Review: A Gospel for the Poor: Global Social Christianity and the Latin American Evangelical LeftHistorians in the News
tags: poverty, Latin America, evangelical left, social christianity
Amanda is a second-year graduate student in History at Miami University.
“Therefore go, and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 NIV).
This Great Commission found at the end of the first gospel of the New Testament laid the foundation for a dual-focused Christian mission: proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and obeying his commandments—among the most important of which was to love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:39 NIV).
Cold War Christianity bisected this commission into two separate mandates: evangelism and social justice. The religious Right latched onto the conversion and evangelism part, while the Left sought social development and justice. During the Cold War, regional and ideological lines pulled these two further apart, resulting in a dominant narrative that equated the Right with religion and the Left with socialism and left no middle ground.
Historian David C. Kirkpatrick presents a third path: an evangelical Left. His book A Gospel for the Poor: Global Social Christianity and the Latin American Evangelical Left, explores the development of the understudied—and by many accounts, unacknowledged—Latin American Evangelical Left. Using a vast array of archival sources along with interviews with key actors, Kirkpatrick demonstrates how Latin American evangelical leaders found a middle ground in the Cold War context between Marxist liberation theology and the U.S. Religious Right: a theology rooted in misión integral (integral mission). He notes that while the influence of the Latin American Evangelical Left has been growing since the 1960s, Western academia is only recently awakening to this story.