Idolatry, Oppression and the Development of Demons: Part 10, The Spiritual Roots of Liberation Theology

So why in these nine posts have I been walking through the development of demons in the bible? Why draw attention to how the oppressive gods of the nations become associated with demons?

Because, as we've seen in these posts, this development shows how in the biblical imagination the demonic has both a spiritual and political aspect.

At its heart, the biblical notion of the demonic rests on this central idea: Spiritual idolatry is the root cause of oppression.

That insight is one of the main reason I wrote Reviving Old Scratch, to draw attention to the spiritual roots of liberation theology.

In the bible justice flows out of the worship of God. Spiritual revival is the prerequisite of political change.

Political and economic systems orbit spiritual values and priorities. And until those spiritual values and priorities are brought into alignment with the kingdom of God political and economic systems will be stubbornly resistant to change. People with good intentions might agree that our political and economic systems are unfair and unjust, but until we begin to live with new values nothing much will change, politically and economically speaking. As the gospels tell us, the kingdom of God begins with repentance, a spiritual change that results in a new pattern of life. And change is what no one wants to do. It's too costly and inconvenient. And so the political and economic systems of the nations roll on unchanged. Even as we name them as unjust and oppressive.

This is why calls for social justice are often so impotent. These calls frequently ignore the deep spiritual rot that is at the root of oppression. As the bible teaches us, the root cause of oppression is idolatry, worshiping the "god of the nation," the animating spirituality guiding our political and economic arrangements. The bible discerns the diabolical aspect of these reigning spiritualities, a religious perspective many social justice warriors lack.

As I recount in Reviving Old Scratch, we must take our cue from Exodus. When we think of Moses confronting Pharaoh, we think of the primordial cry of liberation theology: "Let my people go!"

We assume that this cry was a demand for political emancipation. It was, but the cry was, originally, a cry for spiritual renewal and revival. Moses' demand "Let my people go!" was first a request to worship. Here is the very first exchange between Pharaoh and Moses:
Exodus 5.1
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
Let my people go, so that they can worship. The cry for spiritual renewal and revival precedes the cry for political emancipation.

These are the spiritual roots of liberation theology.

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