Liberation Theology:

History, Philosophy, & Praxis




Mondays 5:00pm -- 8:50pm

Moore 3030


Prof. Peter McLaren


3022C Moore Hall, 310.825.8348

Office Hours: Mondays, 3:30 -- 5:00pm, or by appointment

 Miguel Zavala                       Lola Calderon



Course Website/Message Board



This seminar explores the emergence of liberation theology throughout Latin America and North America. It examines the historical and philosophical roots of Marxist, Chicano, Black, Indigenous and Feminist theologies of liberation, focusing on their pedagogical (im)possibilities within a globalizing world.






April 5        Syllabus

                  Film: Romero


Liberation Theology in Latin America

April 12      No Class (AERA)

                  Text: A Theology of Liberation, Part I, II, III


April 19      Foundations in the Theology of Liberation I

                  Text: A Theology of Liberation, Part IV


                  Guest Speaker: Frederick Erickson

Invited Speaker: Dave Hill


April 26      Foundations in the Theology of Liberation II

                  Text: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Readings: Course Reader


                  Guest Speaker: Manuel Espinoza


May 3        Theological Critique, Theological Praxis: Against Global Capital

                  Readings: Course Reader


Liberation Theology in North America

May 10       Text: A Chicano Theology, chapters 1,2,5,6

                  Readings: Course Reader


May 17       Text: A Black Theology of Liberation

                  Readings:  Course Reader


May 24       Text: God is Red

                  Readings: Course Reader


May 31       No Class (Holiday)

                  Feminist/Womanist Liberation Theology I

                  Readings: Course Readings


June 7        Feminist/Womanist Liberation Theology II

                  Readings: Course Reader


June 14       Final Paper/Project Presentations







Students are expected to participate in class discussions and to read all assigned materials.  All students will get full credit for these activities by participating actively in class. (20%)


Seminar papers.  Their purpose is two-fold, to get you to synthesize and reflect on the readings as well as to initiate class discussion.  Seminar papers should contain: a) a clear statements of the theme(s) under discussion; b) a brief summary of the theme(s), concepts, and arguments; c) personal reflections; and d) indications of what you think might be useful foci for class discussion (questions, issues, etc.).  Seminar papers should be no more than 2 single-spaced pages.  Please bring copies for  everyone in class.  You will be responsible for  turning in 4 (four) seminar papers throughout the quarter. (20%)


Seminar Presentation


You will be responsible for leading the class on a 45 minute group presentation of the week's readings.  Structure the presentation as you deem fit and productive for all.  If you need any copies or technical equipment, please let us know at least a week in advance. (30 %) 




Papers/projects should engage with themes that emerge from the readings. These may include traditional analytic essays, poetic renditions, historical and philosophical investigations,  field-projects, etc.  Papers/Projects will be presented during our last class meeting on June 14. Whether you opt for a term paper or a project, you will be required to turn in a 7 page type-written response.  Projects should include (1) a rationale, (2) an explanation, and (3) a critical reflection of the project. (30%)









5:00 pm -- 7:00pm Historical & Philosophical Foundations

                                                                        Films, Speakers, Lectures, Activities


7:00pm -- 7:15pm          Break


7:15pm -- 7:45pm          Class Discussion: Seminar Papers


7:45pm -- 8:30pm          Group Seminar Presentations


8:30pm -- 8:50pm          Tying Up



*Format is not fixed and will vary depending on unforeseeable conditions.  However, the spirit we hope to generate is one where class discussions emerge from seminar papers as well as anything covered in the first half of the class.  Group seminar presentations can also incorporate some of the themes and issues that have emerged that day.



Required Texts*


A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

A Chicano Theology by Andres Guerrero [Out of Print; Loan copy]

A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone

God is Red by Vine Deloria

Course Reader [Print Location to be announced]


*Texts are available at the UCLA bookstore.



