Dr. Carolyn A. Roth: Americans Got Idols

Unlike ancient mankind most Americans don’t bow down or pray to an image, a carved pole,  ancestors, rulers, or heroes. Twenty-first century westernized society believes it has evolved beyond the knowledge and beliefs of primitive ancestors.

Yet, according to scholars and spiritual leaders, Americans have idols. Americans worship idols.  Different scholars identified a variety of idols. This list is from the “Got Questions” website:

First, we worship at the altar of materialism. We want a bigger house, a better car. We want stuff.

Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. What is my job title, military rank, degrees?

Third, we idolize mankind through naturalism and the power of science. We believe we can control the environment. Science has replaced religion as an explanation of mankind, i.e., evolution.

Fourth, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement. We focus on fulfillment of self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires.Self-aggrandizement manifests as self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, And food.

Pope Benedicts proposed that westernized individuals make an idol of efficiency. I resonate to his assertion. Do you remember when employees were instructed to not work harder but smarter. As a Registered Nurse, I quickly found out that working smarter only went so far. I couldn’t do the work of three RNs no matter how efficient I was in my job. In one job interview, I was asked if I could multi-task. In retrospect, I wasn’t sure if the question was whether or not I could do two things simultaneously, or if I could allocate my work time to handle more than one phase of my job, i.e., teaching, research, and community service. Before the days of videoconferencing, a woman’s magazine article suggested that career women maximize their time by filing their nails while participating in a telephone call. Perhaps that is multi-tasking, i.e., listening, participating, and filing.

Frank Myrland, a Christian writer,  argues that the root cause of all idolatry is covetousness. We covet when we wish for something inordinately. “Inordinately” is an old-fashioned word which means excessive desire. Myrland is 100% correct, covetousness can lead to idolatry; however, I’m less sure than Myrland that covetousness is the only cause of idolatry.

It’s not always easy to identify idols in our lives. Often, we conclude that we have a religious faith so we can’t serve idols. But, that is not true. As earthly focus/diversions become more important, they divert our minds from God’s guiding voice. An article on gods in America (www.churchplants.com) gave questions we can ask ourselves to test for idolatry:

  1. What gets your time and attention? How much time, attention, passion and loyalty do you give to your focus or top diversion? How much time do you give reading novels, watching cable news, participating in social media?
  1. Do you question and evaluate your focus/diversions. Have you ever stepped back and contemplated them? Where on the continuum of God worship versus focus/diversion in your life do you stand?
  1. What public signs of devotion do you display. What logos, jewelry, flags, caps, T-shirts and other clothing items do you consistently wear. What bumper sticker do you have on your car or bike? My friend who lives in Canada shared that in one Canadian province, government employees can’t wear crosses to work.
  1. Are you ethically sensitive to the effects of your devotion/worship? Alternatively does your loyalty result in ethical insensitivity? Do you care about the poor, human trafficking, disease-ravaged individuals? Or, do you conclude that “they made their own bed.”

Individuals who try to balance serving both God and earthly idols will possible fail at serving both, or love the one and hate the other. Remember Israelites who settled in the Promised Land had major problems because they attempted to worship God and Canaanite idols? An individual who claims allegiance to both God and earthly idols is double-minded and unstable.

My husband is on a two-week trip. It has been three days since he left. I hate him being away even though I encouraged him to go on his trip to reconnect with high school friends. I’m lonely without him. As I write this I ask myself “Has my husband become an idol?” Cognitively, I know that as much as I love him, I can’t love him more than I love God. God must have my first allegiance and loyalty.

Worshiping only God, i.e., getting our minds and emotions in line with those of God isn’t always easy; however, it is God’s expectation for us. Almost daily we need to do a personal inventory and discern our priorities. If they are out of line with God’s priorities for us, we are the ones who much change.

Dr. Carolyn A. Roth

Dr. Carolyn A. Roth is a spiritual woman who believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. She is the author of eight books, most of which are Christian nonfiction. Her passion is delving deeper into the Bible to glean wisdom nuggets from relatively obscure passages. Carolyn is a retired university professor who lives in Roanoke, Virginia with her husband, Bruce. Read more at www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

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