The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff has been a leading advocate for liberation theology for decades, urging believers to prioritize the poor. In Boff’s The Following of Jesus, he offers a reflection on Thomas à Kempis’s fifteenth century Christian classic, The Imitation of Christ, and a gentle correction to that renowned work. Rather than simply prioritize spiritual contemplation and devotion, Boff envisions a Christianity that calls on the faithful to imitate Jesus’s commitments to the socially marginalized and to care for the earth. This translation from Dinah Livingstone makes Boff’s clear and concise prose accessible to English-language readers.
Here is an excerpt from a 2016 interview with Boff about liberation theology:
“Liberation theology is not a discipline. It is a different way of practicing theology. It does not start from existing theological traditions and then focus on the poor and excluded populations of society. Its core is the struggle of the poor to free themselves from the conditions of poverty. Liberation theology does not seek to act for the poor via welfarism or paternalism. Instead, it seeks to act with the poor to tap their wisdom in changing their life and livelihood.
How, then, do we act with them? By seeing the poor and oppressed through their own eyes, not with those of an outsider. We must discover and understand their values, such as solidarity and the joy of living, which to some extent have been lost by society’s privileged… Seeing the reality of the poor firsthand awakens an outsider to the inadequacy of his perceptions and doctrines for judging it and how to change it. This occurs in two ways: first, through understanding the mechanisms that generate poverty and, second, by awakening to the fact that poverty and oppression contradict God’s plan and that actions must thus be taken to eliminate them.”
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For the full interview with Boff, click here.
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