The Divine Whip: Liberation Theology, Marxism, and the Sandinista Revolution
Religion is not only a belief system but also a system of practices and actions in the world. Thus, modern religious people transform the world through their actions and are in turn-themselves influenced by their experience of that world. My contention throughout this work is that religious beliefs and practices cannot be precisely understood outside of a social historical context. In looking at the Nicaraguan revolution it is apparent that the relationship between religion and politics is a vibrant one and that the religious convictions of the faithful bring them into the political realm.
As a result the distinction between religion and politics has become blurred in Latin America and consequently less accessible to traditional methodological approaches. This applies for example, and above all, to the functional approach that ascribes absolute religious motives to some clergy and political motives to more radical clergy. According to the evidence of our thesis, however, the Nicaraguan bishops were no more religious than the radical clergy. Likewise we found that the calls by the Bishops for moral restraint and their invocations against violence were no less 'political' than the promotion of the poor and the Frente Sandinista by the lower clergy. The question became not whether one group was more religious than the other but what christian meanings did each give to their 'political' activities.
Prom within the situation of conflict in Nicaragua we discovered that Bishops and lower clergy, although both proclaiming the principles of Medellin, did not always agree on the implications of their faith for action. It became necessary to ask the question why this commitment and not another? Rather than reduce these contrary commitments to either class interests or theological predilections, we clarified how religious divisions related to political and economic life in Nicaragua before and during the revolution. By locating Bishops and clergy in the midst of the social friction that swirled around them, we intermingled the sociological, political, religious and economic aspects of our problem, in order to clarify the relationship between the life, the faith, and the actions of both clergy and Bishops.
We concluded that, the positions of Bishops and lower clergy during the revolution were related to and reflected the spectrum of political and ideological alternatives held by those who opposed the Somoza regime. Most importantly we demonstrated that the particular conjuncture of Sandinista Marxism and Liberation Theology within the turbulent and oppressive social context of Nicaragua acted as the 'Divine Whip' which facilitated the rapprochement of religion and marxism during the popular revolution of 1979.