The Liberation Theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez

A careful reading and critical retrieval of Gutiérrez, an early pioneer of Latin American liberation theology, who formulated his work in diverse ecclesial settings of Latin America, especially shaped by developments in his Lima parish and in Peru, generally. Simultaneously he faced challenges posed by the “Shining Path” guerrilla movement in Peru, and a government there that maintained devastating economic and political agendas of the U.S. and global North. An exposure for students to the liberating spirit at work in Gutiérrez’s view of Christian practice and belief.

Significant attention is also given in this course to more recent and contemporary changes, criticisms and developments since Gutiérrez’s work, looking at Latin American feminist, decolonial and intercultural theorists and theologies (Gloria Anzaldua, Enrique Dussel, Elsa Tamez, Eduardo Mendieta, María Pilar Aquino, Walter Mignolo, Emma Pérez, Naomi Quiñones, and more). Background perspective provided by looking at Latin American political theorists, philosophers and indigenous thinkers (e.g. José Mariátegui, Severo Martínez Peláez, Jung Mo Sung, María Herrera Lima, Santiago Castro-Gómez, Antonio Otzoy, Demetrio Cojtí). Special attention by panels given to U.S. Latino/a theologies, in these contexts.


The key antagonism operative here is between Christian theologies that neglect the liberating dimensions of Christianity (both establishment Vatican and also Protestant individualist views) and the vital, active, resistant cultures of liberation that spring from Christian communities of the poor and repressed in Latin America.

The arts emerge, as Gutiérrez and other Latin American thinkers we read, turn theology toward la religiosidad popular, “the popular religiosity” in which arpilleras, corridos, paintings, retablos, and other images abound.

Social movements are presented in this course as crucial to theology’s very generation, here from the “historical praxis” of movements of liberating change and from the “ecclesial praxis” of the Christian poor who are instrumental in helping to shape alternative possible worlds, utopias that serve a liberating future for all persons, especially the poor, for whom liberation theologians stress, “God has opted in a special way.”