grasping at space

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  • Friday, May 20, 2005

    Talk about a false god...

    The most basic, bare-bones definition of idolatry is the worship of a false god, the object of worship generally taking the form of a statue or other physical object. Additionally, the word has taken on some metaphorical meaning.

    Fundamentalism has taken the definition of idolatry to a ridiculous degree, an example of which you can see in these sermon notes by Kevin Cauley.

    Cauley sums up the fundamentalist point of view quite nicely: “[A]nything can be an idol to us if we put it before God in our lives.” The drawback to such a stringent definition is that it strongly tends to lead to holier-than-thouism. A relatively weak-willed believer will give up some benignly self-indulgent activities for fear of not being right with God. No more after-dinner cocktails. No bowling league. Forget about that baseball game on TV. Better give up smoking – not because it’s unhealthy, but because it’s ungodly. A friendly game of poker? How covetous! Tickets to an opera? Sorry, gotta go read my Bible.

    On the other hand, a strong-willed believer will consider Cauley’s laundry list of sins and conclude (erroneously) that she is more right with God than that fellow churchgoer who golfs every Saturday. Extracurricular activities become the moral standard by which she judges herself closer to God than others.

    When I read Cauley’s notes, I found it very interesting to note that even he seems to become a bit uncomfortable with the degree to which he extends the metaphor, stating in his section on leisure, “I want to be clear that none of these things individually are sinful in moderation.” Unfortunately, he makes this statement in reference to things like golf and fishing, while earlier in the notes having been crass enough to make the bartender the moral equivalent of the pimp. (Perhaps he should be more moderate in his moralizing.)

    In the interest of full disclosure, I want to confess to my readers that I am guilty of idolatry. I am a light smoker (four or five clove cigarettes a week). I love whiskey. I own about 1000 CDs and about 600 books. I play Texas Hold ‘em online. I play fantasy baseball with the guys at Lawyers, Guns & Money. Which reminds me, I’m a blogger. (How could I forget my most self-indulgent activity?)

    I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. But, taken as a whole, does this make me more of an idolater than someone who would put this on the back of his car?


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