There is no doubt that Christians are concerned about how the Church is evolving. Various church denominations, Christian institutions, and individual churches are forfeiting historic Christian ideas and embracing modern ideas of social justice, political thought, sexual ethics, and diversity.
For those of us that believe these modern ideas are erroneous inventions of modern academia, and not the transforming work of God’s Holy Spirit, the concern forces us to wonder how we respond when our churches give themselves over to direction that clearly violates God’s revealed teachings.
For those faithful Catholics who were against the actions of Pope Francis that many believed were clearly embracing Idolatry, they pondered a new course of action: casting idols
The Amazon Synod was set up to be a series of meetings called upon by the Roman Church, where Bishops of the Pan-Amazon region and some of its indigenous peoples would meet in October to “identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region”. The Novus Ordo Watch reported that at a meeting on October 4th, the Pontiff of the church:
hosted a syncretistic religious ceremony in the Vatican Gardens that included, beside Christian prayers, the pagan worship of Pachamama, the earth fertility goddess (also known as “Mother Earth” or “Gaia”) adored by the Incas. 1
The idol then made its way to the church of Santa Maria in Transpontina in Rome. Although many excused its presence as an icon of the Virgin Mary, a Catholic spokesperson confirmed that it is not.
As I noted earlier, many viewed this as an act of Idolatry by the heads of the largest Christian church on the planet. Many were left wondering what to do when it appears those in charge of leading the largest Christian church have effectively abandoned a fundamental belief about God-centered worship.
For one unidentified devoted Christian, the necessary course of action was clear; take the idol and throw it into the Tiber river. As seen in the video below, that is exactly what he did.
Now what are we to do with this act? Should this individual be seen as a hero of the faith, risking personal safety to take a stand for historic Christianity? Or is the person a mischievous rebel, driven by factions within the Church to condone vandalism.
I believe that how you answer this question says a lot about how far along the line of apostasy you think our churches have gone. For many of us concerned Christians, we feel that some extraordinary means may be necessary to try to reform the errors of our churches’ ways. Many feel desperate that large Christian institutions have given into pressures to modernize their teachings so as to stay culturally relevant.
Its one thing to be a person or a group that continually has a rebellious spirit. You may know someone or some group (maybe its you, or your group) that is always criticizing your church. Rebellious people are ultimately rejecting any authority and wish to live autonomously. The Bible discourages rebellion against all sorts of authority –familial, civil, and ecclesial — so it is obvious that the Christian cannot simply reject their church community and its authority at any whim.
Yet, the Bible especially condemns rebellion against God’s law, and its at this point that the idol caster may have legitimate reason for such drastic actions.
Drastic Times Call for Drastic Measures
When Christians face contention with religious leaders that aim to plunge the Faith into the realm of paganism and heterodoxy, the believer may see examples in the Bible of drastic reactions. My guess is that the individuals responsible for the Pachamama idols ending up in the Tiber river found such examples as models for their action.
There are dozens of warnings against idolatry for the believer, in both the Old and New Testament. King Hezekiah is noted as doing “what was right in the sight of the Lord”2 and therefore smashed the idols set up in Israel3 and broke Moses’s golden snake because the Israelites were worshipping it4.
Of all the sins mentioned in the Bible, idolatry seems to be the most consistently and severely punished. I imagine for the Catholic faithful, the actions of this Pope are devastating. But, church be damned, this Pope seems to be bent on expanding religious diversity within the Catholic faith.
This is intolerable.
In an era when Christianity is losing more and more of its distinctiveness, adopting religious idols and gods from around the world makes us look less like a fellowship of the everlasting God, and even more like a feel-good, self-help, modern, psycho-babble plan for well-being.
For that reason, I say “sleep with the fishes, Pachamama!”
I understand that we try to be neighborly with those of different faiths and different beliefs, but perhaps we have been too passive with allowing outside faiths and beliefs into our churches and our homes.
When different beliefs surround my family, I am the first one to smash them (at least “intellectually”) in front of my children so they can see their invalidity.
I find mockery is an essential tool to highlighting the absurd nature of some beliefs. When we’re watching a documentary or we are at the zoo and Evolution is mentioned, my family will start making monkey sounds as a way of laughing at the idea of evolution. We’ve already internalized the idea, “can you believe some people really think we came from monkeys?!”.
When we are in public, and ideas, like “follow your heart”, are presented to my children, I mock the idea by asking them, “my heart says I want to steal a car; should I follow it?”
Hey, if the prophet Elijah mocked the pagan god Baal for sleeping on the job 5 and God mocks the idols that come from the same wood the idol-maker cooked his dinner on6, mockery will serve my family well.
Of course, we present the truth – that God created Life, not random chemical reactions, and that we should follow Christ, not our own hearts. But we tear down the source of contention right away.
As faithful Christians we must look for creative ways to combat the opposing ideas and interference with holy living. We may not all have to cast literal idols into a river, but we are all at war with spiritual forces and rulers of this world7.
Idol Making is in the Heart
John Calvin said, “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols”.
Above all, we must guard our hearts against its tendency to create idols.
Why did the Pope endorse this idol-raising in his church? Why do we look for meaning and truth and value outside of what God says? Why do we put our hope and trust in anything but God? It seems to be our inability to truly rely on God alone that drives us to idolatry. Our hearts make idols out of things we have control over.
Christians can trust in their family or their jobs more than God.
We can idolize our churches. As many grow in size, power, and influence, we have a way of seeing our salvation and life choices as being validated because our churches have greater social status than ourselves.
We can idolize our political party or even our country; believing that God ordained America, or the Republican Party, or Donald Trump, and therefore everything that is “American” is good. King Herod was considered a vile Jewish king for putting a Roman eagle above the entrance to the Temple. How are we so comfortable with an American flag and golden eagle in many of our sanctuaries?
Some, like the Pope perhaps, idolize modern ideologies of diversity, social justice, and sexual ethics; seeing them as the key to a social salvation.
We can idolize our way of life, assuming that our work, what we spend our time and money on, how we think about the world and our community, is the only way things ought to be. They are idols when they carry greater weight than the commands of God.
The Lord, through prophet Ezekiel, had this warning about idols:
17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?8
Do we see every day that our hearts that constantly churn out idols are only bringing ourselves shame. Our culture does great work at presenting ideas and ways of life as trustworthy idols.
I hope we don’t think that we are above idol making. I pray that we see this tendency in our hearts and run from it; cast our own idols into the river. We lead no one in the way of Christ and harm ourselves by trusting in anything or anyone more than God.