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#1383: Goff comments on Liberation Theology

From: Stan Goff <stangoff@all4democracy.org>

One of the foundations of Guitierrez' argument in The Theology of Liberation
was that the church had to divest itself of its defenses against the only
social meta-theory that has demonstrated any scientific value--historical
materialism.  Marx first articulated this theory in a comprehensive way,
just as Darwin first articulated natural selection as the motive force in
the development of life forms.  In the same way as the Church underwent a
crisis when the Copernican universe gained wide acceptance--undermining the
entire cosmology that church dogma was based on--Guitierrez is saying that
the church must accommodate the reality of historical materialism as the
best explanation of social development.  Marx is shunned for his theories,
not because they are not efficacious.  They are remarkably prescient to this
day.  He is shunned because those theories constitute a danger to the ruling
class if workers and peasants begin to understand them.  So the ruling class
has exercised both brute force and its general ideological hegemony to
suppress and-or misrepresent historical materialism.  Guitierrez did not
embrace the inherent atheism of materialism.  He accepted the demonstrated
laws of social development, and recognized that class struggle is a reality.
>From his perspective as a Christian, he said that that the preparation of
the Kingdom of God is the absolute responsibility of true Christianity, and
that if the reality is that one can not exempt oneself from class
struggle--it is an inescapable condition of life--that God's mandate
according to Christ is to take sides with the poor against their oppressors.
He regards that as a direct order from God.  This is not fair weather
Christianity.  But it is definitely a form of Christianity--a serious and
thoughtful form--and the question of whether it is Marxist or not is a red
herring.  The presentation of the question as a dichotomy implies a failure
to understand Guitierrez, and in particular it demonstrates the general
failure of people to understand Marx.  Most of the anti-Marxist commentary
we are subjected to is similarly misconstrued.  Marx's theses are very
difficult to contend with on their own merits, as ruling classes have found,
so there is an obligation to set up the straw-Marx we are all so familiar
with, then tear it apart.  I would recommend to anyone that they go give
Marx a first hand look, instead of relying on "secondary" sources who are
generally subsidized, supported, and cheered on by the ruling class who have
a lot to lose if people begin to "get it."