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Friday, February 18, 2011

What Is the Deal with Idols?

I don't think Christians understand the reason for the great anger and retribution God directed toward the Hebrews in the Old Testament.  Much of the text of the prophetic writings and the punishment of the Exile came about because of the worship of idols.  I am afraid we think of idols as cultural oddities or evidence of ancient civilizations, rather than the severe affront to his love and mercy that God saw in the practice of worship of idols.

Idols are a man made symbol of a false god.  They are created by human imagination and effort.  God compares idolatry to adultery.  He says it is like unfaithfulness in marriage.  When we have known and experienced the love and mercy of God and then turn from him to seek peace of spirit in other religions, we have have committed adultery. 

Yesterday I began reading an article about Paul Haggis who is a writer and director and creative person in the TV and movie industry.  Haggis had been very active in the Church of Scientology, but he withdrew from the group when he found them to be in conflict with ideas he thought were morally wrong.  In the process he identified several ideas and ideals that didn't match up with the avowed goals of the church.  In reading the article I found a lot of faults in the belief system.  

  • It places human beings at the apex of power and authority.
  • It seeks to develop people according to human perceptions of righteousness.
  • It never even speaks of God.
  • It charges its members for "classes" to learn how to be spiritual.
  • It uses psychological methods dictated by the leaders to teach their methods while denying people help from independent counselors.
  • It is a system of mind control and a very lucrative one for the Church of Scientology.
The worship of idols is not just an interesting diversion.  It denies people the benefits of true worship of God.  It distorts the mind and the heart.  For all their claims of success in business and professional pursuits, adherents like Paul Haggis found nothing but emptiness and frustration as the foundation of their faith.  

In the Old Testament God punished the Israelites to bring them back to him.  After the return to Israel we don't see any evidence of the golden calf that had been with them since they wandered in the wilderness.  But they paid a horrible penalty for that mistake.  We, too, will suffer tragedy and failure when we turn from God to idols.