Liberation Theology & Empowerment
Theology in Scottish Community Empowerment
by Alastair McIntosh
published in Popular
Education and Social Action in Scottish Communities, Ian Martin, Jim
Crowther and Mae Shaw, (eds.), National Institute of Adult Continuing Education,
Leicester, 1999, 205-215.
Tome and Tawse
the past seven years my work in such areas as land reform, environmental
protection and urban despair has richly drawn on spiritual understandings of
community empowerment for authentic human development. The editors of this
volume have asked me to share this. Bringing spirituality into community
education requires a little justification before proceeding to elaboration. In
this paper I want to discuss some theory behind it and conclude with a practical
example from the Isle of Eigg.
focus here will be on Christian theology, mainly because the history and
construction of Scottish communities, like the wider Western world, has been
primarily Christian. However, I would not want this to detract from the
importance of understanding other spiritualities, including shared understanding
between established non-Christian faiths and newly recovered nature religions.
These, however, go mostly beyond the scope of this article.
spirituality and religion overlap so much, many people confuse them. That is
unfortunate because a lot of us in Scotland have suffered bad experiences of
‘religion’. The very word can turn on the cringe factor. Too easily it
brings to mind the fearsome school ‘dominie’ whose instruction was through
tawse-armed domination as whole chapters of the Book of Daniel and chunks of the
1647 Westminster Shorter Catechism got belted into our memories.
Scottish teachers were not like this, but enough were so as often to taint the
milk of youthful spiritual awareness. The spiritual abuse of children is like
any other form of child abuse: it leaves traces, neurotic symptoms, which
replicate themselves long after the original traumatic event has passed. These
can pass on down the generations. Such
traces must be recognised and healed if we are to become capable of
understanding authentic human and community development as being, at its fullest
and most empowering, spiritual development.
The Final Cut, their album about the
Falklands and nuclear war, Pink Floyd graphically capture the mindset that
cauterises the soul.
para got subedited out of published version to save space
in their album The Wall, and like also
The Who’s Tommy, Sinead
O’Conner’s Famine and John
Lennon’s Working Class Hero, they
show how it creates a violated heart, surging with blocked emotion, and
impervious to its own capacity further to perpetuate violation of community. The
the cold and religious we were taken in hand
how to feel good and told to feel bad
tied and terrified we learned how to pray
our feelings run deep, and cold as the clay
is part of what psychotherapist, Alice Miller, calls ‘soul murder’. In her
books like, For Your Own Good: The Origins
of Violence in Child-Rearing, she persuasively argues that much of British
and Germanic culture has been emotionally crippled by a punitive ‘poisonous
pedagogy’ that denies children their basic need for unconditional love. Where
this has been perpetrated under the guise of religious ‘instruction’ it is
important that we realise it to have been a travesty of the teachings of Jesus,
whose primary purpose was to communicate the ‘good news’ of cosmic
unconditional love. The crippled croakings of the ‘cold and religious’ are,
instead, a diluted successor of Old Testament passages like Deuteronomy 20-25;
appalling material that allows women’s hands to be cut off in punishment, boys
to be stoned to death for crimes like gluttony, genocide against one’s
enemies, and the sexual violation of women captured after battle to be taken as
‘booty’, like in Numbers 31 and Judges 21.
often Scottish Christianity has failed to distance itself from such ‘Satanic
verses’ in the bible. I believe this failing to be due to the degree to which
organised religion in our nation and elsewhere retained, until very recently, a
highly un-Christian condemnatory cutting edge. This had its origin in the use of
religion for political control. Yet, spiritual life does not have to be like
that. We can find resplendent alternatives demonstrated, for instance, in the
triple unity of community, nature and God that distinguishes Celtic spirituality
in folk collections like Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina
Gadelica (1900) or the Rev. Alistair MacLean’s Hebridean
Altars (1937). These derive from
parts of Scotland - the far West - which remained substantially beyond the pale
of that politicised spiritual manipulation which, elsewhere, inverted the cross
to fashion a sword.
