Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Justice and Injustice

Liberation theologists theory of justice begins from the experience of injustice. It is rooted in reflection on the dismal poverty that submerges the majority of Latin Americans in conditions of inhuman wretchedness.

“Justice, says Sobrino, takes seriously the primordial fact of the created world in its given form; that is to say, it takes seriously the existence of the oppressed majorities. The existence of these majorities is not a fact that can be lightly passed over in speaking of the essence of the Christian message.”

Likewise, Segundo Galilea asserts that the starting point of liberation theology’s reflection is the present situation, in which “the vast majority of Latin Americans live in a state of underdevelopment and unjust dependence.”

Justice, the liberationists insist, demands that conflict be brought into the open and faced, not subsumed or denied.

Justice demands that one enter the fray, that one enter into conflict and choose sides for some and against others. As Gutierrez observes, those who seek justice cannot avoid conflict because in a society scarred by injustice and the exploitation of one social class by another, the proclamation of justice will transform history into something challenging and conflictual.

Social conflict is a reality that the liberationists, as long as they do not avert their eyes from the misery and squalor that surrounds them, cannot escape.

However, when liberationists highlight the connection between the struggle for justice and social conflict, they are not blessing conflict. They do not believe that justice can come only at the point of a sword or through the barrel of a gun. On the contrary social conflict is ultimately the product of sin; it is the historical consequence of collective sin.

Humanity need not live in conflict; persons do not need to oppress their sisters and brothers. Conflict need not be sublimated or denied; it can be resolved. The resolution of social conflict, in fact, is precisely why the liberationists give conflict such a prominent position in their work. They seek to resolve it by uncovering and then eliminating the cause for the conflict, namely injustice.

From “Liberation Theology After the End of History—The Refusal to Cease Suffering” by Daniel M. Bell, Jr.

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