You shall have no other Gods before me.
Many people in America have heard this verse, along with the following verses that tell people not to make any graven images and bow to them. Don't these commandments bring to mind images of people carving statues and bowing to them? We don't do that in America, right? Well, maybe those pagans do...
Oh really? Do Americans practice idolatry today?
I think so.
One example of modern day idolatry in America: celebrities. Who really cares that Paris Hilton went to jail and got cell phone privileges there? I know that I made a couple of posts on it myself, but in the grand scheme of things, is it important? Yes, she is an individual with a soul just like everyone else, and for that she is important, but no more important than that starving child in Zimbabwe that might never even own a television, much less be on it. What exactly has she done to deserve recognition anyway?
But it doesn't stop at Paris Hilton. What about that girl on American Idol earlier this year crying during Sanjaya's miserable rendition of "You Really Got Me"? True, it was horrid enough to make me want to cry, but she wasn't crying because he was butchering the song. She was crying because she adored him so much.
And on and on it goes. We allow all these celebrities to have special perks like getting to go to the front of the line (like the Hilton parents were when they visited daughter Paris in jail), special tables, and even giving them not guilty verdicts when most likely, they are. They get away with scandalous behavior that many of us ordinary people would have problems getting away with (Britney anyone?). It's downright shameful what we pay these people, as well as the power all their adoring fans give them.
Our worship of these gods and goddesses leads to unsafe situations for them. Princess Diana? It leads to the erosion of their privacy. Nobody can tell them no, even when it would be for their own good.
Which leads me to another idol that many Americans have: the government. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the US government. I do happen to be a big fan of Australia as well, but I think that the US government is one of the best in the world today. As Christians, we are supposed to follow the laws of the land, as long as the laws do not conflict with God's laws. We are to render unto Caesar (Matthew 22:21) our tax money. Romans 3:1-3 state that we are to be subject to authority.
Daniel didn't obey the government when the king decreed that nobody was allowed to pray. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to an idol and were thrown into the fiery furnace. If you're looking for New Testament sources, the Apostles were told by governments many times to stop preaching about Jesus, but they did not, even though doing so got them thrown into prison and most of them were martyred. Paul caused a riot at Ephesus. Throughout history, many Christians have been martyred because they would not compromise their faith in favor of what the government told them to do.
What does this have to do with American idolatry of their governments? Recall last week, when the Hindu gave his prayer on the floor of the US Senate? I can see, of course, how non Christians might find the Christians up in the gallery interrupting the prayer to be quite disrespectful. I can see how it might be upsetting to see, if you didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God and that he came to save us all. However, the Christian reaction was mixed. Some were in favor of what the Christians did, others were opposed... saying that it was disrespectful, we are a country with many religions, everybody should get a chance to be represented in the Senate, etc. Doesn't this view demonstrate people placing government above God? Why should we defend someone practicing idolatry on the Senate floor? I know the Senate is not a church, but it is a very important place in our government.
Elijah didn't stand for it in his day. You may recall the story of Ahab and Jezebel. They were Baal worshipers. Elijah told them it wasn't going to rain and the rains stopped for three years. Then he challenged the Baal worshipers to a spiritual dual ~ you pray to your god for fire to rain down, and I'll do the same with my God, and we'll see who sends the fire. Elijah's God delivered, Baal did not (then all of the priests of Baal were killed). One could have argued that Baal was the accepted god of the government... how dare Elijah talk to the king the way he did! Imagine how he ruined the economy by stopping the rains for three years (there was a big famine during the drought, BTW)! He probably wouldn't have been very popular among many Christians today either. But thankfully, he did speak up.
Thank you to my husband who brought up the Hindu prayer/idolatry connection to my attention.