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Guatemala’s Liberty Movement and the Gospel as Social Cure

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IMG_7821Guatemala is not known for freedom and stability, with a history colored by authoritarianism, political corruption, civil war, segregation, colonialism, post-colonial interventionism, and so on.

Dire poverty and street violence remain endemic, and yet hope remains: for political and economic liberty, yes, but also for freedom of spirit.

In a beautiful long-form essay for the new PovertyCure Magazine, J. Caleb Stewart explores the promise of Guatemala, highlighting the story of Antonio Cali, “a one-time socialist who began his drift from the left when he realized that entrepreneurship held more promise for the proletariat than redistribution.”

After stumbling upon a radio broadcast by an outspoken professor from Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) — a Guatemalan university founded on principles of economic liberty — Antonio realized that he needn’t wait on others to transform his situation and surroundings.

Inspired by the bottom-up initiative of his fellow Guatemalans, whatever their station or industry, Antonio “recognized that the industriousness of his people was exactly the sort of untapped resource he was looking for.” Seeking to empower these people, Antonio proceeded to found “Vision Empresarial: Business Vision,” a micro-finance organization designed to service entrepreneurs who fall through the cracks. Finding great success, Antonio used the profits to found a for-profit educational center for his community (a burgeoning solution in developing countries).

Newly transformed by his perspective, and having seen the fruits in his own community, Antonio eventually sought to connect with UFM and the “liberty movement” more closely. As Stewart summarizes, the movement offers a clear contrast to the socialistic status quo:

UFM disciples refer to the first “force” as the liberty movement — the popular embrace of the idea that free people and free markets are the best means to solve the numerous problems that face modern societies. When properly applied, the ideas of the liberty movement force [us] to recognize a person’s qualities over their background. That it is such a remarkably egalitarian philosophy is one of the features that first attracted Antonio away from the inherently decisive socialist outlook of his younger years.

While such a movement may at first appear limited to economic freedom, Stewart explains that, among those he encountered, it such liberty is seen to be one byproduct of a more foundational freedom.

poverty-cure-magazineBoth the Cali and the Morales families will tell you that the first force only works because of its alignment with the second one: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, after all, the great equalizer of humanity. In it, we understand that the differences between one man and another are painfully minuscule when compared to the differences between any man and God. As Paul flatly states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 – NIV)”

…The astounding power of the gospel lies not only in its ability to lift up the poor, but also its ability to flatten the well-to-do. For the poor, the gospel corrects their self-perception. In its estimation, they are not the forgotten of this world. They are the remembered of God whom He loved so passionately that he sent His own Son in order that He could redeem them and subsequently share His riches with them.

For the well-to-do, the gospel also corrects their self-perception. In its estimation, they will be forgotten by this world. But, if they will consider what they have in light of God’s desire to share His riches with them, they too can be the remembered of God. Fernando neatly tied the two forces together for me. He explained, “The liberty movement succeeds as a social cure when it acts out of the compassion and humility of the gospel. It’s not enough to get the economics right. We also have treat each other the way God treats us. If we can pull that off, we can change Guatemala for sure. Nothing could stop it.”

As Stewart concludes, “Guatemala’s best chance at a bright future lies in relationships between free people, working in free markets, motivated by a gospel perspective of their countrymen.”

Read the full article and the rest of the PovertyCure Magazine here. (It’s free!)

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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