Moreover, Malachi Martin describes the theology as "a freeing from political oppression, economic want, and misery here on earth. More specifically still…a freeing from political domination by the capitalism of the United States."
Furthermore, though it grew out of the unrest in Latin America "with its political domination by strong-arm leaders and monopolistic oligarchies," viewed by members of the Church as a direct result of American capitalism, the events in Latin America were preceded by a much more basic historical development -- the "rights of man" extrapolated from the French Revolution and re-coined as the "rights of the working man."
The spread of Marxist doctrine in the early twentieth century saw its incorporation into Catholic theology by several prominent professors right up to the time of the Second Vatican Council, upon which Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz certainly based her theology, and pursued her concept of "evangelical poverty": union with the poor as a means of forming a sense of self, solidarity, sanctification, and social change.
Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's contribution to "evangelical poverty" comes, of course, from her intertwining it with feminist theory and focusing on the Latino communities of America. The result is mujerista theology -- a theology for Latina women, designed to help them find their voice and support their communities in the fight for social justice. and, yet, mujerista theology is more than this: It is, in Isasi-Diaz's own words, the struggle to alleviate poverty through social change based on an evolving concept of Justice. While her concept of Justice, by her own admission, requires constant refinement, one may argue that it is rooted more in the social teachings of modern philosophers than in the Divine Justice that awaits all men in the Final Judgment described by St. John in the Book of the Apocalypse. John's sense of Justice is rooted in the "rights of God," whereas the liberation theologian's sense of justice is rooted in the "rights of man." Isasi-Diaz herself states that "Justice is what makes us insist that the goal of mujerista theology is radical structural change and not mere participation in oppressive structures. The commitment to justice is what clarifies our strategies and forces us to make options that will contribute to the unfolding of the kin-dom of God."
Life for Isasi-Diaz becomes not a struggle to achieve sanctity in the spiritual life but to achieve social respect. "In mujerista theology there is always the need to better understand and explain justice, for it is the commitment to justice that makes it possible to believe and proclaim with joy that to struggle is to live, la vida es la lucha."
Thus, Isasi-Diaz proclaims "evangelical poverty" as a way to proclaim the struggle and use one's voice to live in union with those who fight.
The role of Isasi-Diaz's theology in the struggle to end poverty is that of the role of all Liberation Theology: Liberation Theology sees unity as the Church's new mission -- doctrine is less important than the idea that Christ reached out to Jew as well as Gentile and sought to uplift the poor. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's notion of mujerista theology specifically is of a movement that brings Christianity into the lives of others, not through doctrinal conferences or dogmatic ecclesiology, but through social unity and understanding. Isasi-Diaz means to employ ideas like "finding one's voice within a community" and using that voice for social/economic/political change. Isasi-Diaz thus views "evangelical poverty" from a new, modern perspective: Poverty as a means toward sanctity by way of detachment from earthly possessions is pitted against poverty as an evil that must be overcome through social change. Thus, "evangelical poverty" must reconciles two opposites: one who practices "evangelical poverty" may accept the sufferings of the poor in order to better understand himself and others and to sanctify himself and others -- but at the same time, according to Isasi-Diaz, he strives to overcome poverty and help the poor to a better position in life through the use of political and social channels -- in other words, by using their voices.
Ron Rhodes echoes Isasi-Diaz as the sympathetic force behind "evangelical poverty" support in Latin America. He backs his invocation with "strong scriptural basis for helping the poor."
Of course there are several Scriptural accounts that show God's concern for the poor: "In the Old Testament, God gave the theocracy of Israel specific guidelines for taking care of the poor: He commanded that the corners of fields were not to be reaped so that something would be left for the needy to eat (Lev. 19:9-10). Gold also promised a special blessing to all who gave to the poor (Prov. 19:17), and judgment to those who oppressed the poor (Ps. 140:12)."
Similarly, Christ calls the poor blessed, and makes caring for the hungry and naked a corporal work of mercy. Also, the Good Samaritan is an example of neighborly duty. These references to Sacred Scripture may serve as the Christian basis for the new "evangelical poverty," but as Malachi Martin warns, one must be careful -- as I myself realized when working in India -- to keep "evangelical poverty" from transforming from "a spiritual warfare into a sociopolitical struggle; and -- if need be -- into an armed revolutionary warfare against capitalism."
Mujerista Theology and the Heart Sutra: Solidarity in the Buddhist Dharma
Since solidarity with the oppressed is Isasi-Diaz's objective in mujerista theology, it becomes necessary to find support for this theology outside traditional Catholic theology, which has admittedly quite a different objective. This being the case, an alternative philosophy, such as Buddhism and the teachings of the Heart and Lotus Sutras come to the aid of Liberation Theologians like Isasi-Diaz.
The story of Buddhism, of course, follows the life of Sakyamuni, who went out in search of enlightenment. Sakyamuni's enlightenment was, essentially, a kind of self-renunciation -- benevolent stoicism, in a way. While Buddha's insistence upon meditation and reason de-emphasized sacrifice and obeisance to God or the gods, it did not completely separate itself from the ideas prevalent in Eastern religion. Buddha still acknowledged the necessity of uniting the self or soul with the divinity -- however, the necessity of worship was no longer of utmost primacy (and this idea may be seen in Isasi-Diaz's mujerista theology). Furthermore, Buddha asked the question: What is the divinity behind the figure of gods and goddesses? The answer seemed unclear then as it does today to theologians like Isasi-Diaz: perhaps it was not even a divinity at all -- but rather a state. Buddha's explanation for this state was Nirvana -- freedom from the cycle of reincarnation.
But what is most essential in the Mahayana school of the Buddhist Scriptures "is the Prajnaparamita literature…[which] means 'Perfection of Wisdom,' and is considered to be the 'second turning of the Dharma wheel."
It is in the Mahayana text of the Buddhist Scriptures that the Heart and Lotus Sutras are to be found.
What the Lotus Sutra teaches is that "all of the Buddha's previous teaching was provisional, since humankind could not have coped with being taught the highest truths in one fell swoop."
This idea is clearly evident in the revolutionary nature of Liberation Theology. One of the main features of the Lotus Sutra is the narrative of Sakyamuni Buddha, "the cosmic Buddha in human form helping others on the same path to enlightenment that he himself treads," and this idea of "solidarity" is at the core of Isasi-Diaz's theology.
The Heart Sutra, however, is an example of Buddhist Scripture that emphasizes the radical idea "that everything is empty (sunya) of inherent existence."
This emptiness of existence may be felt most strongly by Isasi-Diaz and her sense of being adrift in the modern world until she is united to a cause, a movement, a struggle toward nirvana. As solidarity with the poor in the working class' struggle for social justice is her goal, it is not illogical to suspect that Isasi-Diaz finds support for her goal in the Buddhist Scriptures.
My Own Experience with the Poor in India
Isasi-Diaz recommends union with the poor in the struggle for social justice and an end to poverty, but what I experienced in my volunteer work at the ashram in Mumbai, India was primarily a spiritual struggle. By concentrating on teaching the traditional Catholic doctrine of the Church to the children in the ashram, we freed their minds from the here and now and gave them all of eternity to think about. They found their solace in understanding that they could go to Heaven and unite themselves to God here on Earth through acts of charity -- through their own "evangelical poverty," uniting themselves to the sufferings of other poor children. The children were happy to hear of how Christ sacrificed Himself for them, and many of them were eager to be baptized and accepted as Sons and Daughters of God.
The social teaching of the Church emphasizes the need for charity, and…