Liberation Theology and Sexuality 2ndEdition
Marcella Althaus-Reid (ed), SCM Press, 2009, 978-0-334-04185-6, 192 page, paperback, £25.00.
Liberation Theology and Sexuality is a collection of writings by various Latin American theologians who fuse issues of sexuality into a discussion of liberation theology. It’s overall argument is that in constructing Christian religion and identity within Latin America the Church cannot and should not fail to account for sexuality and poverty. Reid makes the argument that liberation theology of the 1970s was imposed from a western perspective and recreated its societal and cultural norms- hence those at the fringes were excluded. She is seen to combine feminist, queer and liberation theology to enable each of these to move forward.
The various chapters offer insights into how liberation theology can offer liberation to the homosexual from the structures that restrict them in the Church. It challenges seemingly accepted norms of liberation theology that “Real women are mothers”. To someone who has no real connection with any of the three theologies outlined earlier it is a good introduction to the issues surrounding the theologies and the Church in Latin America. The book focuses on the strengths of these theologies using contributors are those who see homosexuality and feminism as having a role to play in constructing Christian identity. It does raise crucial issues that Christians of all denominations need to face- what role do feminism and homosexuality have in moving the work of Christ forward. While poverty is dealt with, this is less contentious and is unlikely to raise as many eyebrows or hackles.
The chapters provide good introductions and case studies of issues that post 16 students and teachers will not have engaged with before. Particularly of note is the discussion of popular versus institutional interpretations of icons of Mary and how they can liberate the poor and “indecent”; and in a different way the reflections of a homosexual priest in Buenos Aires which is free from the polar extreme of expression usually found in popular expressions of such (both pro and anti).
It is an interesting extension of the thought of liberation theology which gets the reader codifying their own view of what theology is about. It has limited value in the classroom except in the more focussed areas of some post 16 courses.