The Hope of Idolatry

crached dry earth

A cry – O Lord my God, how great is Your mystery. How ineffable Your works! What can we know? All our knowledge leads to dust, an oppressive darkness. But isn’t that what this current age has succumbed to? We know more about the world and how it works then any generation preceding ours. One discovery leads to another; the more questions answered, the more questions arise, the more excitement and anticipation build. Our technological advances have created a global communication network and accessibility hitherto unknown. Our age has been and continues to be marked by an optimism of breaking borders, bringing people together for a flourishing of humanity, the likes of which has never been seen. There is nothing we cannot accomplish. The only limits are the limits of our imagination. And, yet…

The past century has been marked like no other by genocide, war, and generally speaking man’s inhumanity to man. The optimism of modern man is found to be unfounded. The world like parched earth is cracking, drawing away from itself. It is becoming a valley of bones, and when life comes, for which it so desperately yearns, it is drawn deep into the earth like rain in the desert leaving no evidence of its having come.

Tower of Babel

In the midst of all our progress, we have made ourselves a new Babel. We once again commit the sin of Adam and Eve seeking to make ourselves gods without You. Why?

Shifting gears – Sometimes when its difficult to begin a piece. It’s best to just begin writing. For me that has to be directed to someone. Hence, the opening to this post. In a wonderful article at Image Journal, “Learning Poetry, Unlearning God”, Natasha Oladokun said,

I wonder if our tendency to worship idols is often less a matter of defiance and more a kind of impatience, coupled with a blinding ache for something authentic.

All human actions are expressions of truth and motivated by a desire for good. Man, however, has a way of twisting things.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.

All are formed by God – not just our bodies, but also the deepest, most intimate, core of our being. This manifests itself through the yearning of the satisfaction of our being. Our condition is that of there always being something wanting. There is something interior to us that we are only able to approach through detachment from things without.

It is no coincidence that the destructiveness of the modern age, which originated in the West, has paralleled a growing secularization. In the Christian tradition turning within means turning to God for it is in the depths of our heart that we truly encounter and live with the Lord. This necessarily means that we are turned toward our neighbors in love. Like Christ, we must come down the mountain of transfiguration to climb the summit of glory which is the Cross. However, the modern age with its “enlightenment” rejects God. It rejects the Cross. But that yearning is still there and the Way for it to be satisfied is the same. And so it finds expression through the idolatry of our time – reason, technology, progress, success, the self – an idolatry brought about through the sin of Adam and Eve: impatience.

Man is discontent with the world and unwillingly to work through the seeming stupor and labor of God’s time. He wants it now, in his image. In this state there are only two options for man: the death of nihilism or the tyranny of absolutism. The world more often than not goes the route of tyranny. Others must be brought under submission in order to bring about peace and order. Man, however, never responds well to oppression. He reasserts himself in the face of forced submission. Why? Because the yearning never goes away. We were not made to be compelled by others, and we know this. Man constantly reasserts himself in the face of any perceived constraint. The result, however, is not freedom. Rather, it produces a constant tension within individuals and society as a whole. Man lives in the state of a perpetual tug-of-war between being free of constraint, being constrained, and constraining others. In all of this, though, there is hope:

Just as you do not know how the life breath
    enters the human frame in the mother’s womb,
So you do not know the work of God,
    who is working in everything. 

triumph-of-christianity-detail-gustave-dore

One of the greatest signs of God’s omnipotence for me is that He doesn’t work for our good despite sin, but rather He is able and does work for our good through our sins and the sins of others. God’s glorification and ultimate triumph came on the Cross. It is finished. The victory has been won. His sacrifice and victory are once and for all. His grace penetrates all facets of human life and is operative in every moment.

Man’s constant dissatisfaction drives him toward God. The hope of idolatry is that the idolatrous will someday face that their rejection of God and embrace of secularism does not satisfy and never will. The hope is that at some point man’s reassertion will not simply be of himself against an oppressor (be it a person, government, company, or ideology), but will be the recognition that he is weak and needs an Other – an assertion of the reality of being human. Only then will there be the humility that is needed to trust the Other and to have patience in His works, coupled with radiating joy in authenticity.

 

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