Monday, February 2, 2009

Idols: American or Otherwise

About a month ago, I watched an episode of "King of the Hill" that got me to thinking. (It's a show about an awkward but kind Texas family... it took awhile to grow on me, but now I find it absolutely hilarious.)

On this particular episode, the pre-teen son, Bobby, has found his cousin's beauty school practice head (a plastic head with a wig) and has been talking and singing to it so that he'll feel more comfortable around girls. His dad finds out about this and is totally embarrassed that his son would do that, so awkwardly, he comes to his room to talk about it:

Hank Hill: "You're just using this head as a crutch."
Bobby Hill: (totally serious) "It's not a crutch, dad. It's just something I've come to rely on to help me through life."
:) Witty, right?

But as I thought about this quote (to be truthful, wondering how I could incorporate it into a post because it cracked me up so much), I began thinking about how familiar words can actually cause us to misinterpret meanings at times. Because we *think* we know what something means, we can skim over it and altogether miss what's being said. I think we (the American church) do this with biblical references to "idols" and "idolatry", because they seem so foreign and ancient.

Allow me to share a few definitions:
  • idol: somebody or something greatly admired or loved, often to excess
  • idolatry: when anything or anybody gets what God alone deserves
  • idol: an object of passionate devotion; a person or thing greatly loved or adored.
  • idolatry: excessive attachment to or respect of anything, high esteem which borders on adoration. (adapted from Websters to make more readable)
Let's look at some of these words...
  • admiration
  • love
  • excess
  • passion
  • excitement
  • esteem
  • adored
  • attachment to
...and consider with me... What things or people would be described by these words in our lives?
  • TV shows?
  • Decorating/designing the home?
  • Scrapbooking?
  • Blogging?
  • Homeschooling?
  • Food?
  • A particular method of child-rearing?
  • A particular doctrinal view?
  • Oprah or Dr. Phil or some other TV sage/guru?
  • A pastor?
  • Sex?
  • A particular hobby?
  • Getting/staying thin?
  • Money?
  • A powerful position?
  • Being respected?
What things are being idolized in your life? (And for me, what things am I idolizing?) What things are taking our time, energy, and passion? What things are getting our devotion above and before God? What things are we meditating on and spending your money on? What is being excessively adored in our lives?

I don't use these words lightly. Our family has seen-- firsthand-- real, live, bow-down-to-big-metal-statue idolatry, when we went to Thailand for a few months to have our third child. It isn't pretty-- it's heartbreaking bondage and emptiness. To walk past idol houses and see foods, beverages, money, and gifts left for the "spirits"... to see women paying entranced priests so that they might have favor with Buddha. It broke my heart to see how idolatry, in this obvious form, is alive and real and a great stronghold in this world.

But it did show me how much-- in living color-- an idol is something that takes one's focus, soaking up attention, time, devotion, money, and loyalty. And then I brought that message home to roost in my own heart-- because idolatry, in any form, is an affront to God.

To hear something that's particularly insightful to me on this point, would you take a minute and scroll down to the bottom of this webpage? In the black box, you'll find a list of songs. Click on the very top song, called "America's Idols." It may prove helpful as you consider these things... I know it has been challenging to me.

A final "scene" to consider--
God: "You're letting __________________ become an idol in your life."
Any of us: "It's not an idol, God. It's just something I adore that takes all my time, mental energy, passion, money, and attention."
That scene is sad, and probably all too common. It hits close to home when we substitute in whatever things that we individually struggle with excessively focusing on (eating out, TV shows, blogging, football season, politics/doctrine, homeschool goals, etc.)-- those things that take the place of God, as supremely valuable and worship-worthy, in our lives.

Most High God, help us to each evaluate our own lives-- our passions, the things we focus on, the people we admire, and the things we devote ourselves to-- in light of Your Word. Help us to flee from any idolatry in our lives.

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