After all, idolatry is generally considered to be a huge problem in the Christian world. I don’t mean we blame it for everything that goes wrong with the world in general, but we do tend to believe that it is the cause of most of our private little sins. And we like to define idolatry as any thing, person, or idea that takes the place of God in our lives; or, alternately, that takes our focus away from Him. You’d be surprised how easy it is to replace God, too. Apparently, anything that occupies your exclusive attention for any extended period of time, or any passion that takes up large parts of your time, attention, and emotional energy is an idol, and you have to start caring about it less, or else you’re sinning, And we don’t want that, now, do we?
I bet you can guess where I’m going with this.
This idea, this concept of idolatry being figurative and common, is just another of those things that was started by some bearded dude several hundred years back, andsince then no one thinks to question it. In fact, I think I know who that bearded dude is! Didn’t John Calvin say something about the human heart being an idol-making factory? The knave. That’s just the sort of thing he would say. It’s just meant to make our lives harder and give us something to work on. Of course it’s not idolatry when you get really enthusiastic about the things you love. Of course it’s not.
And I should know. My personality lends itself to obsessiveness. When I find something I like or a cause I’m passionate about, I become thoroughly immersed in it. You would be surprised how much of my time is spent in researching police work and crime. And I think. I am constantly thinking about and analyzing the things I love. With 24 and Law and Order, I ask myself if such a thing would be possible in real life, and then I find a book or a website that tells me if it is. For me, there is no lukewarm. If I am interested in something, I make a point of knowing everything there is to know about that thing, and I spend vast amounts of time and energy in my attempt to attain that end. I become ferociously devoted to characters and causes. Really, if anyone should be accused of idolatry, I make a prime candidate.
And yet, I have not become concerned about myself. That is, I know with great certainty that I have not crossed the line that divides enthusiasm and worship. My behaviors regarding God and Robert Goren or Jack Bauer are not the same. They are not even similar. I do not attribute to Robert Goren everything that is beautiful about my life. I do not pray to Jack Bauer. I don’t sing songs in praise of either of them. And, perhaps most importantly, I would have no qualms about lying about my devotion to them. If it came to a choice between publicly denouncing Robert Goren or death, you can bet I’d take the denouncement. But I feel like I would rather be killed than recant my following of Jesus Christ.
We’ve established that my devotion to Jesus is stronger than that to Robert Goren (I would still marry him), but here’s where it gets a bit slippery. My heart belongs to Jesus, it is true, but often my attention belongs to other things. Often it comes to a choice between prayer and reading the Bible or something pious like that, and I’ll read a book on crime instead. Or watch Law and Order or write a blog post, whatever. The point is, my attention is not focused solely on God at moments when it could be, and some may view this as a problem. I, however, do not. And this is why: there’s just not enough time. Honestly, who has time to be praying or meditating 24/7? Nobody, and the people who do are generally accepted to be insane. That’s because they are.
I know that sounds downright unchristian, but hear me out.
The things is, God wants us to have a healthy relationship with Him, and no relationship in which one party spends literally every waking moment obsessing over the other party is even close to healthy. And prayer is not always as useful as going out and doing something yourself. Reading the Bible is all well and good in its place, but one can have too much of it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Bible. But the time I commit to studying it is going to be very very small— indeed, probably nonexistent —if there is any other useful thing I could be doing. Or some other thing that makes me happy. And somehow there always seems to be. (Ironically, the Bible is one of the few things that can become a full-blown idol very easily. But that is a discussion for another day.)
Did I mention I’m going to marry him?