30 May 2012

doubt #4 - casting out idols

Today it was wall to wall idolatry. 

Idols idols idols.  We’ve got too many of the damn things: pop idols, screen idols, sports idols, rock idols, idle idols, island idols, big brotherly idols, jungle idols, dance idols.  Not really what Richard was talking about, although they did come into it a bit. 

Is anyone thinking we’re missing the real thing to be needful of all these idols?

The changing of the idolotrous guard started way before the sixties…but they are what I remember, in a pre-pubescent sort of a way. 

I remember it being exciting, even if I didn’t have a clue what the pill was for.  The girls looked nice.  The Beatles were F A B.  All you needed was Lurrrrve and it was a Hard Days Night and it had been a bloody awful war.... so I’m told.

The church I went to had idols, statues, icons, symbols, simulacra, images, graven or otherwise,  a solemn atmosphere, men in black who made you feel guilty and somewhat uneasy to be around. Non of it made any sense then, and it still doesn’t now.  'All you needed was love.'  The church could have responded.... ‘No, you need God too,’  which might have been better than saying... ‘Who needs love when you have power and control,’ which is not what they did say, but then, they didn’t really need to. 

But I’m digressing.  Richard said today, that there is, somewhere buried deep inside us, both the need to build up our idols and to cast them down once they’ve passed their sell by date.  The shelf life of todays idols is exceedingly short.

The same process goes on in religion: we set up Gods in our image, but then don’t like what we see in the mirror, and cast them down to be replaced by another image that reflects us in a better light.

He tells us the story of the Golden Calf, whereby Aaron, having got fed up of waiting for Moses to come back from his chin-wag with God on Mt. Sinai gathers up all the bling he can from wives and girlfriends and casts it into an image of God, a golden calf, that they can all grok.
“These are your Gods, Oh Israel, who bought you up out of the land of Egypt.’

The people needed an image of God that they could relate to, rather than the intangible, abstract, far away God that Moses was always harping on about.  They wanted something they could look at, touch, experience. 

The whole point is that God is not tangible.  Images don’t do any good…what image could you make?  Concepts don’t do any good.  God as concept is no good. People spill blood and fight over concepts all the time

“In place of a God who is literally or physically ‘UP THERE’, we have accepted as part of our mental furniture, a God who is spiritually or metaphysically ‘OUT THERE’.  But suppose such a super being ‘OUT THERE’ is really just a sophisticated version of ‘The Old Man In The Sky’?  Have we seriously faced the possibility that, to abandon such an idol, may in the future be the only way of making Christianity meaningful?  Perhaps after all, the Freudians are right, that such a God, the God of Christian popular theology…is a projection.
(John Robinson – Bishop of Woolich – 1963)

“But, what If,” asks Richard, “what if, at the end of this process of overthrowing idols and shattering illusions, nothing is left?  What if we finally make it to the temple of intellectual and spiritual purity, purged of all illusions, and we find it empty?”

Well, obviously, you go and have a nice cup of tea, silly!

I think I know where he’s going with this….. some sort of post-christian compromise that preserves a place in the temple for ‘something’, even if we’re not to give it a name anymore.

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