When I first looked at Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, by Elizabeth Scalia, I thought, “Oh no, another book to make me feel guilty.”
That wasn’t the only thought I had; I was also excited to read something (even if it was going to be convicting) by someone whom I loved to read.
I was surprised however; instead of being guilt-inducing, Strange Gods was inspiring. If it did induce a little guilt, it was mostly illuminating, with quite a few “aha, so that’s why…” moments coming though in my reading.
Strange Gods gives us a great visual picture of what idolatry actually is: looking at God through something else, instead of looking at Him clearly. I can easily relate to the idea of not seeing God at all because I’m staring so hard at whatever is taking His place at the moment. First light flash.
Elizabeth made the Beatitudes much clearer for me by explaining what practicing them does to our spirits and how they fight against what can destroy us. For example:
Our thirst for righteousness is emptied of our own self-indulgent wrath, which we entrust to God’s judgment, so that the work of quenching that thirst may be pure.
Our mercy means we are not clinging to murderous ideas, and by letting go of them, we create room for God’s own mercy in us.”
I had wondered at the way, in our polarized country, people are so — not just intolerant, but absolutely hateful — to those who think differently than themselves. I realize now that we start out with ideas that we believe are true, but can go through a process in which those ideas become more important than their truth. Once that happens, we cannot tolerate any dissension which negates the idols which our ideas have become. The idea becomes everything and truth becomes disposable.
“Only that which is secure in truth can afford to allow … freedom outside of itself. What is not secure, be it an idea or a movement or a social decree, insists on conformity and permits no dissent.”
And who is Truth? God is truth, not the gods we make.
“Beyond the idols we create with our egos and ideas, there is an alternative un-earthly universe where we may encounter the deep and constant reality of God. No wonder it scares off so many. In our age the self is everything to be celebrated and never to be diminished. Church subsumes, liturgy subsumes, community subsumes, and when we are subsumed, all of the idols disappear; we become not lone worker bees, but the very buzz of the hive. And what sweetness is found therein.”
At that point we remember who we are in truth, in God. Is that not inspiring?
Laurel is a child of God, a third generation Northern Californian who came of age in the “hippie” days. Her passions are her family, music, reading good writing, nature and dogs. And maybe chocolate and wine.