Do Christians Make an Idol out of Jesus?

Do Christians Make an Idol out of Jesus? February 3, 2022

Photo by Diana Vargas on Unsplash

There are many things about the Christian faith that leave people confused. The structure, the symbolism, and even the songs. But one idea stands out for most and that is the odd double standard of worshipping Jesus despite the Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Why do so many Christians worship Jesus? Why does the worship of Jesus take precedent over the worship of God? Is there a right way to follow Jesus that doesn’t imitate idolatry? And if there is, are there many models of this practice?

Let us first ensure we are using like terms here so we can reduce misunderstanding. We must first ask, “what is idolatry?” before we can ask, “Am I making an idol of Jesus?”

Idolatry, as defined by Webster: The worship of a physical object as a god. Immoderate attachment or devotion to something. Synonyms of idolatry include hero-worship, or simply, worship.

Worship, as defined by Webster: To honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power. To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.

It seems then, worship can lead to idolatry. This is what we must examine and explore.

Children require images to help them understand the world around them. That is why we use picture books as the first teaching tools for our children. We must show them because they are too immature to develop images in their head of things they have not yet encountered—things they have not seen. This means that images and representations are not necessarily bad, as they are useful tools for developing minds. With children, as well as adults, seeing is believing, or at least comprehending.

Does looking at an image automatically mean you are idolizing it? Of course not. In the same way we can appreciate beauty without objectifying it, we can use images and representations in an effective way without idolizing them.

Images are important. We human beings are very images of God, are we not? So, if hanging a picture of Jesus (preferably a culturally accurate depiction of Jesus) in your house is automatic idolatry, then what would we say about hanging pictures of our family members in our homes?

But still, how do we reconcile this very severe verse from Exodus? “You shall not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”
(Exodus 20:4-5, KJV)

Some Christian sects would say that the glory of God is diminished by an image. That it makes God less than what God is. When we use symbolic representations of God, or even if you are into astrology and symbolic representations of protection, like I am, some would say this reduces the wholeness of the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the Universe.

But then again, so many Christians believe that Jesus is God. And therefore, the worship of Jesus is the same as the worship of God. However, many other Christians do not believe Jesus is God and therefore the worship of Jesus is idolatry. What we see here is a divorce of ideas from the same Christian faith. Some believe that images and symbols help a believer, others suggest it harms their potential salvation from an eternal hell.

I would say the first question to ask is not what is the importance of the object or representation at hand? Rather, we should ask, “What will one do with such representations and symbols?” and, “How might they be used as weapons against others?”

It’s not so much that I believe Christians idolize Jesus, but some Christians do weaponize Jesus. I think what happens is there is a program built into the religion of Christianity that suggests you must defend the beliefs at all costs. And since Jesus was persecuted, and the developing religion was met with such hostility and aggression for the first few hundred years, the assumption is, that is exactly what awaits anyone in present-day Christianity.

Like so many individuals who exponentially exploit race and attribute any means of rejection or disagreement with ideas as “racist” or “white supremacy”, too often, Christians attribute any form of opposition or rejection to their religion as persecution. Religions tend to bring out the Oppression Olympics in the same way secular societies do for the sake of social justice.

Jesus is then weaponized as the hierarchical Savior that, if not worshipped and followed to the T, becomes the sentencer for eternal damnation. Here’s where I want to interject. Jesus never said he was going to send anyone to hell. And while many translations of the Bible suggest that “hell” is a place God sends the “bad” people, it’s not an accurate interpretation of what is actually written in the Bible. Here, we can see how Christians have weaponized their faith to use it as a punishment against those who don’t believe exactly the same way. (I’d like to point out that our US government officials have repeatedly utilized the same spin against those who disagree with government policy- remember the “winter of death” threat Biden spoke about in December 2021?)

Somewhere along  the timelines, individuals began viewing opposition to their beliefs as a rejection of who they are as individuals. Perhaps for the same reason so many people in present-day take disagreement with their principles and philosophies as a direct attack on who they are as a person. Meaning, if you disagree with me, you are dividing yourself from me and my ideas. If you’re not with me, you’re against me, essentially. And I get it, Jesus did say something similar, and so did Dr. Anthony Fauci. But that’s not how belief works. You can’t force beliefs upon others. Faith is derived through an internal conviction, not a policy of compliance, and not through a verse from the Bible.

Worship for someone or something is meant to be an energetic performance that extends appreciation and gratitude beyond the self—directed toward something bigger than the self, like God or an all-powerful Creator of the Universe.  However, in many events, worship becomes something else entirely. My friend Jack Coleman says that “When someone believes certain beings should be worshipped, they ultimately cast (negative) judgment upon those that disagree with their perspectives. It will also create a subconscious need of being worshipped themselves but usually found in some other area of life, such as at a workplace or even within a romantic relationship.”

When you demand someone else worship what or who you worship, you have effectively attached yourself (your character, your personality, your principles, and beliefs) to the object of worship and the practice of worship. If your version of worship doesn’t reflect an open-minded acceptance that not all people will believe as you do, it’s not worship. It has turned into idolatry. When you focus more on ensuring others worship what and who you do, rather than holding a state of reverence for what is yours alone—your belief, your faith— you have weaponized your beliefs.

It’s no longer about what you believe, it’s about who agrees with you about what you believe. And I sometimes wonder if people care more about what they believe or if they care more about others believing what they believe. And to that, I would ask, does it matter what other people believe? Does it matter that people believe differently than you? Do you think that if someone disbelieves that it makes your belief any less true? If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate what you believe. And here’s the final question I ask to all who call themselves Christian- if someone else doesn’t believe in God, will God no longer exist?

About Danielle M Kingstrom
Danielle is a writer, podcaster, and home-school teacher. She lives in rural Minnesota on a farm with her husband and five children. Together, they maintain a fourth generation legacy farm and raise chickens and cattle. When she is not reading, writing, or self-educating; she can be found outdoors in nature’s naked elements. Danielle is an avid gardener, a lover of art, knowledge, and always a student. She is active in revitalization projects within her community, partnering with committees to bridge the Rural Divide. Unafraid of sparking controversy, Danielle is a frequently published author, appearing regularly in her community’s local newspaper; writing about provocative issues and asking challenging questions that raise a few eyebrows. She is currently working on two books. You can read more about the author here.

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