Course Reader




Transcription Of A Speech By Jon Sobrino


Broadcast on Monday 29th November 1999, BBC




My name is John Sobrino. I was born in the Basque country, nearly 60 years ago. At the age of 18, I became a Jesuit And a year after that, I was sent to El Salvador, in 1958. And since then I have practically lived my whole life here. The best thing that has happened to me in life is to have known Archbishop Romero. I was a close friend of his. And also I lived with a community of Jesuits who were assassinated ten years ago. I was away. I became first a Jesuit and then a priest - very simply, because I felt a call from God. It has given me an opportunity to serve others, especially to serve those very, very poor people here in El Salvador. At the age of 27, I studied theology. I was in Frankfurt, Germany. When I came back from Frankfurt, in '73, people started talking here a different language, as far as Christian faith and theology are concerned: for example, that this planet is a planet of poor, oppressed people, a planet of victims. It made no sense to me to say: "I believe in God", in the guise of Jesus of Nazareth, and not take the poor seriously. So I started doing theology along those lines. And then I realised that that was close to what people were beginning to call "liberation theology". Now, liberation theology is the type of theology which wants to look at God from the perspective of the poor of the world. It's a way of thinking about Christianity so that the will of God, the dream of God, the utopia of God, becomes true. I remember years ago, in a refugee camp in El Salvador, several times I went to say Mass. In the midst of so much tragedy, poverty and so on, all of a sudden I saw a peasant woman. And I said to myself spontaneously, when I looked at her face: "I have seen God". The depth of reality became present in the face of that woman: her dignity, her commitment to be there, her hope that maybe life would be better for her and for others; an experience of God. I think this is the origin of liberation theology. Maybe people understand better when they know what happens when communities, priests in their homilies, bishops like Romero in their pastoral letters, professors like us, act out of this instinct of liberation theology. What happened? Well, this university was bombed. A bomb exploded on our campus 25 times. The house where I live was bombed four times. Six Jesuits were killed. They were killed because they told the truth about the country. As Christians, they said: "God is against that." Why did they say that? Because they thought in a very specific way. And that specific way of thinking is called liberation theology. Liberation theology is a threat because it tells the truth about this world. And the truth is not told. Whoever tells the truth gets killed. Let's have this clear. Jesus was crucified himself. He offers us the good news: that following him life makes sense. Now following him, in situations like the Salvadorean one, might make it possible to be killed. As long as there is oppression, I hope that theologians will think of God from the point of view of the poor. As long as that happens, there will be liberation theology. END


Theologies of Liberation: A Working Bibliography


Latin American



Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Vatican II documents, especially: Church in the Modern World

Renewing the Earth: Catholic Documents on Peace, Justice, and Liberation


Classical Writers and Principal Works

Gustavo Gutierrez

A Theology of Liberation (1971)

We Drink from Our Own Wells(1984)

The Power of the Poor in History (1983)

Las Casas: In Search of the Poor of Jesus Christ (1993)

Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings (edited by James B.Nickoloff)

The Density of the Present: Selected Writings (1999)


Juan Luis Segundo

The Liberation of Theology (1976)

A Theology for the Artisans of a New Humanity (1973-74)

Jesus of Nazareth Yesterday and Today (1984-88) 


Leonardo Boff

Liberating Grace (1979)

Ecclesiogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvent the Church (1986)

New Evangelization

Ecology and Liberation


Jon Sobrino

Christology at the Crossroads (1978)

Jesus in Latin America (1987)


Jose Miguez Bonino

Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation (1975)

Toward a Christian Politics Ethics (1983)

Faces of Jesus: Latin American Christologies (1984)


Expansion of Liberation Theology

Alfred T. Hennelly, Liberation Theologies: The Global Pursuit of Justice (1995)


Documentary History

Alfred Hennelly, Liberation Theology: A Documentary History (1990)



Alfred Hennelly, Liberation Theologies: The Global Pursuit of Justice (1995)

Enrique Dussel, Teologia da Libertacao: Um panorama de seu desenvolvimento (Petropolis:

Editora Vozes, 1999) [Spanish edition: Mexico, 1995]

Leonardo Boff, Jose Ramos Regidor, and Clodovis Boff, A Teologia da Libertacao: Balanco e

perspectivas (Sao Paulo: Editoa Atica, 1996)

Phillip Berryman, Liberation Theology: The Essential Facts (1987)

Edward L. Cleary, Crisis and Change (1985)

Robert McAfee Brown, Liberation Theology: An Introductory Guide (1993)


Theological Dictionaries

Ignacio Ellacuría and Jon Sobrino, eds. Mysterium Liberationis: Conceptos Fundamentales de la teología de la liberación (1990); also an abridged version in English, Mysterium Liberationis

Casiano Floristán and Juan Jose Tamayo, eds., Conceptos Fundamentals del Cristianismo (1993)


Is Liberation Theology Marxist?

