The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology
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Since the publication of Gustavo Gutiérrez's 1973 groundbreaking work, A Theology of Liberation, much has been written on liberation theology and its central premise of the preferential option for the poor. Arguably, this has been one of the most important yet controversial theological themes of the twentieth century. As globalization creates greater gaps between the rich and the poor, and as the situation for many of the world’s poor worsens, there is an ever greater need to understand the gift and challenge of Christian faith from the context of the poor and marginalized of our society. This volume draws on the thought of leading international scholars and explores how the Christian tradition can help us understand the theological foundations for the option for the poor. The central focus of the book revolves around the question, How can one live a Christian life in a world of destitution? The contributors are concerned not only with a social, economic, or political understanding of poverty but above all with the option for the poor as a theological concept.

While these essays are rooted in a solid grounding of our present “reality,” they look to the past to understand some of the central truths of Christian faith and to the future as a source of Christian hope. Following Gustavo Gutiérrez's essay on the multidimensionality of poverty, Elsa Tamez, Hugh Page, Jr., Brian Daley, and Jon Sobrino identify a central theological premise: poverty is contrary to the will of God. Drawing on scripture, the writings of the early fathers, the witness of Christian martyrs, and contemporary theological reflection, they argue that poverty represents the greatest challenge to Christian faith and discipleship. David Tracy and J. Matthew Ashley carry their reflection forward by examining the option for the poor in light of apocalyptic thought. Virgilio Elizondo, Patrick Kalilombe, María Pilar Aquino, M. Shawn Copeland, and Mary Catherine Hilkert examine the challenges of poverty with respect to culture, Africa, race, and gender. Casiano Floristán and Luis Maldonado explore the relationship between poverty, sacramentality, and popular religiosity. The final two essays by Aloysius Pieris and Michael Signer consider the option for the poor in relationship to other major world religions, particularly an Asian theology of religions and the meaning of care for the poor within Judaism.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 avril 2007
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268080815
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology
for the


