“God has made humans to reflect Him, but if they do not commit themselves to Him, they will not reflect Him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: We either reflect the Creator or something in creation…. All humans have been created to be reflecting beings, and they will reflect whatever they are ultimately committed to, whether the true God or some other object in the created order…. We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.”
G. K. Beale
We Become What We Worship
“Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me”
Idolatry is a odd mechanism.
The above quote is true but it is only half true. The half that it leaves out is the fact that before fallen man can reflect his idols he must first make his idols and the idols he always makes are merely extensions of himself. The idols of fallen man are merely man said loudly. So, here you have fallen man who reifies and objectifies himself as a idol he has cast and then he turns right around and seeks to reflect himself in the very idol he has created. So, at the same time we can say that man is the creator of the idol, but also that the idol is the creator of man. So, in the end all idol worship, however grotesque, humorous, and lamentable, is in reality just varied forms of self worship.
The oddness in idolatry is compounded by the fact that man, the inveterate worshiper, seeks, in his modern installment, to outlaw or confine worship and religion. Modern man says he will outlaw all idols and idolatry and will once for all be done with such superstition. Yet the minute he seeks to cleanse the public square of all the Idols he finds himself enthroning a whore as the “Goddess of Reason,” in the Notre Dame Cathedral. August Comte spent his life seeking to abolish worship and religion and when he was finished he established a new religion and proposed a hierarchy with himself at the top of the food chain and the soul of his deceased mistress as a sort of Queen of Heaven, and not being satisfied with that he created a liturgical humanist calendar by which to mark days and seasons. The humanist eliminates idols and religions and replaces them with himself as the chief idol.
Every people who have refused to bow to God in every age has had their defacto idolatry dejour. The fact that idolatry has been seen universally where ever and when ever the God of the Bible is fore-sworn is indicative that of something intrinsic in human nature. Man will have his idols. There is no turning from God without a turning to an idol. As we have seen in the paragraph above, those who are the most adamantly materialistic are most hopelessly idolatrous. The more materialistic they are and the more they insist they have no gods the more it becomes evident that they are their own gods.
This proclivity towards reflecting our idols starts at a tender age, and is understood by the marketing gods of our times. When I was a child, little girls were given “Barbie dolls” and the hourglass, glamorous Barbie became for girls everywhere a kind of subtle idol through which their playtime formed in them a vision of the woman they were supposed to reflect. In light of the fact that we now have those who are fostering a idolatry where the boys and girls are encouraged to choose their own gender one kind of pines for the days when the subtle Barbie idols reinforced in girls that they were supposed to be female. The idols can always get more twisted.
As I studied my Church History I used to shake my head in amazement at the idols that previous cultures could create and reflect. How could any people turn the Saints into idols or worship and adore relics as idols? Yet, I find myself living now in a culture that gives that same fawning adoration to the celebrity and the “Star” as Idols, and we have placed our modern demigods in our own version of a liturgical calendar year that includes the Grammys, The Oscars, The Emmys and the Superbowl halftime show as our annual high Holy Feast Days. August Comte just lacked the pizzazz of the entertainer.
Civilizations and cultures past have always had their idols. We have reverted in our idolatry to the fertility cults of old. We worship the phallus and the sex act. Janet Jackson gives us a little breast action on one of our recent High Holy Day celebrations. The year following “Prince” gives us the outline of the penis in his Super Bowl performance. This year we got the “Material girl,” (how appropos that?) giving us the usual bumping and grinding with a little Masonic and Kabbalah symbolism thrown. The devotees of the idols loved it and the gods were pleased with the adoration.
Civilizations, in more refined times past have made heroes of Holy Man, or some have made idols of the Poet-Warrior. Our civilization has as our idol not only the sex crazed Onanist as seen in the barely dressed bumbers, and grinders that we see everywhere, but we also worship as idols the pretenders. We worship the celebrity, the actor, and the entertainer. Of course these people, in what they are worshiped for, are not real and so we worship the illusionists and so we as a people are illusory. Like what we worship there is no content to us, we have no moral gravitas (weightiness), and we are all personality and no character.
And the final insult is that we have brought all of this idolatry into our Churches. The Churches that pack them in specialize in the illusory and are staffed by professional celebrity illusionists. Like the Temple in Jeremiah’s time which was filled with every pagan idol imaginable, the contemporary Church has simply transferred the idolatry of our zeitgeist into the sanctuary. Worship is now showtime and the Pastor is Madonna.
The result of our idols is that we, as a people, when we are not about sex, have about us the same nothingness as a good illusion. We are not real. We are as substantive as mist, as interesting as water, and as boring as multiple reheated leftovers.
And we love it so.