The End of History

The End of Idolatry

 

The End of History

A Poem by Mike Garner

 

Idolatry ends in madness

The spirit of idolatry is human weakness

Without God’s reign, idols are inevitable

Allegiance to rules and ideas

Deifying that which is without ‘being’

Life outside of God is idolatrous

God all in all

The End of Idolatry

        Ultimately all idolatry will end with the victory of God. In the meantime there is another end, it sits in dark contrast to a completed humanity, a humanity embraced into the being of God so that God is all in all. Idolatry is always a failing power ever on a descent into madness. Madness is the end of idolatry, it erupts in self-destructive powers that kill humanity and poison the ground. Even reason in all its grandeur and insight falls prey to idolatry when faith in one God is detracted into any other form of religious thought. Only a monotheism that culminates in the revelation that God is love, that God defines love, provides the meaning for love, only this kind of monotheism is capable of providing a way of living for humanity that brings peace. A monotheistic religion of love finds God in history and embraces the revelation of God as the abolition, the end, of idolatry.

      Idolatry is the sustained dependence of humanity upon a system or institution to govern through force. It is the state’s claim to sovereignty over human life that is essential for the maintenance of power. The unquestioned right of the state to take life is idolatry and is exhibited; in war, in the death penalty, in military conscription, in incarceration, and through laws that do not allow citizens to challenge or critique the state’s practice of warring. The state’s development of an economic system that empowers a few to endless appropriating of wealth is idolatry. Nation states naturally develop systems of pride and sacrifice through ideologies of national greatness, which likewise, is idolatry.

     These idols do not produce; they rob, they do not bring justice, they develop systemic structures of evil, they end in destruction. At the core of idolatry is violence. This is so because violence is self-destructive, it is the absence of God in the world. Idolatry always ends in violence because it is humanity living apart from God, living without faith. Theology says (and rightly so) that God is many things; God is one, God is a being, God is spirit, God is the creator and so forth. It is also correct to say that God is the spirit who ends violence in the human family.

The soul that rejects violence receives God into the world.

      The end of idolatry is to end the madness of violence and it cannot be stopped unless the idolatry is denounced. Yet the very systems that constitute the efforts of humanity to organize life are the idols that end in violence. Until the victory of God is fully arrived humanity is subject to the need for organized systems that help us live and work together. This is so because human beings are not taught to know the Lord. So, the task is to expose the idolatry and move the organizational effort towards the reign of God.

      The scripture teaches that loving God and loving neighbor hold the power to bring about the end or goal of the Torah (teaching). The objects of love are God and human beings. Using the word love for any other purpose outside of loving God and human beings is idolatrous. The misappropriation of the word love is the path of idolatry. In this sense the scripture provides us with the universal ultimate concerns for every human being and institution; the search for God and care for the life of every human being. 

      When institutions of government require love as a response to the machinations of injustice that produce suffering and do not correct those inherent failures in their systems (my country right or wrong) idolatry is present. The first injustice is the corruption of leaders that takes place when they are unequal servants; that is their life is more important than the populace. This is seen in the accruement of wealth, the concept of greatness, and the building of fortresses for securing their life against the very violence their actions produce.

      A leader in pursuit of God, out of love for the outcome, that is, when God is found, when God enters the world through acts of love, that leader will not secure his life with wealth attained at the expense of a single human being. This is the Christ-like behavior that is to be modeled by every human being and particularly by those who are leaders of faith, of the people of God. We lose our humanity when we exalt any single person, or group of human beings, as more valuable than others, or when we devalue the life of another.

      What creates a man like Pharaoh or like any exalted powerful leader? We do.

      To hope in any system to cure humanity’s ills is idolatrous. When we all learn how to live, how to love, it will be the end of law. The healing of the world always begins with the single individual who in effect is never truly an individual. This is the power of the individual, connected to history, to others, but bound to love for God.

     The rulers of the world hold power and their position is always fragile. A despot always knows a single voice can be his undoing. For this reason, swift and decisive action is required to silence that one voice. When the voice is one of nonviolence and justice, the machinations of propaganda and concepts of law that resist change are the leader’s first line of defense from acting justly. Once, or if, the leader is allowed by his petty legions of followers to become the law, then simply killing the single voice is accomplished with immediacy and without regard for the thought and feeling of the people.

     It is apparent that the greatest enemy in this process of idolatry is the unthinking person who is taught to love his people above others and to love his nation, his government, and his leaders. For this reason, education that develops thinking human beings is the enemy of the state, of all states. In a capitalist driven democracy education becomes a banking system of relentless and irrelevant academic exercise; the intellectuals sell out for wealth and power. The goal of education in a declining system is to turn a student into a functioning cog in the public wheel of mass production, but not an individual.

     Since our individuality is connected to history and family and all that surrounds our lives, we need a more nuanced definition or explanation of what constitutes an individual. I will use some of the words and thought for my claims on being an individual from Abraham Joshua Heschel, words that he applies to the prophets. [1] An individual holds God and humanity in a single thought at all times. This is a - state of being - accomplished through love for God and humanity. The result is a very historical person choosing to exemplify the best of all that has formed his or her life. An individual retains the power to say ‘no’ to power and does not lose their identity to unjust, unethical, or trendy social constructs.

    A matured individual is spiritually intelligent. A spiritually intelligent person has learned to depend on God and expects to be disappointed by people while holding onto their own dependency and need for people.

      When examining a relationship with another human being or any situation,

first, identify what you know, then think about all that you do not or cannot know;

then talk with the person not about them. Listen to them and learn to hear.

Try to heal a situation, a person, not pronounce your judgment. Overcome the contentious with wisdom and beware the unjust, they will sacrifice you for their systems and their desires.

             An idol is any social or political construct that displaces dependency upon God to a system that justifies social stratification and violence. Social stratification is essential for injustice to be legitimized. The reign of God is an egalitarian power of life-giving Spirit that serves the weak through the strong and in the process both are healed.

       Idolatry’s end is self-destruction because the source of life and goodness has been replaced. As individuals disappear, idolatry abounds and its power increases until goodness in people is lost to a state of blindness; closing their eyes for the sake of a false peace built on impermanence.

       Idolatry’s end is unbridled power, rampant injustice, the suffering of the poor. Idolatry sacrifices human beings at the altar of Molech; burning children as collateral damage from drone attacks. Idolatry releases the monsters of darkness hidden in systems of law and commemorates the death of a people’s children to the warring of the state.

 

[1] “A prophet's true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought.” Abraham Joshua Heschel – The Prophets.