Probe: Idolatry

In evangelical culture there is a constant search for idols in a person’s life. We must identify and destroy the idols, typically of luxury cars, money, television, and so on. While there is an element of truth to this, could it be that the focus on idols as a graven thing blinds us to more abstract concepts of idolatry, which would probably be best understood as religious—or at the very least, ultimate concern? We conflate veneration with worship, the protestant mind unable to differentiate between the two, but the analogous mind able to differentiate between the honor-imitative form of veneration and the transcendent-subservience form of worship which asks us to re-order our lives around a liturgy of devotion. We have mistaken one form for another, and are thus able to easily identify the idolatry of a fanatic of comics, movies, television, the idolatry of a collector of cars, memorabilia, and physical consumer products. What we miss are the abstract, conceptual forms of idolatry or world-view formation, thus missing politics (of which we are quite guilty) and the understanding of sin being that which separates us from God, which may be a physical thing or a conceptual thing. Thus we miss the theological rhetoric behind events such as Black Friday or the co-mingling of incompatible worldviews with Christian ideas. It isn’t the idol we should be afraid of, it is our daily, behavioral liturgy.