Recovering the Ministry of Exorcism: 3 Steps

Luke Timothy Johnson lays out a helpful framework for how the church should “practice exorcism.” A few preliminary thoughts: 1) His use of “mythological language” doesn’t mean ‘untrue’; he’s arguing quite the opposite. He ascribes to this term the way of explaining things that transcend the empirical limitations of psychology. 2) Johnson’s reference to “homophobia” does align with other statements within the volume where he criticizes what he thinks is an obsession of the church with sexual mores to an extent that it transcends our gospel identity (which can be debated if he’s conflating the church’s public, cultural witness with their gospel mission). I only affirm his criticism of homophobia among the church to the extent that it paralyzes compassion and love. One example of this would be the Westboro Baptist Church, whose very domain name is: http://www.godhatesfags.com . Certainly, a church shouldn’t brand its identity on hatred for a particular segment of society. 3) Johnson is right on in suggesting that the church needs to exorcise the demonic as it manifests itself institutionally. This sort of exorcism does not come overnight, but involves a long, and sometimes painful process. One such example in my mind would be the tragedy of abortion in America.

How can churches practice exorcism against such contemporary examples of Satan’s “counterkingdom”? Three steps seem necessary and basic. First, the church must be able and willing to name the demonic evil for what it is. To be blind to forms of human captivity and oppression is, ultimately, to share in them. Naming requires, to be sure, a renewed comfort with mythological language and its value in identifying realities that transcend the empirical. False demonization is itself a form of evil-doing, but naming as demonic that which systemically oppresses and destroys humans is sober truth-telling. Second, the church must resist such demonic systems “in the name of Jesus Christ.” To do this, the church must constantly examine the ways in which allegiance to the name of Jesus demands a rejection of all forms of oppressive and enslaving behavior and the ways in which the church’s current practice may fall short of that norm: to what extent do racism and sexism and homophobia, for example, hold members of the community captive from within? Third, the church needs to work to provide an alternative to such systems of oppression in its own life, by cultivating the poverty, prayer, freedom (itinerancy), and servant leadership that oppose the hegemonic and oppressive values of Satan’s counterkingdom.(The bold font is mine)

Luke Timothy Johnson. Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church: The Challenge of Luke-Acts to Contemporary Christians (Kindle Locations 2388-2395). Kindle Edition.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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