I notice that you are very religious…

Idolatry 01I’ve noticed that there is a common desire on the part of humans to have a divine imprimatur on everything we do, be that a car purchase or a job selection or a person married.  On the face of it, this seems like a good thing – to want to make divine choices.

But sometimes we just want God or god/s to approve our choices and leave us alone.

This god-desire may be found across the breadth of human opinion and experience.  Conservatives and liberals, southerners and northerners, religious and non-religious, believers and unbelievers – all want to believe that something or someone affirms them.

When you’re trying to create get-er-done gods, it is important to customize them a little to match a unique point of view or desire.  Like a woman a friend of mine told me about.  She moved in with her boyfriend and told my friend that if she got pregnant, it was God’s will.  Customized theology ignores realities like fertility and having the equipment designed to produce pregnancy.  Approval is the big deal, not the particulars.

Ancient Israel mixed and matched gods in a pragmatic way to insure that they got good crops and lot’s of babies.  When they needed a particular political outcome, they were not shy about adding the gods of their neighbors to their pantheon.  Sorta like picking paint for the home remodel.

Similarly, when the apostle Paul went to Athens he found a city filled with idols.  One of the many statues was inscribed, “to the unknown god” in an effort to avoid hurting some god’s feelings by ignoring her/him.

Paul told his audience of philosophers that he noticed how religious they were.  The word he used was the most general and neutral word for “religious.”  A word more like “superstitious” or “hedge your bets.”

The general hunger for God is a good thing.  It reminds us that we were created for something greater.  The fact that the hunger is amorphous and unfocused is not good.  It opens the door to blind grasping.  Reaching for anything that scratches an itch or feeds a hunger.  That’s when it becomes idolatrous.

Ask Israel.  They went so far as to sacrifice some of their babies in the Valley of Hinnom to a god that consumed them in a bronze oven.  They were ignorant and undiscriminating in their worship of the false god.  An idol.

It is not uncommon to hear a driver announce that the perfect parking spot she found near the mall was “meant to be.”  Some god had reserved that spot just for just the right moment.  So also the shoes, purse, and dress purchased in the mall.  “Meant to be.”

Wanting God or a god to bless our lives is both good and bad.  Good because it reminds us of our divine hunger.  Bad because it is too easy to go for fast food rather than the richness of diet that only God can supply.

It’s like saying “meant to be” because it tickled a fancy rather than wrestling with life and God to discover what is true, wise, enduring, and in accord with God’s true desire for us.

I must also say that I doubt that the God who sent his son to us really cares about parking places or that adorable dress.  Maybe another god does.