Misplaced Gods

Misplaced Gods October 30, 2013

I could have called this post several other things. I considered “What in Samhain is going on at Crooked Creek Baptist Church?” or perhaps “Bring Your Gods to Church Day.” But let me start at the beginning.

The text for last Sunday’s sermon at my church was Paul’s speech at the Areopagus. My wife was due to give the children’s talk, and she thought that it might be interesting to bring some statues that I had from when I visited India. And so she asked me to bring them from my office.

Initially I couldn’t find them. And so I thought about what I could write on my blog regarding misplacing one’s gods. I was sure there was an illustration in there somewhere. And in fact, although what she ended up talking about was not my misplacement of the statues, the two nevertheless seem to fit together.

My wife brought some action figures for the talk as well, and presenting the mixed group of tiny figures in the photo above, asked who they were, and eventually what, if anything, makes the tiny idols different from the other figures she had with her. (Having a Minotaur LEGO minifig nicely blurred the lines, as did having an Ewok and C3PO, for those familiar with Star Wars!)

The answer to her question was whether people worship them. And so the point was made that anything can become a god, and conversely, something that we do not treat as religiously significant does not have power in it just because someone else views it that way. That is an important point, given some of the superstitious ways that some people think about religious objects – and about Halloween for that matter.

That my own little idols are not gods at all – for me, at least – is illustrated by the fact that I didn’t even know where I’d put them. And likewise, whether it is one’s God or gods or one’s values, if we don’t know where they are when we need them, they probably aren’t being given the priority we claim they are in our lives.

The pastor’s sermon that same day focused on the fact that Christianity, as long as it has been around, has been taking “pagan” festivals and coopting them. Halloween is but one example. See my post on Christmas as the Christian “War on Solstice” for another.

In case you are wondering, no food was offered to the idols that day in church – or to the Pokemon. The Ewok may have had a nibble of something while I wasn’t looking.

I suspect that the topic of Halloween’s pagan roots will get attention this year in certain circles, as it has in the past. But there are scarier things among Christians than Halloween. And I have the definite impression that the era of Christian scaremongering related to Halloween is not as prevalent as it once was, or at least, not being hyped to quite the same proportions.

My wife debates what point to make in relation to the text and the illustration, and I thought a lot about the other things that it would have been interesting to talk about. For instance, the point could also be made that we all have idols, whether mental images or physical ones, something that is less than ultimate which we treat as though it were supreme.

But some people are more scared by such Tillichian theological points than they are by either Halloween or Hindu deities.

Finally, see too Matthew Paul Turner’s post about a popular Evangelical sermon illustration around this time of year involving a pumpkin.

What thoughts about Halloween do blog readers have?

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  • Gary

    Speaking of pumpkins, and their use by Christians, and false Gods, or any Gods for that matter, here is a quote I love, and used at another blog. Irenaeus, “With this Cucumber there coexists a consubstantial Power to which I give the name Pumpkin. These Powers – Gourd, UtterEmptiness, Cucumber, and Pumpkin – begot the rest of the multitude of delirious Pumpkins of Valentinus.”

  • arcseconds

    I think it’s a ghastly American import…