& Community Strangulation in the Birth of Capitalism
manipulation of the soul in Scotland has its roots in the extension of state
control throughout the realm during the seventeenth century. Commencing with
James VI and especially, in the Highlands, with his 1609 Statutes of Iona,
measures were introduced which advanced the Protestant religion, cultural and
linguistic Anglicisation, and capitalism - especially the transformation of clan
chiefs into lairds or private landlords, who then treated the land not as the
birthright of the extended clan family, but as personal property to be rented
and traded as a commodity. As in colonies around the world, evangelisation
hand-in-hand with education was at the heart of this misappropriation that Paulo
Freire calls ‘cultural invasion’. Thus it was that in the education act of
1616, King James ordained that:
the true (protestant) religion be advanced and established in all parts of this
kingdom, and that all his Majesty’s subjects, especially the youth, be
exercised and trained up in civility, godliness, knowledge and learning, that
the vulgar English tongue be universally planted, and the Irish (i.e. Gaelic)
language, which is one of the chief and principal causes of the continuance of
barbarity and incivility among the inhabitants of the Isles and the Highlands,
may be abolished and removed ... (thus) in every parish ... a school shall be
himself was a victim of early parental deprivation and abuse perpetrated by
cruel uncles who brought him up after Elizabeth had executed his mother, Mary
Queen of Scots. His policies for the Scottish Highlands and Ulster, as well as
those he championed for inquisiting and burning ‘witches’, betray an
understanding that to control the soul of individuals is to control the body
politic of their communities.
Swiss-based French theologian, John Calvin (1509-64), had unwittingly provided
the perfect framework for religion to be twisted into underwriting the
legitimacy of the newly emerging capitalism. Calvin provided an
‘accommodation’ that allowed for money to be loaned at interest, in contrast
with the teachings of the medieval Catholic church. And secondly, he asserted
the doctrine of double-predestination. Today’s Swiss banking industry stands
as an enduring testimony to the capitalist consequences of the first. Those of
the second are more subtle and complex.
of the Protestant reformers’ great insights was that ‘justification’, the
means of salvation, is by faith and not by such works as the buying of
indulgences. However, they understood ‘Heaven’ and
‘Hell’ in caricatured, black and white ways shaped by fire and brimstone
metaphor from the book of Revelation. They grasped, in only too small a way, the
significance of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness. Their God was more as
understood by Moses and Job than that of Jesus: he was transcendent, jealous,
harshly ‘loving’ and otherworldly ... a projection, perhaps, of the ‘cold
and religious’ patriarchs themselves. They saw ‘Him’ in the absence of
God’s feminine face as revealed in, for example, Proverbs 8:22-36, where Sophia
warns against the heresy of forgetting God’s woman-wisdom nature by saying
of Herself, ‘Whoever finds me finds life ... but those who miss me injure
themselves; all who hate me love death’.
thus dangled the ‘double death’ of both this world and Hell. ‘Double
predestination’ would demarcate the ‘chosen people’ of the ‘elect’
from the ‘damned’ in a manner whereby it was pre-ordained who would go to
Heaven and who to Hell. Yes, justification is by faith: but, in Calvinism, that
faith is God given ... thus Calvin surmised: ‘... our salvation flows from
God’s free mercy ... freely offered to some while others are barred from
access to it... Eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for
Although modern Calvinists would say that Calvin’s thought can be understood
in more complex and subtle ways on some of these points, the popular effect on
the Scottish psyche was to damage its noble objective of giving spiritual
authority to the individual (as distinct from priests and bishops) and make for
a religion that preys on fear, uncertainty and a self-righteous obsession with
being ‘worthy’. As such, perfect conditions were created for breeding an
authoritarianism of the Latter Day Pharisees.
did this spur the development of capitalism, both in Scotland and much of
protestant Europe? Sociologists like Max Weber have controversially suggested
that such Reformation theologies created a ‘protestant work ethic’.
Those who prospered and had power believed that their success was the sign
of being blessed by God. St Paul, after all, true to the conservative that he
was had stated that the “powers that be” are there by the grace of God
(Romans 13). To be in such manifest receipt of divine grace as to be prosperous
and powerful therefore implied a good chance of being amongst the ‘elect’.
