A Critical Introduction to Religion in the Americas

Bridging the Liberation Theology and Religious Studies Divide

208 pages

July, 2014

ISBN: 9781479800971



Also available in


Michelle A. Gonzalez is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami and author of Afro-Cuban Theology: Religion, Race, Culture, and Identity.

All books by Michelle A. Gonzalez

A Critical Introduction to Religion in the Americas argues that we cannot understand religion in the Americas without understanding its marginalized communities. Despite frequently voiced doubts among religious studies scholars, it makes the case that theology, and particularly liberation theology, is still useful, but it must be reframed to attend to the ways in which religion is actually experienced on the ground. That is, a liberation theology that assumes a need to work on behalf of the poor can seem out of touch with a population experiencing huge Pentecostal and Charismatic growth, where the focus is not on inequality or social action but on individual relationships with the divine.

By drawing on a combination of historical and ethnographic sources, this volume provides a basic introduction to the study of religion and theology in the Latino/a, Black, and Latin American contexts, and then shows how theology can be reframed to better speak to the concerns of both religious studies and the real people the theologians' work is meant to represent. Informed by the dialogue partners explored throughout the text, this volume presents a hemispheric approach to discussing lived religious movements. While not dismissive of liberation theologies, this approach is critical of their past and offers challenges to their future as well as suggestions for preventing their untimely demise. It is clear that the liberation theologies of tomorrow cannot look like the liberation theologies of today.


  • "Contributes to a lively conversation within liberation theologies about intellectual and social communities of accountability. Gonzalez is a strong young voice in these discussions; her work will be noticed, read, and debated. This book is a must-read for every student of religion."

    —Margaret R. Miles, University of California Berkeley

  • "Thoroughly interrogates methodological presuppositions in contemporary studies of theology and religion. I strongly recommend this book to scholars from either discipline who desire to honestly appraise how we investigate our subjects and what we intend to accomplish in our work."

    —Timothy Matovina, University of Notre Dame

  • "A great resource for introducing the interdisciplinary study of religion in the Americas, with a focus on the relevance of the reflected faith experience and religious practices of marginalized populations for the academic study of religion. Presenting a hemispheric landscape, this book argues for constructive relationships and collaborative methodologies between theology and religious studies in the interest of both engaging today’s lived religion and affirming the necessity of Liberation Theologies in today’s world."

    —Maria Pilar Aquino, University of San Diego

  • "Franklin has penned a valuable book that examines the changing context of youth activism in the post-civil rights era...The book closes by explaining how the issues of today are linked to the past, with particular attention to juvenile justice and the labor movement. This is extraordinarily difficult to do, and the author does it with great ease . . . A progressive and valuable book."


  • “Gonzalez’s work is provocative. Her introduction to Latin American, Black, and Latino/a liberation theologies is sharply critical.”

    —, Modern Theology