Gustavo Gutiérrez, the “father” of liberation theology, insists that this-worldly socioeconomic and political dynamics bear on a person’s and a community’s ability to realize the liberation/salvation that God desires for human beings. This dissertation focuses on an aspect of Gutiérrez’s turn to historical realities as important for theology that has been largely overlooked or downplayed by commentators: his insistence that personal transformation, i.e., the conversion of an individual’s heart and mind, is a requisite for the transformation of societal meta-structures; that healing of persons poor and rich on the micro-level goes hand-in-hand with healing on the macro-level.
Gutiérrez’s written corpus offers a seminal presentation of the importance of personal transformation for liberation, but this dissertation testifies to the ways in which Gutiérrez the person witnesses it to a greater extent. This dissertation also explores the formative influences on Gutiérrez’s appreciation for the interior dimension of the human person. It further analyzes Gutiérrez’s writing and key themes in light of personal transformation, and finds that the notion functions as a figurative scaffolding for his overall system of thought.
The method of this dissertation includes appeal to personal experience, which I draw on to demonstrate how persons and communities impacted by poverty and violence are oftentimes left interiorly thwarted as a result of exterior turmoil. Hence my argument that we must more explicitly acknowledge Gutiérrez’s insights about the connection between individual and societal woundedness.
This dissertation contributes to the ongoing development of Gutiérrez’s thought via its claim that a posture of vulnerability is necessary for the real-life application of liberation theology. Select voices in feminist thought, spiritual theology and psychology teach that confronting and healing one’s personal wounds requires lowering one’s defenses. Therefore, if, as Gutiérrez himself argues, macro-level, structural justice depends upon micro-level, interior healing, then it follows that being vulnerable in primary personal relationships is essential for liberation theology in practice.