation theology". Instead, he relayed his stories about the poor and his work with literacy. I'm not sure if he labeled himself a liberation theologian, or if that was a label put upon him by others. Maybe he doesn't appreciate the label.

I have my own rocky relationship with liberation theology. In college, I didn't like it at all. It was presented to me in a class. We jumped from feminist, to black, to womanist, to gay/lesbian liberation theologies. As I read these, I had an uneasy feeling. They didn't seem to ever look past their own inclusion. What happened after an oppressed group ceased to be oppressed? That was the question I could not answer. Some of the theologies sounded like equality equaled salvation. That didn't sit well with me.

Since then, I've traveled to El Salvador and Mexico. I've understood a lot better what the original intention of Liberation Theology was. It was a way for the church leaders to address the inequality of the land. It often took on a political stance. Those who practiced liberation theology were accused of being Communist. It was a matter of saving people's lives.

I figured out that what I heard were contemporary adaptations of liberation theology. While adaptation isn't bad, it sometimes doesn't fit the changing context.
Liberation theology is harder for me to accept for myself, because I feel like a very privileged person. As a gay man, I don't feel like my life is often in danger (although I understand that others do feel the danger). Liberation theology is growing on me, although I still have to work to make it fit for my own context.

I now have a better appreciation for what folks like Father Fernando and others have had to endure to share the Gospel with their people. May God bless their work...never make it easy, but make it worth it.


Blogger Chad K said...

Ross, welcome to the blogger world. I have had a lot of fun with blogging the past few months. It is another way to stay connected with a community. I will look forward to reading. Paz

9:32 AM  

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