Conversely, those who suffered were perhaps the wretched of the Earth - their
human worth hopelessly undermined by sin.
theology is ‘victim blaming’ at a cosmic scale. The effect was to usurp the
very lifeforce of the poor and conform them to the creeds and greeds of the
emerging modern capitalist economy. Under the 1712 Patronage Act, landlords
gained the power to appoint clergy in the established church. Sycophantic Church
of Scotland ministers could thereby be selected to persuade the people that
their sufferings were due to their sins. This undercut resistance to the
Highland Clearances and their earlier Lowland and Borders equivalents. The
political consequences played straight into the hip pockets of the powers that
be. A testimony to this hypothesis is scratched on the church windows of Glen
Calvie. In 1845 ninety-two people who had been evicted from their land waited in
the church yard for an emigrant ship to take them to America. The minister had
given no succour. Scored into the church windows some left their names, and a
tragic little self-blaming inscription: ‘The people of Glen Calvie, the sinful
clergy resisted the attempts of the lords temporal to control the Lordship
spiritual, especially those who, in the 1843 ‘Disruption’, broke away to
create the Free Church. But the Free Church’s need to assert narrowly strict
scriptural legitimacy exposed it to the inbuilt psychological tendency for
revolution to breed conservatism. Thus the Rev. Prof. Donald MacLeod, a leading
20th century Calvinist reformer in that church says of Highland Presbyterianism:
“I confess that it instilled a spirit of resignation which went far beyond
Christian humility. I confess its guilty silence. Like the German Christians
under the Nazis, the clergy of the Highlands failed to open their mouths for the
dumb. That is a guilt which I feel deeply.”
Scottish Presbyterian churches of the 18th and 19th century, then, often
portrayed this world as being deeply ‘fallen’. The femininity of God,
expressed through such figures as St Bride of the Isles, ‘foster mother of
Christ’, paled to such insignificance that today, for instance, only a tiny
handful of people on the Isle of Harris know that their island was once the
heart of the parish of Kilbride - the church of Bride - and that the old Gaelic
name for the Hebrides is Innis Bhrighde,
the Isles of Bride. The consequence of having a rich spiritual rug pulled in
this way was to replace the excesses of an institutionally corrupt
pre-Reformation Catholicism with a spiritual vacuum which, though in theory
democratic and free, was open to abuse for the political colonisation of the
soul of the people. An immanent ancient spirituality of reverence
in this world was therefore damaged by a transcendent and life-displacing
obsession with whether or not one would be ‘saved’ in the next. The church
of a Jesus who was tempted by the fruits of landlordism and insisted, instead,
on justice for the poor and for the Earth in Luke 4, became enmeshed in
institutional ‘fall’. Only today are parts of it undergoing redemption.
are the ambiguities of these aspects of the Scottish psyche captured with more
influential contemporary global relevance than in the thought of Kirkcaldy
economist who is claimed by both the political centre and the right, Adam Smith.
The ‘invisible hand’ of the market is Smith’s secularised version of
providence. Smith believed that self-interest both depended upon and would be to
the benefit of the community. However, that community can be seen to have been,
firstly, the secular elect of the
ruling privileged class. The proof of this is in his 1776 masterwork, The
Wealth of Nations, where Smith was enthusiastic to justify slavery if it
more efficiently served to concentrate wealth into the hands of the rich than
did his preferred option of ‘Coloni
Partiarii’, or colonising feudalism.
as the Bedrock of Community
of the need to decolonise the soul has lead to fine work by people who found
that soul was both all they possessed, and everything they possessed, when
struggling for and with racial equality, women’s rights, youth, the poor,
ecology, housing, disability issues and in the peace movement.
Behind many community activists is a strong if silent spirituality.
What, then, is spirituality? Whereas
theology is concerned with the study of matters relating to ‘God’ and
religion is about the institutional expression of this, the word,
‘spirituality’, has much less specific meanings that may not involve
postulating ‘God’ at all. Some writers, like Paul Tillich, use
‘spirituality’ to mean our utmost or ultimate concerns. Others, like Walter
Wink, see the spiritual as being the interior reality of outward forms such as
persons, institutions and nations. For Wink, a spiritually engaged activism
entails working to redeem the good but fallen nature of power in the world. This
calls for a three-fold process of ‘naming the powers’ to find words with
which to get a grip on them, ‘unmasking the powers’ to reveal how they
oppress, then ‘engaging the powers’ to liberate their redeemed potential.
