Marxism and Religion: Liberation Theology in Central America

cwellen cwellen at pen.k12.va.us
Wed Aug 28 01:36:05 MDT 1996


Greetings to all comrades from Wei En Lin.

And greetings to Mr. Godena.

Let us continue the discussion on Marxism and Religion.  You quite rightly observe

<<that the fastest growing religious movements in Central America are the so-called
evangelical Protestant churches,  which have reproduced like fruit flies especially in El
Salvador, Guatemala,  and Honduras.    In Nicaragua itself,  the movement has grown
exponentially, especially in the rural areas of the north and west.>>

I agree with that this is a serious problem for the revolutionary movement in Latin
America.  The question is :  what to do about it.  Protestantism is growing in Latin
America for both religious and social reasons.  The Catholic Church, as an institution,
is inherently more reactionary than Protestant community churches. At least they are
viewed this way by many Latin Americans, even though such evangelical churches are
politically conservative and funded by groups in the imperialist metropole.  But they do
allow, what some believers believe is a more personal alternative to the ritual-heavy,
confessional- dominated practices of the traditional Catholic Church.

For this reason, it would be in the interests of the revolution to encourage cooperation
between the Liberation Theologians and other progressive forces, including revolutionary
fronts and trade unions.  Ultimately US-imported evangelical christianity is more
dangerous than any other form of religion, as it indoctrinates the believers in
right-wing pro-capitalist ideology.  At the risk of delving into history here, I might
suggest we all re-read Marx's discussion of the development of capitalism in Tudor
England. We see the same scenario being played out again. Protestantism will support the
capitalist and the capitalist will support capitalism, when Catholicism and Protestantism
come into conflict; while the Catholic Church is not the natural ally of the poor, by any
stretch of the imagination, the Liberation Theologians are.  Consider Thomas More (author
of 'Utopia,' a book greatly admired by Engels for its first comprehensive presentation of
a communist society). Such a radical Catholic theologian can be an worthy ally of the
revolution.

Mr. Godena goes on to say:

<<There are elements within the Catholic Church, particularly in El Salvador,that still
bear twinges of a vestigial leftist conscience,  but there has been a growing
conservatism within the lower and middle echelons of the Church that has shifted the
public discourse of the Catholic community to the right. "Compromise and Reconciliation
Brings Peace" was the theme of last summer's Inter-American Conference of Catholic
Bishops in San Salvador. Liberation Theology has, in most countries in Central America,
endorsed the laying down of arms by formerly Marxist rebels,  and the "peaceful"
incorporation of struggle into the state apparatus.>>

I think that the slogan "Compromise and Reconciliation Brings Peace" has swept the entire
revolutionary movement in Latin America, for good or for ill.

But this is more due to the fact that the US has emerged as the dominant superpower, than
to the notion that Liberation Theology has corrupted the revolution.

I agree that this is a problem.  When the Colombian M-19 threw down their arms and joined
the political process only to be slaughtered by the hundreds (or even thousands) that was
no pretty picture.


More later.

Sincerely Wei En Lin


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