|OR CHRISTIANS, ANY other "god" -- or the tangible reality reflected in our lives -- is an idol worth rebuking. The Church, like much of the world, has been enticed by the temptations of eroticism, wine, music, beauty, and wealth. And sometimes, the Church has fallen hard for them.|
It has been centuries since Zeus-worshippers assembled at an Athenian temple to bend their hearts to the old Olympian. The Roman empire outlawed such gatherings in the late fourth century and, well, that was the end of that.
While probably not much of a threat to global religiosity, modern pagans (around 20) recently paid homage to Zeus with costumes, hymns, wine, and incense. Said one wag from the WorldMag blog: "One may well ask why anyone would exchange the loving, self-sacrificial Christ for a malicious demigod who married his sister, raped women, and was more like a sinful human being than a transcendental authority."
Well, yes, Zeus was a bit of a mess. But 20 confused people singing mythical songs to a creation of imagination is hardly worth an article in Associated Press. If people have a hankering to toss his name skyward, it is probably a result of shared eroticism, something they more likely developed a taste for by watching American television and reading Western magazines than by studying Hercules' father.
Not long ago I spent several weeks teaching at a graduate school in Lagos, Nigeria. On my daily trips to campus, I spied this strong message spray-painted on a wall: "Beware, this property is not for sale!" I questioned a friend about it and was told that it is not at all uncommon for unscrupulous real estate agents (or those posing as agents) to repeatedly "sell" the same property. He said, "Sometimes, five people can 'own' a property before anybody really knows what has happened."
Zeus worship aside, I have wondered if the American Church -- or the Church found anywhere on the globe -- can exhibit the same tendency of selling her soul to multiple loyalties, if we are not very careful. Could a local church worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and new buildings, more people, fancier accommodations, increased prestige and respect within the community? Wasn't it A.W. Tozer who said that significant discipleship means getting rid of the "and" and putting God alone on the throne of our hearts where He deserves to be?
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, knew the temptation of the Church to become captivated with more than God.
"You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises -- very much of heaven on earth.
"Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.
"You must do it."
No one in the Church would claim to serve Zeus, or Bacchus, or Apollo or Aphrodite or Pluto. But these "gods" were known, respectively, for eroticism, wine, music, beauty, and wealth. The Church, like much of the world, has been enticed by all of these temptations.
And sometimes, throughout our history, has fallen hard for them.
Whether we bow to Zeus or actual eroticism, Apollo or pop culture, Pluto or lust for mammon makes no difference. The "god," or the tangible reality reflected in our lives, is an idol worth rebuking. By the grace of God Almighty we were meant for far more than selling our collective souls panting after "pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects" rather than following after the Christ who leads us to a cross.
Matt Friedeman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Respond to this column at his blog at "EvangelismToday.blogspot.com."
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