I started reading a new book today and from the very first chapter the author challenged my views on idols. I'd always pictured them a bit like this:
Or in more modern visuals: television viewing, a child or spouse, a prize-winning flower garden or any other thing or person - no matter how noble (e.g. a ministry "for the Lord!") - that took the place of God as number one in my life.
Yet after declaring that idols are not simply rocks or wooden carvings, author Debbie Blue states, "Idols are understandings we cling to that end up taking the place of God." (pg. 17) In many churches idols aren't statues, but "concepts and images and ideas and dogmas about God that [are] hard and fast and in no way open to negotiation." (pg. 16)
She also claims, "Reducing the unfathomably gracious, infinitely loving, sweet sublime to something we can grasp is the move of idolatry" (pg. 16), and "we can hardly speak about God without spitting out an idol every other second...Idols help us to order and categorize and calculate" (pg. 24).
The author claims that idols "make so much sense" in their abilities to "aid us, console us, and give us direction," that it's surprising the Bible is adamantly against idolatry!
Yet "Scripture devotes an enormous amount of time and space trying to derail it." Rather than it being "narrow-minded," "rigid," or "pagan-hating disapproval of certain rituals," she says, "I think it's an astounding revelation that however much idolatry seems to secure life, it actually diminishes it. It doesn't make life, it takes it. It may provide stability and orientation, but it is giving our lives to what is not alive. Idolatry is death." (pg. 21)
By contrast, "faith is not ordering our lives according to principles we can firmly grasp, it's being transformed in ways we probably don't even have any idea we need to be, by a living Other who is always outside our grasp - a God who is profoundly, wildly, radically, maybe practically unbearably alive. And we are created, sustained, and redeemed by our relationship with the living God, not by our valiant and sometimes beautiful and sometimes violent and horrible attempts to make order or meaning or to control or comprehend. We are redeemed by the love of God."
"It's not the things (systems, ideologies, ideas) we are attached to that will give us life, save us, redeem us, but the love of the living God." (pg.23)
Thoughts? Do you agree with the author's idea that our religious dogmas, ideas and such can be idols? Why or why not?
And although this is not exactly related to this particular post, I found this picture while looking for photos and immediately thought of someone I know -- my "Jesus hugger" friend! See, I dedicated a picture to you! :-)
You have to see the comments on this post to understand.
Quotes by Debbie Blue in From Stone to Living Word