Arthur F. McGovern, Liberation Theology and Its Critics (1989)

Luigi Bordin, "Teologia da Libertacao e Marxismo no contexto de globalizacao," Revista

Brasileira Eclesiastica 59, 233 (March 1999), pp. 127-151.

Miranda, Jose P.  Marx and the Bible: A Critique of the Philosophy of Oppression (1974)

Enio R. Muller, Teologia da Libertacao e Marxismo: Uma relacao en busca de explicacao

(San Leopoldo: Editora Sinodal, 1996). 


Liberation Theology as a Social Movement

Christian Smith, The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory (1991)



Kurt Cadorette et al., Liberation Theology: A Reader



North America


Black Theology

James F. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (1970)

Black Theology and Black Power (1969)

God of the Oppressed (1997)

Speaking the Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation and Black Theology (1999)

James F. Cone and Gayraud Wilmore, eds., Black Theology 

J. Deotis Roberts, Liberation and Reconciliation: A Black Theology (1971)

Kelly Brown Douglas, The Black Christ

Frederick Herzog, Liberation Theology (1972)

Cornel West, Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity (1982)


Feminist/Womanist Theology

María Pilar Aquino, ed., Apuntes para una teología desde la mujer (1988)

María Pilar Aquino, Our Cry for Life (1993)

Rebecca Chop, The Praxis of Suffering: An Interpretation of Political and Liberation Theologies (1986)

The Power to Speak: Feminism, Language, God (1989)

Saving Work: Feminist Practices of Theological Education (1995)

Virginia Fabella and Mercy Amba Oduyoye, With Passion and Compassion: Third World 

Women Doing Theology (1993)

Ursula King., ed., Feminist Theology from the Third World

Ada María Isasi-Díaz, En la lucha: A Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology (1993)

Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective (1974)

Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century (1993)

Rosemary Radford Reuther, Liberation Theology (1973)

Letty Russell, et al., Inheriting Our Mothers' Gardens: Feminist Theology in 

Third World Perspective (1988)

Ferment of Freedom (1972)

Cheryl Sanders, Living in the Intersection: Womanism and Afrocentrism in Theology (1995)

Emilie Townes, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering (1993)

Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation (1997)

Elsa Tamez, Through Her Eyes: Women's Theology from Latin America (1989)

Sharon D. Welch, Communities of Resistance and Solidarity: A Feminist Theology of Liberation (1985)

A Feminist Ethic of Risk (1990)


Chicano Theology

Ada Isasi-Diáz (ed.), Hispanic/Latino Theology: Challenge and Promise (1996)

Virgilio Elizondo, The Future is Mestizo: Life Where Cultures Meet (1988)

Justo Gonzales, Mañana (1990)

Andres Guerrero, A Chicano Theology

Luis G. Pedraja, Jesus is My Uncle: Christology from a Hispanic Perspective (1999)



Indigenous Theology

Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (2000)

Vine Deloria Jr., God is Red (1994)

Christ is a Native American (1995)


Asia and Africa


Kosuke Koyama, No Handle on the Cross (1977)

Water Buffalo Theology (revised, 1999)

The Agitated Mind of God: The Theology of Kosuke Koyama (Dale T. Irvin and

Akintunde E. Akinade, eds., 1999)

Allan Boesak, Farewell to Innocence (1977)

Sergio Torres and Virgina Fabella., eds., The Emergent Gospel: Theology from 

the Underside of History (1978) 


The Middle East


Shabbir Akhtar, The Final Imperative: an Islamic Theology of Liberation

Thomas Are, Israeli Peace, Palestinian Justice: Liberation Theology and the Peace Process (1994)

Naim Ateek, Justice and Only Justice. A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (1989)