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Liberation Theology vs. Liberal Theology: What’s the Difference?

By Jon Sievert

At this Sunday’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Service (UUFSMA), the Rev Angela Herrera examines the differences between liberation theology and liberal theology as practiced by Unitarian Universalists.

Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and Marxist socioeconomic ideas that emphasizes social concern for the poor and the political liberation of oppressed peoples. In the 1950s and the 1960s, liberation theology was the political practice of many Latin American theologians,

Religious liberals like the idea of liberation theology. It’s fearless, systems-oriented, and speaks truth to power. With its focus on ending oppression and transforming our world with justice and equity, liberation theology resonates with our UU social justice values. In a world seemingly obsessed with online click-bait, liberation theology goes deep and challenges the usually tacit underlying values that have led to our world economy and balance of power.

However, liberal and liberationist theologies are markedly different. Although both Unitarian Universalism and liberation theology share the goal of justice in human relations and have roots in the Christian tradition, UU theologian Paul Rasor suggests that they are fundamentally incompatible. How can that be? Is he right? Drawing on insights from classical and new liberation theologies, Herrera delves into Rasor’s critique.

Rev Herrera is the senior minister at the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, an 850-member congregation where she has served since 2010. She holds a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, and a bachelors in religion and philosophy from Marylhurst University.

Herrera is committed to creating a bighearted, open-minded faith community that serves people from many backgrounds and walks of life. Before entering parish ministry, she worked as a birth doula, as a student chaplain in a men’s maximum-security prison, and at an inner city hospital. Recently, she and her congregation have taken an active role in welcoming the thousands of asylum seekers who’ve crossed the southern US border, and in protesting US immigration procedures that include incarcerating children.

Rev Herrera is the author of Reaching for the Sun, a collection of meditations published by Skinner House books, and was on the editorial team for Lifting Our Voices: Readings in the Living Tradition. She served as a member of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC from 2014-2016. She currently serves as a teaching pastor for Meadville Lombard Theological School.

For more information about the UUFSMA, including our social action outreach, weekly discussion groups, social activities, and Care Team, join us any Sunday at 10:30am at the Hotel La Aldea or visit our website at uufsma.org. Our Sunday morning children’s religious education program is on summer break until September.

 

Rev

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