Miguel de la Torre: A New(ish) Voice in baptist Theology
Miguel de la Torre (left) is a friend of mine–and a rising voice in baptist theology in the 21st C. He is one of the leading voices of Latino-American Liberation theology today–which is funny considering that he was once a staunch Republican who sold real estate in Miami.
Born in Cuba just months before the Castro revolution, Miguel’s family escaped to the U.S. when he was 6 months old. For awhile, the U.S. government considered him to be an “illegal immigrant” (as they did the part of my family that came from Ireland during the late 19th C. and, finding the quota on Irish filled that year, stuck across the Canadian border). He grew up in Queens, was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church while his parents became priest and priestess in the Caribbean religion of Santeria. He left Queens and moved to Miami in his teens.
At 19, Miguel formed his own real estate company, earned an M.P.A. from American University (Washington, D.C.), founded the West Dade Young Republicans, and eventually became president of the Miami Board of Realtors. In 1988, he ran for Congress but lost in the Republican primary to Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL -115), who still holds that seat.
In his early 20s, Miguel’s life took some dramatic turns. He became a “born again” Christian and joined University Baptist Church by believers’ baptism. Feeling called to gospel ministry, he dissolved his highly successful real estate company to finance his theological education, beginning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY (where we met–Miguel helped me hone my mediocre Spanish enough that I could pass Theological Spanish for grad school and study Latin American liberation theologies in the original–except for the brothers Boff, who, being Brazilian, of course, wrote in Portuguese! ). He was ordained to the gospel ministry and served as pastor of Goshen Baptist Church in Glen Dean, KY.
Like many of us, Miguel found his seminary experience transforming. Almost against his will, he changed from a social and political conservative to a proponent of liberation theology–who thinks most Democrats are far too tame. When he completed his M.Div. at SBTS, he entered Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, earning a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, specializing in Christian Ethics and Sociology of Religion. Miguel has applied social scientific models to study Latino/a religion in the U.S. as well as pioneering in theological ethics from a Latino/a liberationist perspective.
From 1993-2005, Miguel taught Christian Ethics at Hope College, Holland, MI. Hope College is a Christian liberal arts college associated with the Reformed Church of America, and a Latino Baptist somewhat stood out in an institution historically related to Dutch Calvinists–but both African-American and Latino/a students were a rising percentage of enrollment. Things went mostly fine, Miguel earned tenure, until he wrote a column in the local newspaper that satirized James Dobson’s attacks on the supposed “homosexuality” of the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants. (The article was called, “When the Bible is Used for Hatred.”) Dobson and his supporters caused enough trouble for Miguel that he eventually resigned his tenure and moved to Denver, CO. Since 2005, Miguel de la Torre has been Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Iliff School of Theology, an ecumenical and interfaith theological seminary connected to the United Methodist Church. [Corrected slightly per comments from BDW] Formerly, regular columnist for EthicsDaily, now more often for Associated Baptist Press, Miguel is a prolific author–so much so that I will only list below the books he has authored by himself. He also co-authored several books, edited others, and contributed articles to dictionaries, journals, chapters in books, and magazines and newspapers. In all these ways, he is a powerful influence–a new voice and face to 21st C. Baptist (and baptist) theology in North America.
A partial bibliography of Miguel de la Torre’s works include:
Reading the Bible from the Margins. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002. Personal note: This was a groundbreaking and very challenging work. I REALLY advise reading this–several times.
The Quest for the Cuban Christ: A Historical Search. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002.
La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.
Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004. Not quite as ecclesiocentric as this Anabaptist-type would desire, there is still much that is essential in this fantastic book.
A Lily Among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality. Jossey-Bass, 2007. Haven’t had time to read this one, yet, but want to do so. Miguel goes where angels fear to tread.
Liberating Jonah: Toward a Biblical Ethics of Reconciliation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007. Excellent.
Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on the Current Immigration Debate. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. I have this one on order.
Social Justice from a Latina/o Perspective: Constructing a Latina/o Ethics of Survival. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, Forthcoming in 2010.
Genesis: A Theological Commentary on the Bible. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, Forthcoming in 2011.
If I were to add all the co-authored and edited books or his chapter contributions, you’d wonder how Miguel de la Torre ever finds time to teach his class or be with his family! I envy his ability to write faster than I can read! And I commend his works to you heartily. You will find his perspectives challenging, always.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.