This book goes to the very heart of the passionate debate over the true character of Christian faith and practice. The advance of liberation theology in the Latin American church has caused international reverberations within both the religious and political worlds. The Vatican was moved to denounce it as heretical, and the Reagan-Bush administration has deemed it a significant threat to the stability of the region. Here Batstone evaluates the writings of liberation theologians as they consider the central figure of Christian faith, Jesus of Nazareth, and asks whether a message of liberation for the poor and oppressed actually springs from the life and teachings of Jesus or is merely a religious projection of activists bent on radical social transformation. The judgment given to that issue will weigh heavily in the debate which currently rages in religious communities and seminaries over the political role and responsibility of the church.
Batstone's work links these discussions to the concrete lives of the Latin American people and, in that sense, goes beneath the text and examines the subtext of religious reflection. Chapters present events and stories that originate in the daily realities of contemporary Latin America and then consider what connection these experiences have to the story of Jesus of Nazareth.
"In reading Batstone's book we realize that the Christological task is never finished. Jesus Christ relativizes all our perceptions of Him. We are encouraged to question our own Christology and the book provides helpful resources for developing a new and liberating vision of Christ."—Dr. Thorwald Lorenzen, Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics, Ruschlikon Theological Seminary; Chairperson, Baptist World Alliance; Human Rights Commission
"It is one of the virtues of Dr. Batstone's full treatment of the role of Jesus of Nazareth in liberation theology that many misunderstandings will be laid to rest. This does not render liberation theology antiseptic and apolitical, but recognizes that every theology is political, since it is dealing with a world that is God's world but is being claimed as the private property of those who do not acknowledge the divine claim. Whatever anyone does in the world today, Jesus of Nazareth not excepted, will impact political structures. So Latin Americans in their own situation have to ask, 'Who is Jesus Christ for today?' "
"For his help in steering us through what might otherwise seem a labyrinth for newcomers, enabling us to see an overarching pattern in the diverse positions he discusses, and putting us in touch with the radix, Dr. Batstone places us all in his debt."—from the Foreword by Robert McAfee Brown