Book Review: StrangeGods and the Idolatry of Me

51SnUGEoEwL SL160 PIsitb sticker arrow dp TopRight 12 18 SH30 OU01 AA160

To join the discussion about StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, or to order a copy, go here. 

I’m going to suggest that my book club read StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life for its July discussion.

The reason is simple. Author Elizabeth Scalia has written a book that is so thought-provoking it makes me want to sit down with her and talk about it. I think my book club members will feel the same way.

StrangeGods unmasks both the meaning of our personal idolatries and the way we spiral deep and deeper into worshipping them until all perspective and thought are lost to them.

Idols and idolatry violate the First and greatest Commandment. When we put anything in our lives as the center of our thinking and make that the touchstone of our values and the object of our desires, we have created an idol. The extent that we allow this idol to become the center of who and what we are reflects directly the depth of our idolatry.

Jesus told us, “You can not serve two masters.” You cannot serve two gods. You can not follow the real God and also an idol of your own devising at the same time.

That, at root is what is wrong with idols and idolatry. They are placebo gods for the real God, and like all placebos, they only appear to have power in the imaginations of our minds.

Elizabeth understands that we can have big idols and little idols. We can and do make an idol of almost anything. I would say that in an odd fashion, I make a idol of food because I reach for it to find comfort. I sooth myself with food like a monkey, rocking in place with its tail wrapped around it, is soothed by the motion of rocking back and forth.

In that sense, food, for me, is an idol of sorts. It’s not the intellectual idol that politics or commitment to a cause can become. But it is something I use to deal with my troubles instead of turning to God with them.

That’s the core of idolatry. It is a substitute for God, the real God. 

StrangeGods makes the point that many of our idols are, like my use of food, strange indeed. Our obsessions quickly become our idols, as do our compulsions. All these little idols, each of which begins with our self-referencing self-absorption and moves outward to an unhealthy focus on things, actions and ideas, are an expression of isolation. Me first is ultimately and always me only.

Whether you waste time, money and health on unneeded food, or you isolate in front of a computer or make some idea or plan or ambition the center of who you are, you are always at root isolating yourself on an island of me first. The seminal idol is always ourselves. All the rest flows from that.

StrangeGods leads us from a discussion of the many ways and many things we substitute for God in our lives to the really egregious mental addictions of what Elizabeth call “Super Idols.” Super Idols are the overarching idols that become ideologies, philosophies and ultimately, world views.

We see them and their damage all about us. As our society has moved more and more from a God-centered world view to a me-centered world view it has shattered and divided along the fault lines of our selfish desires. We dress these things up and call them “rights” or “causes.” We label ourselves along the divisions we create to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters, but in reality these things are all lies. They are just idolatry spread large and become organized into the false religions of political and social movements.

I know something about this. I’ve practiced this form of idolatry and I deal with its practitioners on a daily basis. There is no person so indifferent to the consequences of their actions to their country, other people, or even themselves as someone who is in the grip of a super idolatrous false social religion. 

These people have checked both their brains and their hearts at the altar of their super idol and they are fueled by the twin evils of unthinking rage and self-righteousness that super idols pump into them. They’re dangerous. They’re destructive. And they are mean and cold-hearted to a level that their saner selves would find abhorrent.

As you can see, StrangeGods is a thought-provoking book that leads you to find yourself on most of its pages. It is a convicting and inspiring read in that it convicts you of the idolatries in your own life and it also inspires you to repent of these sins of false idol worship and turn back to the real God.

In the end, we turn to false idols because they are comforting reflections of us. They don’t appear to ask the difficult things of us that relationships with an other always does. Idols seem easy and comprehensible because at root they are ourselves.

But you cannot serve two masters. You cannot follow false gods and the real God simultaneously. You have to chose, and given our proclivity for self-referencing you have to make this choice many times in a single day. Banish the little gods and you will spare yourself the true evil of the super idols that take your mind and your goodness away from you. 

I heartily recommend StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. It is that rare thing: A book that can make you want to be and do better.

Internet Trolls Torment Newton Priest

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at The Anchoress and is one of the most generous people it has been my privilege to know, wrote today about another egregious example of internet cruelty.

The internet gives the mentally unbalanced and the just plain mean people among us a way to hit out at others. Troubling events agitate these folks and get them moving.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has been a magnet for both the good and the bad among us. Almost everyone has responded to it with compassion, grief and love. But the nasty unhinged are still out there, doing their worthless thing. Elizabeth wrote about one of the sorrier aspects of this sorry behavior: The attacks on a newly-ordained priest who has faced his personal baptism by fire in ministering to the shattered people of his parish in Newton Connecticut.

We need our pastors most in times like this. It is to Fr Suarez’ everlasting credit that he is there for these people. It is to the everlasting discredit of those who are attacking him that they are behaving this way.

I’m going to lift a hefty chunk from Elizabeth’s post. I want you to be able to read it and get the gist of what’s happening and the opportunity she offers us to help. Be sure to read the rest of the post here.

Do you remember this picture, of these priests, Monsignor Robert Weiss and Father Luke Suarez, at the scene of carnage in Newtown?

Well, while I’m sure both priests are seeing some hate it seems the young Father Suarez, who is not two years a priest, is being targeted by creatures who enthralled to the ugly and the dark. Writes his sister, in an outreach. All emphasis mine:
My friends,
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now. . .Monsignor…is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.
My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.
I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.
But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.
I read stuff like this and I think of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction telling Tim Roth, “I am the tyranny of evil men, but I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be a shepherd.”
I’m putting cards in the mail to both priests — what a good idea — and also remembering them in my prayers. Will you, too?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X