Full disclosure: I have never watched an entire episode of “American Idol”. I’ve watched the viral clips on YouTube and know what the show is about. This post is not about the show. What it’s about is the term “idol”, and how easily we use it in North American as a nearly synonymous substitute for “star”. The word “idol” has been emptied of its historical root meaning. Which may mean, perhaps, that we are more susceptible to, well, idolatry.
Here’s Ganesh. He is located in the lobby of the hotel where I am staying as I write this. Needless to say, I am not at a Best Western on Main Street, Canada. I am in Kakinada, India, where Canadian Baptist international mission word began 140 years ago (just 7 years after Canada began — how cool is that?! — we’ve got outward-looking DNA in our history).
India is, of course, a multi-religious context where the dominant faith, Hinduism, is poly-theistic. Very polytheistic, I might add — there are lots and LOTS of divinities within Hinduism; though some may argue that the various divinities are all emanations from the one Ultimate Reality, certainly at the felt-experience level of the average Hindu, there are multiple gods.
So now I’m going to use the word “idol” in its original old-fashioned non-American sense: “an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.” In my hotel lobby, the idol is obvious. But I would suggest that there are other less-obvious idols that we who live in North America worship, and maybe because we’ve stopped using the word in its original sense and are instead using it to describe stars and (in)famous celebrities, we may be in danger of not recognizing the danger we’re in . . . idolatry.
What might be our idols? Comfort? Ease? Pleasure? Money? Leisure? Achievement? Whatever our lives orbit around may well be our idol(s).
I’ll let you figure out the list for your life. I know the list for mine.
In this season of Easter, part of the joy of the resurrection is knowing that Christ has redeemed (or conquered) all of the false gods and disempowered them. Our job as Christ-followers is to not re-empower them. The earliest confession of faith for the early Church was the simple but profound “Jesus is Lord”. Not Caesar, not ganesh, not Western lifestyles . . . nothing, other than Jesus.