capitalism, faith, liberation, quote

Idolatry, Capitalism, and Liberation

It is no accident that today the centrality and importance of the problem of idolatry have been discovered in Latin America. Idolatry is part of our deepest experience when we live, express, and communicate our faith in the God of Jesus Christ, in the present situation of extreme oppression on our continent. We live in a profoundly idolatrous world–economically, socially, politically, culturo-ideologically, and religiously. We live crushed under the idols of an oppressive and unjust system. To live the demands of faith in this context is not simply a ‘pious’ or personal act; it necessarily entails a radical confrontation with that system. Idolatry is a question of politics and a question of faith. If capitalism were atheistic, it is possible that our faith would not have this subversive strength within a practice of political liberation. But capitalism is idolatrous rather than atheistic, which poses a political and theological problem at the same time, especially within the context of Latin American capitalism.

The biblical message against idolatry reaches us very directly and deeply. It is a message that interprets our reality with no major exegetical complications. However, today we are living through a new situation, one that did not exist in biblical times, making this anti-idolatry proclamation even more pressing and radical. This new reality is the praxis of liberation, with all its political, organic, and theoretical complexities. In biblical times, the possibility of a radical and conscious transformation of the economic and political structure of an idolatrous system did not yet exist. Today the possibility exists.

Christians who adopt the praxis of liberation also adopt the anti-idolatry proclamation of the Bible within a different historical context. This is not only a reinterpretation within a ‘hermeneutical circle’ (an expression we should eliminate), but rather a ‘hermeneutical leap’ into a new historical situation. In this new situation, faith and the revelation of God in history are more critical and radical than they were in biblical times.

Pablo Richard, “Biblical Theology of Confrontation with Idols” in The Idols of Death and the God of Life: A Theology, 24. Edited by Pablo Richard.


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