A former priest and activist cuts through clichÃ‰, jargon, and controversy in this lucid introduction to one of the most significant--and politically charged--religious movements to take hold since the Reformation. Berryman has an easy command of scholarly writing in both religion and politics, and guides the reader gracefully through theological doctrine and heated polemics. He explains how the (mostly Catholic) liberation theologists place prime emphasis on the needs and experiences of the poor and criticize Church and state structures for upholding an unjust status quo. By establishing ""base communities,"" thousands of religious workers have brought the new theology to the Third World. They encourage the poor to give activist interpretations to Bible themes (with Exodus as prototype) and to invoke their ""rights"" to food and employment. As might be expected, conservative Church and state authorities have attacked the new theology as Marxist, revolutionary, and anti-Church. Berryman counters that most religious activists reject armed struggle, and view Marxism as one analytical tool among many. All but a few, he says, willingly fit their work into the spirit and structure of the Church. In the debate, Berryman clearly favors the committed liberationists to Vatican watchdogs who ""sip expresso in a Roman piazza."" His treatment of black and feminist liberation is sketchy, but his assertion that liberation theology ""is but one aspect of a much larger movement, the emergence of the excluded--women, non-whites, the poor--onto the stage of history"" is valid, if optimistic. The author contends that ""one cannot understand Latin America without under-standing what liberation theology represents."" One shouldn't attempt to tackle liberation theology without reading this book.