Wednesday, March 14, 2012

American Idols

Its shiny and it reminds me of
steak.  Seems worshippable to me.
Ever wonder about idolatry?  I sat around procrastinating today and wondered to myself, "Why don't we worship golden calves anymore?"  Well, actually, I was wondering more along the lines of "Why the hell did we ever worship golden calves in the first place?!"  So it brought me to ponder idolatry.

Stanley Hauerwas once said that you can learn everything from a man by asking him one question:  "What do you worship?"  Granted, if I were to try to stop some bloke on the street and ask him said question, he'd probably look at me funny, mumble something that includes the words "stupid kids" and go along his way.  If he were nice enough to answer, he'd probably say "God" (or the flying spaghetti monster, atheism's delicious marinara-flavored deity), and then he'd go along his way. Very seldom would I get an answer that moved beyond one or two startled, half-hearted words.

SPOILER ALERT:  Chris Tomlin wrote the music.
All of it.
In society today, we've contained the idea of worship to a very small little paradigm.  When we thing "worship", we usually think something along the lines of a Sunday religious service, typically with lots of singing and praising and a drive-it-home-so-you-can-remember-it-past-the-parking-lot preaching.  Or if you're Catholic like me, you'll see it as Mass, with some music (most of which not being contemporary "praise" music), lots of body posturing, rituals galore, and mediocre-at-best preaching.  Regardless, our minds immediately summon these images to our mind when we consider worship, and rightfully so, because these are very visual forms of worship.  However, we know there is a growing demographic of those who don't go to church, who range from "I'm spiritual, not religious" to "I swear to all things scientific, if you so much as mention intelligent design, I'll go Charles Darwin on your ____."  It'd seem our current society has an aversion to the idea of worship.

Or rather, they don't like the existing paradigm of worship.  To them, the idea of hands in the air, or folded in prayer, or cupped to receive communion is about as appealing as sticking them in a bear trap.  And, while I hope one day they come to see the value of these forms of worship (especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), I can see where they're coming from.  From the perspective of the outsider, worship is foreign at best, repulsive at worse, and, dare I say it, shallow in either situation.

You see, its human nature to worship, but not necessarily to worship those ways.  Worship can (and ought) to be defined, not as something purely religious, but as something purely human.  Human beings are cause oriented; that is to say that we tend to have some form of motivation behind our actions.  We give considerably to the realization these goals.  Whether it be the suburban business dad giving a ridiculous amount of time in a cubicle so that he can buy the nice car/house/in-ground pool (with illuminated waterfall), or the 15 yr old kid desperately trying to achieve uber-pwnage in MW3, we invest ourselves in our goals.  To me, our motivations are our religion, and our self-investment is our worship.  And thus, we find that people are worshipping every day, every where, in nearly every way imaginable.

Meh, I'll worship the calf if its all the same
So I ask the question Hauerwas started us off with:  "What are we worshipping?"  What's our true religion? What are we really worshipping (especially outside of the pews)?  For the Christian, is it really Jesus Christ? For the non-Christian, is it worth-while?  As a culture, we laugh at the notion that someday, somewhere, someone used to worship a golden calf.  Yet, we have some incredibly ridiculous worshipers ourselves.  I'm convinced that some people genuinely worship Jersey Shore, whether they know it or not.

His pursuit for touchscreened glory
rivals even the most Homeric
of epics.
People worship all sorts of things: money, power, pleasure, fame, freedom, celebrities, music, (and most dangerously) ourselves, and the list trails on.  The same critic who may say "I worship the flying spaghetti monster so as to mock any sort of deism" , will, at the same time, move heaven and earth in order to get the newest Apple product.

I challenge all of you reading this, consider the possibility that you may be worshiping an idol, and that idol may be every bit as ridiculous as a golden calf.  I get a little concerned when I see people killing each other on Black Friday, not just because someone literally shot another person in a Toys R' Us in front of their children, but because people are so obsessed with a bargain that they will literally kill for it (nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a blood-stained Tickle Me Elmo.  Thanks Dad!  Hope you get parole by the time I turn 40!)

Holy Mass:  Heaven on Earth
Modern secular worship seems to have one commonality:  It ultimately returns to sender.  When we worship golden calves, we ultimately worship the makers of the golden calves.  That's always been one of my favorite differences between Christian worship and idol worship:  While idol worship ultimately collapses one inwards, Christian worship will ultimately call someone out of themselves.  When we worship at the altars of idols, we loose the sense of wonder in the world. A person's fanatical fascination with Jersey Shore doesn't make their world a more fascinatingly marvelous place, it makes everything reek of G.T.L.  Christian worships prompts us to be outwardly oriented, to always see the world as something new, something fascinating, and as something imbued with the breath of God.  Everything takes new significance, new purpose, the most profound of all being human life.  I find nothing extraordinary from being a member of the same species as Pauly D, but I find it absolutely life-changing to be a made in the image and likeness of God.

So I urge you reading this:  ask yourself Hauerwas' great question: "What do I worship?"  I urge you to worship Christ, and to let him open the world up to you.

1 comment:

  1. Joe, You write very well and I appreciate the comedic flare in explaining your point to the reader.

    I just started forwarding these to my daughter in DuPont Washington who will find these interesting as well.

    Looking forward to your future commentaries.

    Kim Hess