You CAN teach liberation theology in rural communities!

IMG_20170723_153500We had our church’s annual VBS this week. The theme was Passport to Peru. I volunteered to help lead the adult class. We had a total of 15 participants in the class. I took the theme along with the suggested curriculum of food consumption and production and decided we needed to explore Gustavo Gutiérrez’s work in liberation theology. I also cooked delicious Peruvian food. For some reason, I took no pictures, So have included a picture of the book I used for the majority of my teaching. The God of Life, has a chapter in which the author explores the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 as an understanding of what it means to be a disciple.

This approach to Liberation theology went well. We looked at what it means to be a disciple in terms of the poor, oppression, poverty, and how the world might look if we changed our ways. What continues to strike me as interesting is how we approached the notion of mourning, in the sense of being willing to both cry with and hope with the mourners. Another person was struck by the notion of purity of heart as not being hypocritical, doing and preaching match up. Finally, I was also pushed by the notion of meekness.

The meek, according to the author, are those who can accept both God and others into themselves, to be vulnerable, to connect, to begin to receive the other. The inheriting of the earth seems both Abrahamic and to point toward the issue of loss of land due to oppression, high taxes, and income inequality. It also makes sense for rural communities in the sense of reclaiming their rural reality from the oppressive consumer capitalistic world which seeks both control and disposability.

People asked: What hasn’t this caught on in the US? It was a good time. We went from this into food production and consumption, and the value and importance of environmental justice, worker and human rights justice, and issues of land and connection. We discussed both production and consumption and brainstormed ways to take action in terms of getting grocery stores to donate food as well as a #FoodIsFree type program.

The third day, we pushed past food for the sake of consumption and nourishment and looked at the transformative power of food for connection to the land, for comfort, for sacrament, for fellowship, and more. We discussed, in a liberation and somewhat postmodern sense, what the Kingdom of God here on earth can and will look like, and then how can food help lead to this.

We discussed moving past handouts and looking to powerful means of using food to connect people to each other, the natural world, and God. We discussed it in terms of serving others beyond the nourishment (particularly funerals), and we looked at ways that it can give people hope. It was lovely.

Thursday we prepared and served a meal for a Kinship Caregivers Group (people raising children who are not their own – aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.). This was an act of community and an act of love. These people were not necessarily needy or poor, materially, but enjoyed the meal and the surprise of bringing home a recipe ready to prepare. ( I plan on evaluating week 2 of that later this week, as well as doing week 3!)

This was a tiny taste of liberation theology, but it worked! People learned, moved, and grew. I hope this is a stepping stone to more work for justice.

Pedagogically, the use of a common story (Beatitudes) and a commonality (food) helped. The place to work out ideas was very helpful. The nurture of these ideas will be crucial. This was not a world rocking, earth shattering, paradigm shifting lesson. However, it is the start of something.



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