Liberation Theology

Liberation theology is a combination of the reversals message of the historical Jesus in the Christian gospels and Marxist analysis. It seeks to uphold the poor as a privileged channel of God's grace, for the liberation of the poor by enhancing their lives and engaging in political activity.
Jesus preached the coming kingdom of heaven, and stated that going to it the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mark 10:31, Matthew 19:30 and 20:16) given the few that are chosen. He preached in Luke 6:20: Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. This is in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas too, at saying 54: Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. Thomas at 69 has: Blessed are the hungry, for the belly of him who desires will be filled. Jesus' message combines the material and the spiritual into one whole. The New Testament contains many passages preferring the poor.
In Latin America especially, liberation theology became an attempt to combine this reversals aspect of Christianity with the structural analysis of Marxism. Two main names are Leonardo Boff, a once Roman Catholic priest who was the champion of Liberation Theology, and who left after much struggle with the Vatican, and Gustavo Gutierrez. Father Jean Bertrand Aristide, who became President of Haiti, is another important figure.
Boff used Saint Francis as his model (Boff was a Franciscan), who was critical of Church riches and hierarchy and lived the simple life.
However, Boff developed an analysis of world power, ownership of production, and a resulting poverty of the many. In this he rejected the Church and its charity to the poor (which, it has to be said, was part of the approach of St Francis). Suffering today is structural in nature and systemic as a result of the rule of the bourgeoisie which Boff puts to a timescale of the past five hundred years. He sees that global development has maintained the existence of poverty, not removed it: the poor are worse off in Brazil than in the 1960s.
Boff's analysis extends to the Church. He argues that the Church relies on the power of the institutions of the rich and wealthy. The Church is of the rich for the poor, but it is not of the poor. Clergy deny power to people through "the expropriation of the religious means of production" by making exclusive to clergy the giving of forgiveness and the sacraments such as the mass). He writes instead about militant ecclesiology - a militant Church to be of the poor with the religious means of production shared among the many. He saw a new changing church guided by the Holy Spirit, not a fixed institution of hierarchy.
Pope Benedict XVI has clashed with his former student. When he was Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984 and the prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (once The Inquisition), he recalled Boff to Rome on a charge of being guided by principles of a secular ideological nature rather than being fully informed by faith in his book Church, Charism and Power. He was silenced for a year in 1985 as a result, and then prevented from attending the Eco-92 summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which was the last straw and led him to leave the priesthood.
Nevertheless, for all his conflict analysis and structuralism, Boff was not a revolutionary in a Marxist sense of a violent overthrow of the capitalist class. Instead he developed his theology of the "preferential option for the poor". Boff promoted "being over having" (in other words, human values over production and consumerist material values) in his aim to develop instead a Christian utopia: this approach gets away from poverty and wealth as the measure of humankind. His ecological message (he attacks the effects of industrial development) is to live in harmony with the earth, which links back to St Francis.
Gustavo Gutierrez was a co-founder of liberation theology with Leonardo Boff. This professor in France and Peru went to live among the poor of Lima as a practical act of his theology. He promotes loving solidarity with the poor and protest against poverty.
Father Jean Bertrand Aristide called the extreme difference between wealth and poverty in Haiti "a violent situation" so that, he said, the poor will knock over the table of privilege and rise up in righteousness.
Liberation theologians (and equivalent educationalists such as Paulo Freire) developed some 100,000 base comunidades de base or base communities in Brazil. These organised communities of the poor develop leaders in promoting the agenda of the poor in social and national institutions and necessity has led to leaders concerning themselves with basic human needs such as food, shelter, health and work. Suffering became so extreme compared to the world's rich and powerful that it means the exclusion of the poor. These nonpersons (because of poverty) are to become again full human beings in solidarity with others.
He states that Christianity is no longer the opium of the people but has become an active commitment to liberation.


Some (Other) Biblical Examples:

(Luke 1: 51-53) He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
(Acts 4: 32-35) The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great respect was paid to them all; nor was there anyone needy among them, for all who owned property or houses sold them and lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need.
(James 5: 1-6) Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
Ephesians 6: 12 Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world.