Do Christian liberation theology and the basic ethical visions of world religions contradict, complement, or pass one another as ships in the night? Daniel Cohn-Sherbrook, a rabbi, asked a Muslim, an Indian student of Hinduism, a Buddhist, and an African-American to reflect on that question. This singular book gives their answers and sheds light on the liberation motif in world religions in ways essential tor students of world religions and comparative ethics.
“The two most energetic movements in theology today are interfaith dialogue and liberation theology. Heretofore they have largely inhabited two distinct and separate worlds. However, it has become increasingly clear that in a global society marked by both religious pluralism and various forms of oppression, the two movements have much to do with each other. Now, at last, we have a useful and readable book which makes the connection.”
Broaches important issues that are too often neglected in contemporary efforts at inter-religious dialogue. The essays constitute an urgent invitation to further reflection concerning the great diversity and complexity of religious meanings that have been (and still are) associated with the goal
of human liberation.”
Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbrook has taught Theology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, since 1975. Born in Denver and educated at Williams College, he was ordained a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College, and received a doctorate in philosophy at Cambridge University. He is the author of eleven books including On Earth as It Is in Heaven.
Since the mid-1960s, liberation theology has been one of the most important theological developments worldwide. It has provoked controversy and confusion. It has also challenged a wide range of thinkers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Yet, despite the impact of this movement, liberation theology has evoked little formal response from the world religions. With few exceptions, thinkers in the major religions of the world have had little to say about the views of liberationists. The purpose of this collection of essays is to focus attention on the possible interconnections and discontinuities between Christian liberation theology and several of the world religions. It is the hope of all who have contributed to this dialogue that their reflection will highlight the significance of this new theological development in a global context.
The contributions come from scholars of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and African traditional religions. Other faiths, of course, merit inclusion, but because of the limits of size and scope, it was felt necessary to limit this preliminary exploration to what are generally considered the best known world religions. We hope that this investigation will serve as a starting point for further reflections by representatives of such traditions. If so, it will have served its purposes, and our modest efforts will be amply rewarded.
Contributors were asked to base their reflections on two books: Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Mary knoll, N.Y.: Orbits Books, 15th Anniversary edition, 1988), and Leonardo and Clodovis Buff, Introducing Liberation Theology (Orbits, 1987). In addition, they were asked to consider a set of key questions relating fundamental themes in liberation theology to their own traditions concerning: similarities and differences; possibilities of cooperation in the liberation venture; necessity of liberationist praxis for interpreting the religious tradition in question; the question of individual and social sin; relative importance of individual conversion or enlightenment in relation to removing evil social structures; violence and liberation; contribution of liberation theology to the author’s tradition; and the contribution of that tradition to liberation theology.
For the sake of those who will not have had the opportunity to read the two books mentioned above, we asked Deane William Ferm for a summary of the mainlines of liberation theology. Jon Soprano, S.J., a major figure in liberation theology, gives reflections occasioned by a journey to India. Finally, William R. Burrows reviews the contributions and finds reason to ask questions about the “commensurability” of the concept of liberation and the ambiguity of religious contributions to the struggle.
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