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Mural in the Arcatao community, Chalatenango, El Salvador, reflecting what happened at Rio Sumpul in 1980

When Glenn Beck mentioned Liberation Theology around minute 12.20 of this Fox News video (which I came across courtesy of @Jay_Rosenberg), I literally sat up straighter in my chair, downsized the other 6 tabs I had open, hit rewind, turned up the volume and listened.  And I felt really unsettled.

The amount of time I normally give to Beck and the Tea Baggers is the time it takes to hit delete on an email. You know the ones… they are usually full of misinformation and have a lot of all capital letters, bright red size 64 font, and tell me to fear Obama, Mexicans, Muslim takeovers and universal healthcare.

But Beck’s coloring of Liberation Theology in this video clip “Liberation Theology and the Political Perversion of Christianity” and his take on social justice make me really angry.

In the Liberation Theology clip, Beck paints this vision of people who follow liberation theology. “These are people who, besides blowing stuff up, were also having a sexual revolution, trying to smash monogamy. This isn’t about God to them in any shape or form.”

He talks with Anthony Bradley, a ‘Black Liberation Theology Expert’ from the Acton Institute. Bradley says “One of the odd interpretations of Marxist thought and theology happened in central and south America, right in the church. And it was really the fantastic work of the current pope, who actually rooted out liberation theology from that region.”

Yes, right. Fantastic rooting out. Just fantastic, Bradley.

I’m not a Christian or a Marxist, but I lived and worked in El Salvador in the 90s. That’s right. El Salvador, one of the Central American countries where Liberation Theology was at its strongest.

Here’s what ‘rooting out liberation theology’ meant in El Salvador.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero's famous words

It meant assassinating Archbishop Romero in 1980.

“Romero was shot on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite. When he was shot, his blood spilled over the altar along with the sacramental wine.” (Wikipedia)

And assassinating the 6 Jesuit Priests from the University of Central America, cutting open their heads and strewing their brains around the yard.

“Before the end of darkness on the morning of Nov. 16, with unspeakable and barbaric cruelty, armed men burst into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America in San Salvador and shot six Jesuit priests to death. At the same time, the community’s cook and her daughter were murdered in their beds. According to reliable reports, several of the priests, my brothers, had their brains torn from their heads.” (Washington Post, Nov 19, 1989)

And beating, raping and murdering 4 Maryknoll sisters.

“In December 1980, Jean Donovan and three nuns joined the more than 75,000 people who were killed in the Salvadoran Civil War. In the afternoon of December 2, Donovan and Dorothy Kazel picked up two Maryknoll missionary sisters, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, from the airport after the pair arrived from attending a Maryknoll conference in Managua, Nicaragua. They were under surveillance by a National Guardsman at the time, who phoned his commander for orders. Acting on orders from their commander, five National Guard members changed into plainclothes and continued to stake out the airport. The five members of the National Guard of El Salvador, out of uniform, stopped the vehicle they were driving after they left the airport in San Salvador. Donovan and the three sisters were taken to a relatively isolated spot where they were beaten, raped, and murdered by the soldiers.

The [1993] U.N.-sponsored report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador concluded that the abductions were planned in advance and the men responsible had carried out the murders on orders from above. It further stated that the head of the National Guard and two officers assigned to investigate the case had concealed the facts to harm the judicial process. The murder of the women, along with attempts by the Salvadoran military and some American officials to cover it up, generated a grass-roots opposition in the U.S., as well as ignited intense debate over the Administration’s policy in El Salvador. In 1984, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Truth Commission noted that this was the first time in Salvadoran history that a judge had found a member of the military guilty of assassination. ” (Wikipedia)”

Rooting out liberation theology meant massacring almost 800 peasants in El Mozote in Morazan

“In a small rectangular plot among the overgrown ruins of a village here, a team of forensic archeologists has opened a window on El Salvador’s nightmarish past. Nearly 11 years after American-trained soldiers were said to have torn through El Mozote and surrounding hamlets on a rampage in which at least 794 people were killed, the bones have emerged as stark evidence that the claims of peasant survivors and the reports of a couple of American journalists were true.” (New York Times, 1992)

and another 300 people at Rio Sumpul, on the border with Honduras

“On 14 May 1980, units of Military Detachment No. 1, the National Guard and the paramilitary Organización Nacional Democrática (ORDEN) deliberately killed at least 300 non-combatants, including women and children, who were trying to flee to Honduras across the Sumpul river beside the hamlet of Las Aradas, Department of Chalatenango. The massacre was made possible by the cooperation of the Honduran armed forces, who prevented the Salvadorian villagers from landing on the other side.” (UN Truth Commission Report, 1993)

It meant assassinating, disappearing and torturing thousands who belonged to Christian Base Communities. And that was just in El Salvador.

Rev. James Martin in his Huffington Post article explains why he follows liberation theology. I encourage you to read his full post:

“Liberation theology is easy to be against. For one thing, most people don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. It’s also easier to ignore the concerns of the poor, particularly overseas, than it is to actually get to know them as individuals who make a claim on us. There are also plenty of overheated websites that facilely link it to Marxism. My response to that last critique is to read the Gospels and count how many times Jesus tells us that we should help the poor and even be poor. In the Gospel of Matthew, he tells us that the ones who will enter the Kingdom of heaven are those who help “the least of my brothers and sisters,” i.e., the poor. After that, read the Acts of the Apostles, especially the part about the apostles “sharing everything in common.” Then let me know if helping the poor is communist or simply Christian….

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Jesus chose to be born poor; he worked as what many scholars now say was not simply a carpenter, but what could be called a day laborer; he spent his days and nights with the poor; he and his disciples lived with few if any possessions; he advocated tirelessly for the poor in a time when poverty was considered to be a curse; he consistently placed the poor in his parables over and above the rich; and he died an utterly poor man, with only a single seamless garment to his name. Jesus lived and died as a poor man. Why is this so hard for modern-day Christians to see? Liberation theology is not Marxism disguised as religion. It is Christianity presented in all its disturbing fullness.”

So, Glenn Beck. Really. Really?

Let me get this straight. The people above are or were about “blowing stuff up, sexual revolutions and trying to smash monogamy.”  And this is “not about God to them in any way shape or form” so they need to be “rooted out”?

Glenn Beck, you make me sick.

Update: posts I like on this topic:

Roger Ebert in Chicago Sun Times: Put Up or Shut Up.

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: Tea Party Rocks Primaries

Timothy Egan in New York Times: Building a Nation of Know Nothings

Other El Salvador related posts on Wait… What?

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