Idolatry is a horrible, dangerous thing. Sadly, far too many Christians are so very guilty of it. You can see it in the way they complain on social media, in the way they comment on the news of the day; in the defeatist, alarmist language that they use as to describe the world. You see it in the way they furrow their brows, and throw up their hands, and slam their pulpits. It shows-up in the lazy stereotypes and the religious rhetoric that flows so easily in church lobby coffee chats and extremist blog rants.
It’s as if everything has now become an imminent threat: Muslims, Atheists, Gays, The President, inner city criminals, Hollywood, illegal immigrants, The Government, school hallways. The world outside the church building is broadly painted as a vile, immoral war zone, with “God’s people” hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned.
Parroting the politicized talk show hosts and re-posting the latest terrible news stories, they perpetuate the now comfortable, largely White Evangelical Christian narrative of impending destruction, and they make it clear at every opportunity: The whole damn sky is falling!
Though they loudly, repeatedly and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality they no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control and inherent God-ness. They seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore.
He’s lost his Old Testament swagger. Dig just beneath the sunny “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Bible covers, and the shouted “God’s judgment is coming” bullhorn warnings, and you can see that the Emperor is buck naked.
For far too many Christians, all that flowery, blustery spiritual talk is a loud paper tiger dressed-up as religion. The truth is, Fear has become their false God, one they worship with complete and undying devotion. The symptoms of Fear Idolatry are pretty easy to spot.
When you’re not sure that God is there or that He’ll really come through, you start to spend most of your time defending Him in absentia. You become a self-appointed Crusader of Truth, whose mission is to do the holy work of policing the world (just in case God can’t or won’t). You spend a lot of time calling out evil, forecasting disaster and predicting damnation.
When Fear is your God, you start majoring in Exterior Sin Management. You slowly yet ultimately turn all of your attention to the things in other people that you’re certain really tick God off, and you make it your sacred business to modify their behaviour in the name of Jesus. When your God isn’t big enough, you’ll try to do in others what you’ve decided He wants, instead of actually trusting Him to do it Himself.
I really feel for Christians whose Jesus seems so integral to personal salvation in the afterlife, and so useless for the life we live now. He may be able to save souls, but He’s apparently freaked-out by a Muslim prayer breakfast or gay marriage vote or school prayer policy. Is that really God? Is that Divinity?
Is that the One about Whom the psalmist wrote: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1)? Is that the God who spoke the world into being, and calmed the seas, and healed the blind, and raised the dead? I invite you to pray for so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to stop worshipping the false idol of Fear. I invite you to pray that they recapture a God Who is worthy; not just of defending and quoting, but trusting.
I invite you to pray for the rest, joy and humility that comes from putting faith in something greater than ourselves and in the things we fear. Every day, even with the mystery that grows on my journey, my security grows too. I know how big my God is. Do you?