Liberation Theology + Radical Orthodoxy?


So, I said I would continue discussing psychoanalytic psychotherapy, but I just finished Bell’s Liberation Theology at the End of History. Right now I’m reading Petrella’s book The Future of Liberation Theology, which is great. He offers a critique of Bell’s argument.

I cannot really articulate how annoyed I am with radical orthodoxy, but after reading Bell I’ve discovered that liberation theology is not as radical as radical orthodoxy because it don’t collapse ecclesiology and politics. Also, he admonishes liberation theology for prioritizing justice over forgiveness. He wagers that if we put our hope in God, at the end of the day forgiveness is not merely just the refusal to cease suffering. In fact forgiveness like justice  is ultimately an agent of reconciliation that can bring us into fellowship with the love of God.

Now, let me outline Petrella’s critique of Bell’s argument. By the way, Bell’s book is fairly good, but I found the last chapter obnoxious and naive. Bell views capitalism as this monolithic beast that not only monopolizes our entire working life, but also drastically structures and distorts our desire. Fortunately, the church can resist this temptation. That would make sense, because churches are never run as coporations, right? Petrella then points out how radical orthodoxy and Hauerwas view the world as dichotomized between Civitas terrena and Civitas Dei (going back to Augustine). If you go down that rabbit trail, one can see why Milbank and friends refuse to converse with people outside their fold and resist alliances with secular disciplines like the social sciences (also psychoanalysis is a nihilistic discourse, dammit! I knew I shouldn’t have gone into this field).

According to Bell, liberation theologians err whenever they prioritize justice and not forgiveness because “the pursuit of justice merely reproduces the violence that is inherent to capitalism” (Petrella, 131). Also, striving after justice encourages the acquisitive nature that capitalism already promotes. To short-circuit the violent cycle, forgiveness helps disrupt this sinful economy by being an aneconomic gift that brings reconciliation and peace. Basically the oppressed ought to no longer ‘seek justice in terms of distribution of rights” (Petrella, 131). If they continue then it merely demonstrates their lack of hope in God. Incredible.

Anyway, Petrella critiques this idea because liberation theology believes that God is a God of life. Bell forgets that peace is contingent on actual life. Bread and water. The refusal to cease suffering is not merely suffering, it leads to death. Honestly, one of the most bourgeoise critiques I’ve ever read in my entire life. If you want true peace, don’t complain about the evils or revolt just forgive…and then you can die. What the fuck?

I need to read more Latin American liberation theology. Hopefully, as make my tour through modern European Marxist thought I can supplement that with more readings from liberation theology.


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