I shall use the word, spirituality, to mean that which pertains to the nature,
meaning and consequent articulation of our lives. Underlying this is
inter-connectedness. It is about the expression of life abundant in all its
meanings as love in all its passions It is becoming alive to the aliveness of
life. It is the opposite of that inner death that comes from self-strangulating
selfishness and preoccupation with things morbid. It affirms a very here-and-now
‘Heaven’ and refutes the mindsets and behaviours that lead to a living
‘Hell’ - both being eternal in the present moment.
often use the back of my hand as a metaphor for spiritual awareness. It’s
like, normally, we are only aware of ourselves as separate entities, like the
nails on each finger. But as we enter into that wrestling-match engagement with
love in the company of others - including with all the ‘bastards’ of
everyday encounters! - we move down the fingers and the psychospiritual distance
between us reduces. Ultimately, the perspective of God consciousness is the view
from the main body of the hand looking upwards. We can then see that each
finger, each life, is part of the whole. We are, as John 15 has it, all branches
on the vine of life; ‘members one of another’ in the Body of Christ as
Romans 12:5 says; and to be syncretistic ... all parts of the ‘Body of
Islam’; expressions of the ‘Buddha nature’; offspring of the Goddess or,
as the Hindus say, ‘Tat tvam asi’ - ‘That thou art’ - meaning that
individual soul (Atman) is ultimately at one with universal soul (Brahman).
then, is about what we most profoundly are
together; it is about that deep poetic upwelling that our nation’s bards have
always understood and which is, quite simply, a matter of being and becoming
ourselves. ‘Justification’ is by faith in the underlying goodness -
redeemability - of what we have been fashioned to be by a God-cum-Goddess in
whose image we are both male and
female (Genesis 1:27). The doctrine of original sin can thus be seen to
liberate, because it allows acceptance of the truth, as Gandhi put it, that
‘all life entails violence’ ... and it invites a presumption of forgiveness,
which is to say, deep acceptance of
self and others as we are. But such a
recognition of original sin must be counterpointed by an understanding of
original blessing - recognition that, as Gandhi continued, we can minimise the
violence that we personally exert in life. This is achieved by trusting one
another to come into the empowerment of the goodness that also rests within us.
Such letting go of various uptightnesses, our hang-ups and neurotic obsessions,
frees the energy previously consumed by inner ‘demons’ and demonisations. At
the level of society, it transforms the cesspool of ‘shit’ from something
that stinks into a rich compost that grows community.
happens by a community starting, quite simply, to face reality and to stop
living the idolatry of own or others’ lies. To become more spiritual is to get
more real; to recognise and abandon, progressively, the onion layers of
inauthentic living wrapped round us by dysfunctional childrearing, education for
regimentation, industrial workplace behaviour modification, TV and advertising
mores, and so on. Spiritual teachers capable of bridging East and West, like
Kahlil Gibran and Anthony de Mello SJ, point out that spirituality is simply
It is about becoming fully aware of the ‘sacrament of the present
moment’ as we walk, breath, eat the fruits of nature’s providence and share
our human nature in community with others and with that community of the Earth
by which we comprise a human ecology. It is about an economics of considering
the lilies (Matthew 7:28 KJV), which is to say, trusting to the possibility of
creating a pattern of community interrelationships - social and ecological
justice - that can connect us with a providential sense of grace and of
blessedness. This implies much more than any abstract, heady obedience to
commands on tablets of stone. We are divinely interconnected, like islands
appearing above the sea. This makes mutual reverence the foundation rock of
community, and love, the mortar that builds upon it.
