Introduction to Christianity, Ideological Struggle and Socialist Rationality – Pablo Richard (pseudonym: Esteban Torres) (1975)

[Pablo Richard Guzmán/Esteban Torres is a Chilean Catholic liberation theologian.]

The articles that we are presenting here have their deep root in the historic process that has existed in Chile since the triumph of Unidad Popular in 1970. It is a process that has developed the people, the working class and its political vanguards. In this process we are situated not as mere interpreters, but rather as practical transformers of reality. Our thought is militant and our practice is organic.

From the heart of this practice we have tried to do theology. The theologic attempts that we have intended to sketch out are rather limited. But in these limits perhaps resides a worth that they may have.

These articles were written in the immeasurable density of political practice, after an exhausting day of work. There is no time to correct, to polish, or to clarify. It is a question of opening up paths. Paths that we have traveled–and not simply reflected on. If this has imposed certain limits on us, we accept them with pleasure. 

All that is presented here has been a collective theological production. We have sought to express what so many Christians in very different situations have experienced and suffered. Militant Christians in proletarian parties, in popular organizations, in unions, and in assemblies of popular power. So many meetings diligently seeking to express and celebrate our faith and our hope, comrades in the political and ideological struggle. Without the participation of these Christians, nothing written here would have significance. Many who have contributed to this quest have been lost on the road–and have suffered torture, persecution and death. Others are incarcerated or have disappeared. Others worked in the Chilean resistance. The more we have immersed ourselves in liberating political practice, the closer we have sensed the face of that Christ who identified with the poor and the exploited. 

In the radicality of our commitment, we have discovered the radicality of our faith in Christ. We have experienced the joy, the hope, the impotence, the blood, but above all we have learned to hope against all hope. The experience has hardened us. Our weakness has made us appreciate the strength of the Spirit. We have been picked by [the] Christ-people [Cristo-pueblo] and nothing and no one can separate us from that love which the struggle has taught us. 

We present at the beginning some articles of general interest and with greater theoretical development. The first three have the same ‘line’ and correspond to the same concern: the search for a rationality that permits us to do historically significant theology. This is the rationality of political practice, the socialist rationality that puts us in a clear rupture with the idealist thought of the dominant theology. These are not theological “themes”, but the search for a new form of doing theology. Inserted in the class struggle, this has produced a radical rupture in our way of thinking. The problem was how to do theology starting from this radical experience. It is a matter here of properly defining the point of departure from which to be able to reflect on the historical significance of our faith, beginning with experience and non-theological thought [and] moving towards theological reflection. These first three articles were driven by the impulse and urging of many comrades who had shared this same experience and had the same concerns. Of these three articles it is enough to capture the basic intuition, without getting lost in useless details. The intuition that we aim to develop here guided all the efforts of ideological struggle that groups, such as the “Christians for Socialism” group, tried to develop during the three years of Unidad Popular.

The remaining articles are like practical exercises of the previous three articles. All of them point to the search for a liberatory evangelization. An evangelization that is practical, historical, conflictive and full of hope. An evangelization which is situated in the life of concrete man, the man that seeks bread, a roof, shelter, and who works to achieve it. The concrete man who is oppressed, because he has no bread, no bed, no shelter, and no job to fulfill himself as a human being.  When the exploited man evangelizes, when he reveals and announces in his life the good news of liberation, then the owners of wealth will tremble, the administrators of the law and of morals. The liberatory evangelization puts the Sabbath at the service of man and not man at the service of the Sabbath; it does not give to Caesar what belongs to God, nor to God what belongs to Caesar. The liberatory evangelization believes in the resurrection of the flesh, in the eternity of concrete man; it believes that salvation comes by faith and not by the law, the state, or morals. The liberatory evangelization constructs a Christianity of the resurrection opposed to a Christianity of the cross, poorly understood, that oppresses the concrete man in the name of the law, values and of abstract man. In the search of this liberatory evangelization or evangelical conscientization we offer the reader the following pages.

All the material that is presented here wishes to be a fraternal contribution to other Christians, in different situations, but in the same struggle, militantly fighting for a better future for the millions of poor and exploited in the entire world. We would like to give our experience to others, who from a historical practice of liberation, search for the face of God and reflect on their faith and their hope. Each day the number of Christians who fight in the popular movement grows. We are obligated to communicate our experiences and strengthen ourselves in the same hope, knowing that the present is resistance and struggle, but the future is ours. The future is of the poor and exploited who will certainly possess this soil.