Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year's Resolution #2 - No False Gods

Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
- Wisdom 13:3

We're moving through Exodus in my biblical studies class (yes, I like to move slowly through the beginning of the Bible, everything happens in Genesis and Exodus anyway. The rest of the Old Testament right up to Malachi is just a vicious circle... until Jesus breaks in!).

So... presently we're looking at the idolatrous practices of Egypt, and Israel's addiction to false gods too. After all, it was the very air they breathed for 400 years, and the moment they are out of Egypt and left alone for a few weeks, they go and build a Golden Calf (aka, a tribute to the Egyptian cult of Apis, which is basically an obsession over sex, power, and wealth for the ancients). Israel falls right back into Egypt!

I like to tell my students how refreshing it is, how ennobling, that we can all look back and laugh at those silly ancients, worshiping frogs and the Nile River and bulls and sheep and stuff. Ha! We've certainly learned from their mistakes, eh what? My how we've progressed! No false idols here, no sirree. No physical wrappings or trappings enshrining strength or virility, control, power or sex for us moderns. As the old Virginia Slims ad used to say, "You've come a long way baby!"


I'm not gonna lie to you. I have my addictions, my own list of idols. I love my Mac, my ipod. I look at my cell phone about 124 times a day. That's why they call it a "crack"berry. I wonder if I could go a day without the internet, how 'bout a week? Yes yes, I know, it's a part of life now. My work is IN the internet. It's a tool, a platform for teaching, for information, etc. etc.

All true.

I'm not saying the iPhone, the internet, Blackberries, Blueberries, ipods, whatever are BAD. Don't you know me? And guess what... for ancient Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and yes, our dear Israel, the stuff they slipped into wasn't bad in and off itself either: the beauty of the stars, the paragon of animals, their strength and virility, their power and cunning, the life-giving waters of the Nile; these really did bring them life after all.... and yet.

"... If they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them. For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen." - Wisdom 13:4-5

How easily I slip into excess. From moderation to undulation, and from seeing the icon (a light-flooded sacrament of a thing), to twisting it into an idol. Into my precioussssss....

Sound dramatic? Well... if I end up spending more time looking at my techno-gadget than I do the person in front of me, or around me, than that ipod has become an igod! Is this a real kick in the pants for you? It is for me! I stink at fasting! LENT IS COMING!! I jokingly said to my students yesterday that I was giving up the internet for Lent...

"Impossible!" they cried in unison.

"It can't be done!" they shouted.

"Is this going to be on the test?"

Poor us, so addicted to electricity, gadgetry, ease and comfortability. It's been called "technolatry" - the new idolatry for the 21st century.


St. John of the Cross once wrote "It comes to the same thing whether a bird be held by a slender cord or by a stout one; since, even if it be slender, the bird will be as well held as though it were stout. . . . And thus the soul that has attachment to anything, however much virtue it possess, will not attain to the liberty of divine union."

Ouch. Time for some soul searching and a little more letting go. I just have to turn to my wife Rebecca for inspiration. So grounded is she in the person before her, it astounds me. When I try to show off some new fireworks, bells and whistles I've found on the "Machine"... she just smiles and makes some tea.
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