the Spirituality of Development
place the spiritual at the centre of a concern, motivation and methodology for
‘community development’, ‘sustainable development’, ‘Third-world
development’, ‘economic development’,
‘child development’ or any other kind of ‘development’ may at
first seem audacious. But perhaps not so when we look at what ‘development’
is an abused word which, in our society, has come to be virtually synonymous
with capitalist economic growth. However, the etymology derives from de-
(to undo) and the Old French, ‘voloper’
- to envelop, as in our word, ‘envelope’. To develop is therefore ‘to unfold, unroll to unfurl’. The
biological application, as in ‘foetal development’, accurately captures
correct usage. Here the foetus develops in right relationship with its
environment of the womb and the wider world that the parents move in. We can
also see from this that too little
development implies stunted growth - a condition of the poor; development in the
wrong place means deformity - inequitable wealth distribution; and
development without limits is a cancer
that extracts life from the rest of the body or the planet.
used, then, ‘development’ means ‘a gradual unfolding; a fuller working out
of the details of anything; growth from within’ (OED). Community development
should therefore be about enabling a community to become more fully itself.
Development ought therefore be spirituality expressed socially.
Theology in Community Development
spirituality is about becoming ourselves, I argue that the recovery of
spirituality is central to authentic community development. From time to time
there have been forerunners of this in history. These include the radical
politics of the Diggers, Levellers, Ranters and early Quakers in 17th century
and the Scottish Highland 19th century land reformers who achieved the 1886
discovery that God had been misrepresented, and the ‘good news’ that
‘he’ is actually on the side of the poor, lends legitimacy to aspirations
for social and ecological justice. From legitimacy comes claim of right, and
thus, the first step towards empowerment. In this respect the liberation
theology that I am about to describe has directly influenced people and
processes leading to the re-establishment of our Scottish Parliament.
It is a methodology of no small consequence.
modern liberation theology traces its roots to the post-Vatican II theology of
Latin American priests who worked amongst the landless and urban poor, like
Gustavo Gutierrez. Gutierrez was, himself, partly inspired by the educational
work of the late Paulo Freire. Freire worked for part of his career with the
World Council of Churches and personally, I would see him as expressing a
theology of liberation in secular language.
Freire used the word, ‘conscientisation’, as a socially engaged expression
of what, in spiritual reflection, is called ‘presence’. Conscientisation is
the process of becoming aware of the circumstances that cause oppression. This
invites action, which is then further reflected upon. The continuous process of
action and reflection is known as ‘praxis’. Conscientisation therefore
entails the sense of both consciousness (the presence
that is reflective awareness) and conscience (the presence that spurs to action).
subvert and transform attack by the often-powerful ‘cold and religious’, it
is useful to describe liberation theology from an impeccably scriptural
perspective. To minimise any cringe factor I shall keep this down to as few
textual references as possible and re-assert that most of what is said here is
not exclusive to Christianity: it can be universally inclusive, as was Jesus’
intention. Gutierrez defines ‘to liberate’ as being ‘to give life’.
Jesus said we should be living not just any old life, but life abundant (John
10:10). This is not some transcendent pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die promise of
deferred gratification, but a very practical concern. It starts with such
outward necessities as having ‘daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11) in a this-worldly
immanent realm of God that is ‘all around’ or ‘within’ (Luke 17:21), and
from there it develops an inner life of living from more than just ‘bread
alone’ (Matthew 4:4). But the sequence is important: before preaching, Jesus
liked to see that the people were fed (Mark 8).
launching his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus placed primary
emphasis on social and ecological justice (Luke 4:18-19). He does this by taking
a reading from Isaiah 61, thereby linking Old Testament prophesy to his mission.
Consistent with the insight that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) and concerned
not with self-interested tribalism, but with the ‘healing of the nations’
(Revelation 22:2), Jesus’ reading is intriguingly selective. I find it telling
that he proclaims good news for the poor, liberty to captives, healing of the
blind, freedom for the oppressed and, rather pleasingly in the King James
version, succour for the broken hearted: but he misses out what Isaiah also said
about enjoying the ‘wealth of the nations’ and having the ‘sons of the
alien’ placed in subservient service (Isaiah 61:5-6). That is, he omits the
un-right-on bits, choosing instead to highlight what liberationists call,
‘God’s preferential option for the poor’ as in Luke 6, Amos 5, etc..
