Strange Gods

“You shall have no other Gods before me.” trumpets the Lord in the Old Testament. St Benedict puts it the other way, “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”

Elizabeth Scalia is a daughter of St Benedict–a Benedictine oblate, writer, wife and mother. Blogging at The Anchoress she’s also one of the Patheosi–bloggers here from a variety of faith traditions who help millions of seeker after God. The Benedictine spirit is strong in young Skywalker Scalia…the book is the fruit of her meditation on the great mystery.

Elizabeth’s book offers a great boost on the mysterious great adventure because she challenges us to get rid of all the obstacles that stand in the way and hold us back from following the Master of mystery. We need to throw the lumber overboard, get our priorities right and “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Strange Gods is Elizabeth’s extended meditation of the strange gods we worship in the modern world. In ten chunky and chatty chapters, she explores and exposes The Idols of I, Idea, Prosperity, Technology, Coolness and Sex, Plans, Super Idols, Super Idols and Language, and The People of Gods. Scalia digs deep and gets beneath the usual ‘idols’ of money, sex, drugs and power and uncovers the philosophical and ideological roots of our worship of strange gods.

I especially enjoyed her chapters on Ideas and Super Idols. A “super idol” is and ideology which is so firmly held that it becomes an unshakeable and infallible dogma. Whenever anyone–left wing or right wing–holds to an idea until it becomes an idee fixe it ceases to be an idea and becomes a fixation, and such a fixation that it is a constant vexation.

Elizabeth Scalia tells some excellent stories to illustrate her point: the well meaning educator who bans the science fair because some children don’t win and they feel bad, or the sincere feminist parish sister who emasculates the liturgy and the language by weeding out as many masculine pronouns as possible–then offends all the women in the parish by decorating the ladies room with puke making color schemes.

She does the same with Technology, Prosperity, Coolness and Sex…she ponders the reasons for the worship of these idols and gets us to turn our hearts again to the master. The book is chock full of personal stories, anecdotes and quirky details to hammer home the point. Scalia’s down to earth, practical and somewhat skeptical personality shines through to add contrast and therefore heighten her real faith and deep search for truth.

A book review should usually observe what could also be better about a book, and I would have enjoyed this book better if the text had been broken up into smaller chunks with sub headings. I am always in the middle of reading about five books at once, and since I read in little gobbets–rarely sitting down to do serious page turning–I find the sub headings in books to be helpful encouragement. In a book of practical spirituality like this one I also like pull quotes. There were good quotes at the beginning of each chapter, but the book would have been improved and the reading experience more delightful if more quotes had been set into the text.

What was best about the book? The chapter, Through the Looking Glass: Super Idols and Language. In the second half she writes about her own family dysfunction and the deep wounds that need healing. She discovers a level of love and a radiance of light that is overpowering only to find that her family members exclude her and refuse to face the light or embrace the love. What kind of love is this? The one that is waiting for us on the other side of our idols:

This is remarkable, almost reckless love. This is a love so all in all, so unconditional, that it is willing not just to be vulnerable, but by human standards almost foolish in its boundless, unconditional reality.

Find this love. This book will help you on the quest.
Go Here to learn more: Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life


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