03 July, 2012

Idols? They're a Personal Thing

A thought here about idols in America. Basically, we don't have any and we might be slightly better off if we did.

In Sunday School we were looking at Samuel and how he made Israel throw away their Ba'als and Astartes. The conversation turned and turned until someone said something that made America's problem crystal clear.

The gist was this. When you sacrificed some grain to Ba'al or did a dance for Astarte or whatever it is you did to gain their favor, you rather expected and even felt entitled to a good crop or a son or whatever you prayed for. And that's why God was so offended by those idols. Some Israelite would sacrifice to Ba'al, received rain from YHWH Who sends His rain on the just and the unjust, grow a nice crop, and tell all his friends how trustworthy Ba'al was. The Israelites really trusted Ba'al in his little sphere of the world. God would not share the credit for the things He did with anyone, imaginary or not, so He fought back.

In America, that could never happen. We put our trust in 401k or the Affordable Healthcare Act or the stock market or welfare or private enterprise. When one of those things fails us, we're disillusioned or depressed or angry, but we don't feel personally betrayed. Our systems and processes are not personal. They're not idols.

The same goes for everything else they call an idol in America: TV, rock stars, sports teams, movie stars, political heroes. We're a lot more likely to ascribe the success of our personal favorites to God than we are to praise them for delivering something to us we'd actually received from God. We don't personally trust personal idols the way everyone did three thousand years ago.

Instead, we don't trust anything beyond ourselves and our kind. Our science, our governments, our culture. We trust our systems and processes, and we are simply assured there's nothing relational to them at all. That ancient Israelite trusted a "someone" named YHWH or Ba'al with his crops. Either way, he knew something was beyond in the control of some other being to whom he could and should relate. The modern American buys a tractor, digs a well, irrigates, and handles pests using tools well within his control. As long as rain comes to someone, somewhere, he'll be able to buy water from his neighbors or the aquifer or somewhere and he'll be fine. And if not, there are a couple safety nets he can fall into. There's nothing personal, nothing relational, about it.

American pagans don't have idols any more, but they don't have anyone else to relate to either. And when we become converted, I think it's very hard for us to make the transition to there suddenly being an invisible Being in our lives Who cares for us and about us, to Whom we can relate.

I'm not quite sure what it all means yet, but it was an interesting discussion. I love Sunday School.


Kansas Bob said...

Sounds like a great discussion Kevin. I sometimes wonder what it really means to trust God in America these days.

For me trusting often means trusting his presence in my heart rather than using the "smart" thinking in my head (ala Prov 3). It is really difficult to do because my heart often does not make sense to my head.

A few weeks ago I sensed my head really fighting me when my heart spoke to me about giving something much more than I planned to a friend in need. In a sense our mind is all about the idolatry of things but our redeemed heart is able to see past the idols and to the essence of the issue.

Thanks for listening and for the opportunity to think out loud a bit. :)

Hope you 4th is/was great!

Blessings, Bob

PS: Captcha plus moderation?

Kevin Knox said...

Head vs. Heart. Trusted idols vs. lusted idols. I'm sure it's all very fuzzy, and I have no firm answers. I praise the Lord He seems to make a lot of room for us to be who we are as we make our way through to Him.

Paul says some make idols of their bellies, but I'm not sure he would have understood that quite so literally as I once took it. Either way, trusting the invisible God is harder than I wish it were.

Like trusting Him with some of the hateful stuff that gets left on this blog when moderation and captcha are off. :-D

Blogger upgraded and made my settings maximally conservative. I was glad for it when I'd not posted in months and it auto-moderated some pretty ugly things. Per your hint, I've loosened the settings considerably and turned off captcha. I'm not sure I'll post out here any time soon again, but when I do you'll hopefully be able to comment more easily. Thanks, Bob.

Kansas Bob said...

As I have probably said ad nauseum :)
... the journey of these last few years has been one of trusting my redeemed innermost being and rejecting the idolatry of my mind. For years I idolized my theology and boxed God out with (so called) intellectual rationalizations. Life changed when I began to trust God working in my innermost being.

Thanks for removing captcha. Since I disallowed anonymous comments years ago I get virtually no spam or hateful comments on any of my blogs. I think that I have had to delete one or two in the past year.

Hope you are enjoying the day dear friend. Say hi to your lovely wife for me.