The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology


Since the publication of Gustavo Gutiérrez's 1973 groundbreaking work, A Theology of Liberation, much has been written on liberation theology and its central premise of the preferential option for the poor. Arguably, this has been one of the most important yet controversial theological themes of the twentieth century. As globalization creates greater gaps between the rich and the poor, and as the situation for many of the world’s poor worsens, there is an ever greater need to understand the gift and challenge of ...

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Since the publication of Gustavo Gutiérrez's 1973 groundbreaking work, A Theology of Liberation, much has been written on liberation theology and its central premise of the preferential option for the poor. Arguably, this has been one of the most important yet controversial theological themes of the twentieth century. As globalization creates greater gaps between the rich and the poor, and as the situation for many of the world’s poor worsens, there is an ever greater need to understand the gift and challenge of Christian faith from the context of the poor and marginalized of our society. This volume draws on the thought of leading international scholars and explores how the Christian tradition can help us understand the theological foundations for the option for the poor. The central focus of the book revolves around the question, How can one live a Christian life in a world of destitution? The contributors are concerned not only with a social, economic, or political understanding of poverty but above all with the option for the poor as a theological concept.

“This passionate collection gives testimony to the continued vitality of the 'option for the poor' in Christian theology, and the necessity for all theology to have a political edge in the era of globalization. Many major names in theology are gathered here, as well as a wonderful diversity of perspectives on the topic: North American, Latin American, African American, Latino, African, Asian, and Jewish. This volume will be excellent for classroom use, while also challenging scholars to broaden their horizons and their imaginations.” --Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College
"All who believe that Liberation Theology was just a fad must read this book. Groody gathers foundational voices of the Liberation Theology movement to demonstrate that where ever the poor exist, a theological option exists for them. By focusing the discussion on the poor of the world, Groody forces all of us to interpret our Christian faith through their experiences, and whatever one chooses to call that interpretation, it will—in the final analysis—be liberationist!" —Miguel A. De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology
“The contributors to this volume include some of the most important names in Catholic social theology of recent decades. This points to the book's significance for scholars and students in theology, ethics, justice, and peace studies. Nearly all of the authors write out of their experience as people of color, people of the Third World, or people committed to the poor in their lives and lifestyle. I think the volume presents high-caliber scholarship rooted in the reality it tries to probe.” --Stephen Bevans, Louis J. Luzbatek Professor of Mission and Culture, Catholic Theological Union

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The theological analysis propounded in these essays shows that the option for the poor is not a Sermon on the Mount--inspired add--on to the Christian worldview, but rather a basic tenet that permeates every aspect of that worldview. . . . [It] lends helpful theological heft to the church's stance toward the poor.” —Commonweal

“Gustavo Gutiérrez’s A Theology of Liberation virtually founded Latin American liberation theology, which centered on ‘the preferential option for the poor.’ This book is an outgrowth of a conference convened by Notre Dame in the autumn of 2000 to examine what has happened to that phrase since the decline of liberation theology. The best essays are Jon Sobrino's-upbraiding the institutional church; Casiano Floristán’s-on feeding the poor and the Eucharist; and Aloysius Pieris’s-on reinterpreting baptism to mean the anointing of one to the mission of liberating the victims of oppression. An enlightening history of the title phrase appears on pp. 253-4. The book ends with a helpful index of all the authors’ scriptural references. Recommended.” —Choice

“Despite great attention given to ‘the preferential option for the poor’ at all levels of the church since the Latin American bishops’ conference at Puebla (1979), the notion has been misunderstood, parried, co-opted, or rejected in many quarters, including professional theological circles. Daniel Groody has thus rendered valuable service in gathering 15 essays that by turns explain, exhort, or explore.” —Theological Studies

“Although the authors come from differing contexts, and use different approaches to speak of the option of the poor, they are united in their desire to reinforce the option for the poor as the heart of theological reflection. Rather than simple answers, the authors weave together a diverse patchwork of insightful reflections, criticisms, and difficult questions for the world to struggle with. The text as a whole would be accessible and very valuable for graduate students and seminarians. This is a timely and recommended read.” —Catholic Books Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268029715
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2006
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 942,698
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel G. Groody is assistant professor of theology and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author and editor of numerous books, and co-editor with Gioacchino Campese of A Promised Land, A Perilous Journey: Theological Perspectives on Migration (Notre Dame Press, 2008).

Contributors include: Daniel G. Groody, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Elsa Tamez, Hugh R. Page, Jr., Brian E. Daley, Jon Sobrino, David Tracy, J. Matthew Ashley, Virgilio Elizondo, Patrick A. Kalilombe, María Pilar Aquino, M. Shawn Copeland, Mary Catherine Hilkert, Casiano Floristán, Luis Maldonado, Aloysius Pieris, and Michael A. Signer.

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Table of Contents

Introduction   Daniel G. Groody     1
The Multidimensional Reality of Poverty
Memory and Prophecy   Gustavo Gutierrez     17
Poverty, Poetry, and Scripture
Poverty, the Poor, and the Option for the Poor: A Biblical Perspective   Elsa Tamez     41
Toward the Creation of Transformational Spiritualities: Re-engaging Israel's Early Poetic Tradition in Light of the Church's Preferential Option for the Poor   Hugh R. Page Jr.     55
Poverty, Patristics, and Martyrdom
The Cappadocian Fathers and the Option for the Poor   Brian E. Daley     77
The Latin American Martyrs: Summons and Grace for the Church   Jon Sobrino     89
Poverty, Politics, and Apocalyptic Mysticism
The Christian Option for the Poor   David Tracy     119
The Turn to Apocalyptic and the Option for the Poor in Christian Theology   J. Matthew Ashley     132
Poverty, Culture, and Community
Culture, the Option for the Poor, and Liberation   Virgilio Elizondo     157
The Spirituality of Small Christian Communities around the Globe   Patrick A. Kalilombe     169
Poverty, Race, and Gender
The Feminist Option for the Poor and Oppressed in the Context of Globalization   Maria Pilar Aquino     191
Poor Is the Color of God   M. ShawnCopeland     216
The Option for the Poor in the Context of Globalization: A Feminist Vision   Mary Catherine Hilkert     228
Poverty, Liturgy, and Popular Religiosity
The Place of the Poor in the Eucharistic Assembly   Casiano Floristan     239
Popular Catholicism and the Poor   Luis Maldonado     259
Poverty, Religions, and Identity
The Option for the Poor and the Recovery of Christian Identity: Toward an Asian Theology of Religions Dictated by the Poor   Aloysius Pieris     271
Social Justice in Judaism   Michael A. Signer     290
Contributors     302
General Index     306
Index of Scripture References     312
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