I am currently writing from Central America, where I am taking a course sponsored by a sister-Lutheran seminary (one of the perks of going to LSTC is cross registration!). I am here to learn and explore the current situation in El Salvador, and visit some of the historical and monumental movements of the Salvadorian religious experience. Even as I type this I am writing from at a computer whose spell-check is set to spanish, so please forgive the typos. Among the many things I´m learning is that I am a bit dependent on technology!
Today my group visited the Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador, Bishop Gomez. While there, he voiced a recuring theme of the Salvadorian spirituality - Liberation Theology and the battle to quelch Prosperity Gospel Thelologies.
What is fascinating is that neither of these movements look the same here as they do in U.S. society. In the bulk of the context I´ve seen, Liberation Theology is linked to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and continues to play out from the pulpit of many African American churches and their supporters. Liberation Theology in America involves a lot of educated people providing resources to those who do not have them, in hopes of building skill sets and ideals of freedom. In El Salvador, Liberation Theology is the polar opposite. The people who are the least educated are trying to inform the educated of their rights in order to allow room in society for their equality. Both are important. Both are lead by the same fundamental cause and belief; through God´s love we are all equal and are all entitled to just filled life within our communities.
But how it plays out here versus the U.S. speaks a great deal to the fact that our citizens, even those who are the most oppressed, already have an advantage over a nation like El Salvador.
I have lived in or near two major U.S. cities, Chicago and Cleveland, and am no stranger to violence. I served a church who had a strong outreach program that served the most marginalized in Cleveland. But never before being here did I see a security gaurd carry a shot gun, nor be able to purchase a machete at an artisian market. Of course our view in the U.S. of Liberation Theology is different - we are different.
While the differences of what poverty, violence and oppression are being re-defined for the thousandth time in my life in my time here, one thing remains consistent. God loves us more then we can ever imagine, and that is the voice of hope.
Even in the midst of pain and suffering, there is a great deal of joy in El Salvador. People laugh, they hurry home to their families after a day of hard work, they worship, they live. They have hope because El Salvador is vocal in living out their faith. That is something liberating. Who knows, may even improve my view of Liberation Theology and how I will use it to serve the world, but serve myself as well.