ecological, land-rights and economic dimensions to Jesus’ ministry, are
incorporated where he concludes his Luke 4 mission statement by proclaiming, in
verse 19, something translatable as the ‘acceptable year of the Lord’. This
refers to the ‘Jubilee’ cycle of seven and fifty years of Leviticus 25,
which make provision for the periodic returning of the land to a state of
nature, redistributing the land so that it is not owned in perpetuity by anyone
except God, and the cancellation of debts.
theology additionally understands God as being revealed through history. Not
only does this free us from narrowly tribal constructs of God as expressed in
barbaric parts of the Bible; it also affirms the importance of people
understanding their place in human history. From this it derives a special
concern to ‘contextualise’ biblical material in contemporary people’s
everyday lives. Thus, for example, the 20th century ‘Mothers of the
Disappeared,’ whose children were killed by the Argentinean junta, have been
identified with the women who were powerless to do anything but bring their
powerful presences to Jesus’ cross: what Sheila Cassidy has called the
‘spirituality of the foot of the cross’. In such witness, brutal power lies
named, unmasked and so ready for later engagement.
Isle of Eigg Trust - a Case Study in Liberation
my own community empowerment work I have applied aspects of liberation theology
using an triple approach that I call Re-membering, Re-visioning and Re-claiming.
I have used it, I think to modest effect, in urban contexts like Glasgow and in
opposing the Isle of Harris proposed superquarry. Here I shall briefly use
reform of the Scottish feudal land tenure system as an example.
1991 I was asked by a Scoraig crofter, Tom Forsyth, to become a founding trustee
of the Isle of Eigg Trust along with Liz Lyon and Bob Harris. A process was
started which, in 1997, lead to the people of Eigg successfully bringing their
land into community ownership after seven generations of landlordism. There are
many reasons why Eigg succeeded, most of which had little to do with our
influence. But what I think was very important initially was the emphasis we
laid on re-membering history. This was done in speeches, publications and
through the wider mass-media. I often integrated theological references to
enhance legitimacy, encourage reflection and aid discernment. For instance, on
25 October 1991 I gave an address on Eigg which resulted in a 73% vote of
confidence in our work being given in secret ballot by the community. At that
time many did not feel free openly to air their support from fear of their
laird. This speech was widely circulated
and it contains the phrase: ‘Can we, as in the words communicated by Moses,
“proclaim the liberation of all the inhabitants of the land ... a jubilee for
you; each of you will return to his ancestral home. Land must not be sold in
perpetuity, for the land belongs to me” (Leviticus 25)?’ In other words, I
was trying, as has been done in Africa and Latin America, to create resonance
with a deeper historical religious theme by linking the history of Eigg with
that of the Exodus. The relevance of this puzzled many, but was poignant to
some, especially the influential elderly.
out history has the effect of freeing up blocked cultural energy. The effect is
what I sometimes call cultural psychotherapy. Just as a traumatised individual
can be helped on by remembering the original trauma, so a traumatised community
can start to understand its dysfunctions if it can understand what made it the
way it is. This showed brilliantly on Eigg one day when, charged with being an
irresponsible community by their laird, a woman replied, ‘We have never had
the chance to show that we can be responsible’.
re-membering, rebuilding the ‘member’ or body of a community, generates only
anger, disappointment and frustration unless there is also a vision around which
it can galvanise. What made Eigg happen at the end of the day was not so much
opposition to the laird and his antics, like his attempting to evict 12% of the
island’s population for no obvious reason, as re-visioning. That vision was
one of community - community with one another, with place or nature, and for a
few residents, with God. It was a Celtic spiritual vision and one that, as far
as non-native incomers were concerned, saw belongingness re-defined in
accordance with the old Gaelic proverb that ‘the bonds of milk (i.e. nurture;
fostership) are stronger than the bonds of blood (i.e. genetic lineage)’. When
Keith Schellenberg, the laird, tried to whip up racist sentiment, virtually
every indigenous household signed an open letter how they resented such divisive
tactics. The status of ‘belonging’ to place thereby became less a matter of
where a person was from, as how willing they were to cherish and be cherished by
that place and its peoples.
