In his influential book A Theology of Liberation, theologian and Dominican Priest Gustavo Gutiérrez described a kind of deconstruction happening among the mid-twentieth century youth in Latin America. Much of what he described in these youth movements can map onto the deconstruction movement among younger Western Evangelicals today, shedding light onto common dynamics and concerns.
Gutiérrez described a position held by the Latin American Church that he called “the distinction of planes.” In this view, the Church believed there could be a hard separation between their mission and direction action in the world. The Church understood their role to simply be evangelization and moral teaching; they were to have no direct action in social justice or reform. “[The Church] was not to interfere, as institution, in temporal matters… to intervene directly… is to betray [its] function.” Individual Christians could influence the temporal order of things, so long as they have “the fullest respect for the autonomy of temporal society” (37).
This model is similar to those held by Western Evangelicals of the last century. Focusing on a hard divide between the Church and society, Evangelicals developed all kinds of theological justification and ministry philosophies to justify a narrow, individualistic focus. Like the Latin American Church of the mid-twentieth century, Western Evangelicals have confined the mission of the Church along similar lines: evangelism and individualistic moral teaching.