Following Jesus – a Catholic Latin American Perspective

One of my big concerns in regard to the budget on this trip was how I would

fund reading. Books are expensive and I love to read. I figured it could add

at least $50.00/week to the costs unless I could find a way of getting good

cheap books. So to discover some gems in Op shops has been a real bonus.

The Halls Creek op shop had a number of half decent titles as well as the

usual pulp stuff and the Salvo shop in Kununurra has several books worthy of

a read. I bought 4 books for the grand sum of $7.00 which has to make a

bibliophile very happy.

As I was rummaging thru the laundry baskets of books in the Kununurra op

shop I came across one entitled Following Jesus by a bloke called Segundo

Galilea (Danelle reckons he sounds like a coffee bean) and after a brief

skim decided it was worthy of purchase. Galilea is a Chilean Catolic priest

and liberation theologian who has written a short and relatively simple book

around the theme of what it means to truly dedicate ourselves to

discipleship. I read many books of this kind, but not often from this

perspective so I figured it would be a good balance to the predominantly

North American based stuff that I find myself reading.

It’s immediately worth noting that our context has a huge impact on shaping

our theology – much more than we tend to give it credit for. The Latinos and

others from impoverished contexts gave us liberation theology and wealthy

white westerners gave us prosperity theology. I haven’t come across a name

for a theology that has its roots in suburban western life, but is not

prosperity driven. I imagine it would be something like ‘comfort theology’

or ‘security theology’ as that it what seems to form so much of our middle

class western dreams. Hence Jesus becomes the one who makes life safe and

secure for us. as if.

This is challenging because we have to admit that it’s impossible to do any

kind of theological reflection outside of a context. And because of that we

need to regularly be open to the insights of other cultures to help us get a

fuller revelation. At times this can be challenging and it may even seem

that our brothers are waaay off the mark. however reality is that we may be

the ones missing the point.

Here are 3 few quotes from Following Jesus that I thought worthy of sharing.

“We believe that it is appropriate to the religious life to call into

question or even protest against the church and society: against the church

to the extent that it I decadent or ambiguous, or has lost its radical

dynamism; against society, to the extent that it become dehumanized or

dechristianised (not sure what he means by this), and thus the source of

oppression and injustice” p.82

So. If we are leaders with any nouse then we will be protesters when we see

either the church or society lose their way. We won’t stay silent and tow

the party line, but we will have the courage to speak up – loudly. The net

result of this is that we will not be popular for long.

“A religious movement will never be authentic unless it returns to the root

of its own prophetism. Its radicalism is a sign of vitality and of its right

to continued existence. Its absence is a void that calls into question its

very reason for existence in the church and society. One of the causes of

the present crisis in religious life rests on the fact that many who have

given themselves to this life have discovered this void” p. 83

How true. When we lose our founding charism we become a social club and this

is one of the issues we are currently grappling with as the church in the


“Normally the people of greatest character, most maturity, are those who

have the greatest difficulty with obedience. This is quite normal. One does

not arrive a free obedience without passing through rebellions. Obedience

consists of a synthesis between the acceptance of the will of God and a

complete Christian freedom. It is extremely difficult. It is a work of the

Holy Spirit. And one does not arrive at this without having passed through

many crises and even through many errors.” P. 93

I thought this was insightful. A conformist finds ‘obedience’ easy. A

non-conformist or a questioner will struggle much harder to accept the rule

of another.

This book has some real gems and is worth a read.

5 thoughts on “Following Jesus – a Catholic Latin American Perspective

  1. I think what you’ve mentioned about comfort and safety theology is pretty spot on. Even in evangelicalism theology, if it’s not about prosperity, it’s about safety and rescue, but only into nice middle class suburban-ness. It’s as if what western, honest, middle-class Christians have is what Jesus intended when he talked about the Kingdom.

    I struggled for ages with evangelism, because i thought that what the Church was professing and living just wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t a high enough goal, it wasn’t worth dying for and giving everything up for.

  2. Liberation Theology [exposed] by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    An analysis of the phenomenon of liberation theology reveals that it constitutes a FUNDAMENTAL THREAT to the faith of the Church.

    At the same time it must be borne in mind that no error could persist unless it contained a grain of truth. Indeed, an error is all the more dangerous, the greater that grain of truth is, for then the temptation it exerts is all the greater.

    The biblical concept of the ‘poor” provides a starting point for fusing the Bible’s view of history with MARXIST DIALECTIC; it is interpreted by the idea of the proletariat in the MARXIST sense and thus JUSTIFIES MARXISM as the legitimate hermeneutics for understanding the Bible.

    Since, according to this view, there are, and can only be, two options, any objection to this interpretation of the Bible is an expression of the ruling class’s determination to hold on to its power.

    A well-known liberation theologian asserts: “The CLASS STRUGGLE is a fact; neutrality on this point is simply impossible.”

    The Sermon on the Mount is indeed God taking sides with the poor. But to interpret the “poor” in the sense of the marxist dialectic of history, and “taking sides with them” in the sense of the class struggle, is a wanton attempt to portray as identical things that are contrary.

    9th December 2004

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful post … I have been doing some theology in Laidlaw College, Auckland, and studying some of these guys in the Liberation realm. What makes me sit up and wonder is that we haven’t even heard of them, and because of the poverty they write in, their work hardly gets to the printing press. In Ott and Netland “Globalizing Theology” essayists write about the shift from the West to the ‘South’ theology ie South America and Africa, are now the centres of Christendom, and there you will find grass roots Christianity where they are living the life very different to our churches that are “decadent or ambiguous, or has lost its radical dynamism” – of which I largely agree. We only read Nth America and Europe because of the power of the dollar and printing press accessibility.

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