vision of a regenerated human ecology on Eigg went deeper than the mere
grassroots, which is so often about TV culture, beer and spectator sport. It
went right to the taproots of cultural values and spiritual belief. This showed,
for instance, in young people starting to learn from their elders Gaelic place
name meanings. It showed in women’s empowerment and interest in old legends
about the ‘big women’ and ‘holy women’ of Eigg. And I remember, to take
a rather pious example, being present as a small group of island women prayed in
their church ... not for the success of the Isle of Eigg Trust as such ... but
for the ‘right thing’ to happen. That is, they put their faith in a process
that was higher than any ‘political’ aspirations.
fact that Eigg did finally ‘happen’ was a re-claiming. Re-claiming involves
the hard work of consensus building, managing the media, fundraising,
politicking, recognising and reconciling conflict, and all the elements it takes
to learn anew how to become fully a community. Many of the people doing this
were not in the least overtly ‘religious’, yet I do believe there was a
strong spirituality present as ordinary people developed extraordinary
are many who might think that the only theology involved was when three clergy
from differing denominations jointly blessed the 12th June takeover celebrations
at the second of the newly erected standing stones on Eigg. Others might say
that the most inspired piece of ‘ministry’ was when the Scottish Office
government minister, Brian Wilson, stood in a marquee erected on the former
laird’s tennis court and declared ‘game, set and match to the people of
Eigg’. And still others might quip that the most valuable spirit on Eigg came
out of the barrel of Talisker gifted from Skye. There is, of course, spirit and
there is Spirit. In ways deeper than I can tell in a short piece like this, I
believe that both were at work and I would certainly be recommending the
McIntosh is a Quaker who grew up in the Church of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis,
has been business advisor to the Iona Community, and chairs the Projects
Committee of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. He is a fellow of the
Centre for Human Ecology which, in 1996, was forced to reconstitute itself
outside of Edinburgh University (where he was previously postgraduate teaching
director) as a result of controversy stirred partly by his work with the Isle of
Eigg Trust, in opposing the Isle of Harris proposed superquarry and critiquing
the debasement of university education and the British government’s military-industrialised
science policy. His applied development work includes having established the
Pacific Regional Sustainable Forestry Programme in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and
the Solomon Islands, which is featured in the government’s 1990 white paper on
 Meek, D. E. (1996). The Scottish Highlands: The Churches and Gaelic Culture, World Council of Churches, Geneva, 20-21.
 Calvin’s Institutes, III:xxi, in McGrath, A. E. (1995). The Christian Theology Reader, Blackwell, Oxford, 232-3.
 Highland Guilt, The Scotsman, 24 May 1995, 13
 Smith, A., (1986). The Wealth of Nations, I-III, Penguin, London, 488-490.
 eg. Shields, K., (1991). In the Tiger’s Mouth: an Empowerment Guide for Social Action, Millennium Books, Australia; Peavey, F. (1986). Heart Politics, New Society, Philadelphia; Macy, J., (1983). Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, New Society, Philadelphia; Hope, A., Timmel, S., Hodzi, C., (1984). Training for Transformation: a Handbook for Community Workers, 3 Vols., Mambo Press, Zimbabwe.
 I highly recommend especially the third in Wink’s trilogy: Engaging the Powers: discernment and resistance in a world of domination, Fortress Press, USA, 1992.
 For practical contemplative exercises, see de Mello, A., (1994). Sadhana: a Way to God, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, India.
 Hill, C., (1994). The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution, Penguin, London, especially Appendix B - A Note on Liberation Theology, 447-51. Also his (1975) The World Turned Upside Down, Penguin, Harmondsworth.
 Hunter, J. (1976). The Making of the Crofting Community, John Donald, Edinburgh, 98. Meek, D. E. (1987). The Land Question Answered from the Bible; The Land Issue and the Development of a Highland Theology of Liberation, Scottish Geographical Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 2, 84 - 89.
 Mackie, S. G. (1995). Liberation Theology for Scotland?, Theology in Scotland, 2:1, 35-43; Canon Kenyon Wright, pers. com..
 Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin, Harmondsworth.
 Gutierrez, G., (1974). A Theology of Liberation, SCM, London, xxxvii.
 ‘A Collector’s Item’ or Community Ownership - the Isle of Eigg Debate, Edinburgh Review, 88, 1992, 158-162. Also abbreviated in the West Highland Free Press in autumn 1991.
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