What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has made some remarkable statements lately.  He has said things we’ve never heard a pope say before.  

"Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person."

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, and is a person of good will, who am I to judge?" 

 He's criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor. His vision is for an inclusive church, a “home for all” — in striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you."
"I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God."

"We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: we will meet one another there."

 “When it comes to social issues, it is one thing to have a meeting to study the problem of drugs in a slum neighborhood and quite another thing to go there, live there and understand the problem from the inside and study it. There is a brilliant letter by Father Arrupe to the Centers for Social Research and Action on poverty, in which he says clearly that one cannot speak of poverty if one does not experience poverty, with a direct connection to the places in which there is poverty." 

"You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

To many observers Pope Francis has clearly been influenced by a type of theology known as Liberation Theology.  It began as a movement within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1950s–1960s and arose principally as a moral reaction to the poverty caused by social injustice in the region. 

Liberation Theology is, "an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor" (Phillip Berryman).

Liberation Theology identities and focuses on the poor, believing that God is on the side of the poor and their struggle for justice. "The poor man, the other, reveals to totally Other to us," wrote Peruvian Priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, who gave the movement its name with his book, A Theology of Liberation (1968). 

Liberation Theology does not believe in a God who is "up there" or "out there," but rather a God who is found in the course of human history, as the driving force for justice and in "the crosses of the oppressed." God participates in the human struggle for justice.

Liberation Theology puts ortho-praxis (right living) over ortho-doxy (right belief).

Liberation Theology puts people above the institution.

Liberation Theology has been highly critical of the church for being complicit with those who oppress, supporting the status quo and legitimating the power of the oppressors.

Prayer: Loving God, Thank You for Pope Francis and his Christ-like vision. Use him to breathe new life into all your people. Amen.

Extra Credit:
Liberation Theology is not without its critics. Many have seen it as more of a political movement than a theological one. Its Christology (the person and work of Christ) is often limited to God simply identifying with the poor and their struggle, as opposed to Christ dying and rising for all people. But for its call to a compassionate, costly discipleship rooted and grounded in this world, Liberation Theology is to be commended. It has certainly left its mark on one influential Christian - the one who lives in a simple apartment in Vatican City. 

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