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University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2007 by University of Notre Dame Published in the United States of America Reprinted in 2008, 2009, 2015
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The option for the poor in Christian theology / edited by Daniel G. Groody. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN-13: 978-0-268-02971-5 (pbk. : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-268-02971-7 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Poverty-Religious aspects-Catholic Church-Congresses. 2. Liberation theology-Congresses. I. Groody, Daniel G., 1964- BX2347.8.P66O77 2007 261.8 325-dc22
ISBN 9780268080815
The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources .
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at .
To Gustavo Guti rrez
Virgilio Elizondo
Witnesses to the God of Life and the Journey of Hope
Daniel G. Groody
Chapter 1 Memory and Prophecy
Gustavo Guti rrez
Chapter 2 Poverty, the Poor, and the Option for the Poor: A Biblical Perspective
Elsa Tamez
Chapter 3 Toward the Creation of Transformational Spiritualities: Re-engaging Israel s Early Poetic Tradition in Light of the Church s Preferential Option for the Poor
Hugh R. Page Jr .
Chapter 4 The Cappadocian Fathers and the Option for the Poor
Brian E. Daley
Chapter 5 The Latin American Martyrs: Summons and Grace for the Church
Jon Sobrino
Chapter 6 The Christian Option for the Poor
David Tracy
Chapter 7 The Turn to Apocalyptic and the Option for the Poor in Christian Theology
J. Matthew Ashley
Chapter 8 Culture, the Option for the Poor, and Liberation
Virgilio Elizondo
Chapter 9 The Spirituality of Small Christian Communities around the Globe
Patrick A. Kalilombe
Chapter 10 The Feminist Option for the Poor and Oppressed in the Context of Globalization
Mar a Pilar Aquino
Chapter 11 Poor Is the Color of God
M. Shawn Copeland
Chapter 12 The Option for the Poor in the Context of Globalization: A Feminist Vision
Mary Catherine Hilkert
Chapter 13 The Place of the Poor in the Eucharistic Assembly
Casiano Florist n
Chapter 14 Popular Catholicism and the Poor
Luis Maldonado
Chapter 15 The Option for the Poor and the Recovery of Christian Identity: Toward an Asian Theology of Religions Dictated by the Poor
Aloysius Pieris
Chapter 16 Social Justice in Judaism
Michael A. Signer
General Index
Index of Scripture References
In the spring of 2000, Virgilio Elizondo and I attended a meeting in Paris, France. While we were there, he asked me if I wanted to get together with a good friend of his named Gustavo Guti rrez. I was grateful for the invitation because for many years I had been greatly influenced by Guti rrez s writings and welcomed the chance to meet him in person. The three of us went out to lunch together and spent hours talking about many things, not the least of which was the option for the poor in Christian theology and where it stood as an issue within the church and the academy today.
This lunch in Paris was particularly timely. It was becoming less clear where this topic of the poor fit within the discipline of academic theology. Undoubtedly, many today recognize how Guti rrez has pioneered a new area in the discipline and has put this whole notion of the preferential option for the poor on the theological map. But as I looked at the current state of the question, I wondered if, at least in theology, the theme was receding into the background.
There were various reasons why the preferential option for the poor seemed at low ebb. One was the inevitable development of the theme and its transformation into new expressions, accelerated in particular by changes brought about by globalization. While Gustavo s groundbreaking work A Theology of Liberation in 1973 reflected on the preferential option from the perspective of those who faced dire economic poverty, in the years that followed it became evident that this option had to include not just those who were marginalized economically but also those who were poor because of gender, race, culture, and other reasons. 1 As the idea developed, this central notion of God s preference for the poor extended to all who are vulnerable. The notion has not disappeared; whereas in previous generations most areas did not show even a trace of reflection on the subject, today almost every area of theology shows its influence.
At the same time I realized that the notion of the option for the poor could be understood so broadly as to lose much of its meaning. Saying We are all poor takes the edge off the challenge of the option and makes the notion so commonplace that it is hollow and empty. Such a perspective also preempts the conversion process that is inevitably a part of this option. Further, it can reduce the task of theology to an abstract exercise rooted in peripheral questions rather than a concrete exercise of faith seeking understanding within the particular social challenges of our contemporary context. Partially because our understanding of poverty has become more and more complex, and also partially because the option for the poor has become so watered down that it can apply to everyone and mean little, many theologians now believe that the liberation theology of the late 1960s through the 1990s has made its contribution and run its course. Some might even say the river has dried up. Given that fewer people seem to be interested in the topic, it looks almost as if this topic has been somewhat of a theological fad that has come and gone. The fire that ignited such passion a few decades ago has burned low, and as the coals of liberation begin to lose their heat some wonder whether it will simply die out all together or be just an occasional spark here and there. As Guti rrez, Elizondo, and I ate lunch, I thought much about these questions, so it seemed particularly urgent to throw some more socioeconomic wood on the theological fire.
Since Elizondo, Guti rrez, and others began writing about poverty and liberation in the 1960s, in many respects the situation of the poor today has gotten worse, not better. While there is good news that more than half the world is experiencing economic progress because of globalization, the bad news is that the other half still does not have even one foot on the development ladder. 2 More than half of the planet still lives on less than two dollars a day, and the current course of globalization has only further widened the gap between the rich and the poor. The income disparities between the richest and the poorest have deteriorated at a rate never before witnessed in human history. 3 The economic difference between the richest and poorest countries was 3:1 in 1820, 11:1 in 1913, 35:1 in 1950, 44:1 in 1973, and 72:1 in 1992. 4 Research in the new millennium indicates that this gap continues to widen and worsen. 5 The critical condition of the poor in our times makes the concept of the option for the poor not less but more important than ever. And the task of thinking critically and academically in the face of the current, complex social reality of poverty is one of the great theological challenges, if not the central theological challenge, of our times. This volume seeks to address that challenge as well as examine the ways it is being reconceived and renegotiated in light of today s global realities.
Guti rrez, Elizondo, and others like them did not invent the notion of the preferential option for the poor but rather drew it out of the Christian tradition. They sought to read current social problems in light of the Gospel, as did the first Christians. From the earliest days of the church, the reality of poverty has made an explicit demand on Christian conscience. 6
The preferential option for the poor is in fact one of the oldest and most central themes of Scripture. Amidst the doctrinal controversies of the early church, when many dimensions of the faith were being debated by Paul and theological doctrine was still up for grabs, the one thing that was clear to all of them-whatever their doctrinal differences-was to be mindful of the poor (Gal. 2:10). This is no less true today. Whatever doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversies the church faces, the one central issue of Christian faith that all can agree on is commitment to the poor. What does theology say to the countless people still subjected to high infant mortality, inadequate housing, health problems, starvation wages, unemployment and underemployment, malnutrition, job uncertainty, compulsory mass migration, and many other problems?
While theologians have ma

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