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Socialist Christianity?


0On Wednesday the 4th of February, 2015 I had the chance to be present at a press conference in front of the White House. From Mexico had come the celebrated Father Gregorio Lopez Geronimo, better known as Father Goyo: a priest of indigenous purepecha (Tarasca) blood, who did his thesis on Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto, and Capital. The one who, in Rome, studied theological anthropology, who embraces the theology of liberation, who denounced the complicity of the Mexican government in the disappearance of 43 students of the teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa, and who does not limit himself to spreading the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, but also goes out on the streets to organize his people to defend themselves on Earth. A priest who, while going against the current, maintains good relations with the Vatican of Pope Francisco.
This is a historical moment, I thought, because beyond what the Father would denounce I could see a conceptual confrontation over the meaning of Christianity. A Latin American priest in front of the White House, the world’s center of capitalist Christianity. A Latin American priest speaking in the name of people who are impoverished, exploited, persecuted, and killed, in front of the seat of government of the hegemonic power in whose Christianity there exist two categories of human beings, with a mandate to honor God in different ways: the rich and superior, with kindness and compassion for the poor and inferior, and the latter with a spirit of obedience, faith and patience toward the rich and superior, so that the poor do not rise up against the rich (John Winthrop: “A Model of Christian Charity”).
The image of the Father in front of the White House showed a contrast of Christianities: an indigenous and revolutionary priest was facing the symbol of the structure of capitalist power that had legitimated, with the Christian faith, its historical racist method of production, including the extermination of the indigenous people, the plundering of their lands, and the institution of slavery, by means of which the white ruling class monopolized the social wealth of many peoples and transformed it into personal and family fortunes.
My curiosity grew even more as I recalled that in Mexico and Latin America, too, there had been a prostitution of the Christian faith to keep the poor from rebelling against their oppressors while covering for the rich man in power no matter how corrupt he was. That endemic complicity of the Catholic Church led to the growing deterioration of its relations with the people, until the Vatican had to break its tradition and change the Pope while still alive, installing Francisco, who immediately began to change that image, declaring that the Church was on the side of the poor. The expectation of renovation is immense, and in that context I was determined to hear about Father Goyo’s cause, from whose speech I transcribe a few fragments.
“We are visiting the universities because currently the Mexican government, on its criminal path, has as a clear target the students. We need to make alliances with the young students who are the future generation of political leaders. We need people who are analytical and critical. And so, the goal of this visit is, first, to inform about what is happening in our fatherland; second, to find friends and allies who will propose solutions rather than being part of the problem; and, third, to transform this reality, for that can be achieved only with wise and well-intentioned people.
“Today, it is our leaders who take part in crime. It is organized crime that is leading the country, and that is why we need the help of people who are young, magnanimous, and full of ideas. That is why we came to visit the civil organizations. We are also asking for scholarships for our youth, and, finally, we are asking for the support of governmental institutions, in particular the White House, to which we bring a document calling for a halt in the flow of weapons that reach Mexico through Plan Merida, because those weapons go into the hands of the government but also those of the criminals. We have found the best weapons registered in Utah: Barretts (automatic rifles), M60s (machine guns), and even grenade launchers, which did not exist a year ago. We are full of weapons in the hands of the delinquents. We need for Congress to take this under consideration. It should investigate the “Fast and Furious” program and so many other programs for firearms to see who benefits from them here – who are the criminal inventors of this machinery of war. “5
In the evening, the Father held a meeting with Bolivian residents, during which he explained that his movement has the purposes of organizing the rural workers productively, to train them to compete in a market economy, to educate them, and to help them to be able to defend themselves from crime and misgovernment with a network of information and community action. It seemed to me that at least the first two purposes were fairly socialist, very similar to, for example, what has been done in Bolivia by president Evo Morales. In fact, politics and religion have been linked historically, although not always in defense of the people.
In conclusion, the cause and international projection of Father Goyo constitutes a hope that Catholicism can return to the way of Jesus in defense of the poor. However, I think that the will and charisma of Pope Francisco will not be enough to make that happen. It will be necessary to count on the education of the clerics also, at least in political economy and anthropology, and for the promotion of enough Fathers Goyo within the ecclesiastic hierarchy, in order for an Ecumenical Council of the 21th Century to be able to modernize our beliefs with a theology of dignity for every human being, respect, and the defense of them on this Earth.

About Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti