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Book: Earth, Empire and Sacred Text


DOI: 10.1558/equinox.19279


The last two chapters began with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X as examples of Muslims and Christians who used the theological notion of inherent human dignity in order to broaden their appeal from civil to human rights. In some ways, King was the pioneer of a genre that came to be known as “liberation theology.” By way of reminder, this theologi- cal movement grew out of the mostly Marxist-inspired post-colonial ferment in Latin America, in which ethics and development theory met in creative ways. Though some Catholic priests, including Camilo Torres, ended up opting for violence, most Latin American theologians did not. But for all these thinkers, the key concept was not economics but power—based on the tragic realization that a handful of elites monopo- lized power while oppressing society’s majorities. The discourse of liberation was initiated in the Catholic Church, yet by the early 1970s it had been co-opted by Latin American social scientists, planners, and even some political leaders. It was a call to set aside the theories of the elite “and replace them with a deliberate stress on self- development as opposed to aid, foreign investment, and technical assistance.” This perspective of sociopolitical liberation in theological circles spread to Africa and Asia as well. Particularly interesting were the theological storms swirling around the issue of apartheid in South Africa, where some Muslims began to join the mostly black Christians in liberation circles. I begin this chapter, therefore, with this intriguing case study of theological cross-pollenization and then continue with some broader remarks about theological currents among Muslims. 

Chapter Contributors

  • David L. Johnston ( - book-auth-258) 'Yale University'