Abraham hung out at his father Terah’s idol store one day, while Terah was out doing some errand or another. Abraham wasn’t terribly impressed by the idols. He had some other ideas about what made the world go round. The story goes that while Terah was gone, Abraham smashed all the idols except the largest one.
When Terah came home, he asked Abraham, “What happened?” Abraham replied that all the idols had gotten into a big fight and the largest idol won!
Now of course Terah knew this was hogwash but he couldn’t very well respond that it was impossible for idols to get into fistfights without admitting that idols were not real and not worth worshipping.
I like Biblical stories. Even though I am hardly a Biblical scholar of any kind, I find them useful as basic descriptions of so many of the joys and miseries of humanity.
Imagine being Abraham. Imagine knowing something that no one else knew or talked about. Imagine realizing that all your neighbors and friends and family really knew that what they were hanging on to was false but somehow they all tacitly agreed, not even consciously really, to continue the charade … and not only that, but to fight with and ostracize anyone who tried to break that tacit agreement.
Imagine challenging that, confronting your community, or the powers in your community, with what you had discovered, that everything underpinning this society was a lie. The idols were just pieces of plaster or wood and had no meaning or power whatsoever.
That would take a lot of courage. But I think it would take an equal amount of courage to admit this to oneself to begin with. No one wants everyone yelling at them, and I think often we gloss over uncomfortable truths for the sake of social harmony. And maybe that’s not always a bad thing.
But to take on the taboos, oh that takes a lot of courage, both towards oneself and others. For after all, if no one agrees with you, there could be big doubts — have you gone insane? Are you deluded? How can you be so arrogant as to proclaim someone else is wrong when everyone disagrees with you?
American idols. No, not the TV show, heh. Money. Youth. Fame. Power. These are the things our society virtually worships. Those individuals who possess these qualities are treated differently, better than others. We have all seen that.
Talent? Oh that’s funny. If we look back at our great artists, musicians, writers, so many of the really great ones suffered tremendously in their lifetimes and only afterwards were given respect by society.
So ability itself is really not valued so much in today’s idol-worshipping America.
I don’t use the word “worship” lightly in this context. We see this happening with our present misAdministration. We see it with our media. And we see it with our powerful corporations. Those are, of course, only a few examples. Americans believe we can appease these powerful idols by looking away from the truth, buying into the lies we are fed every day. We do this for the best of reasons — to protect our families, to keep our friends, to help our communities. We feed into false hopes and pay homage to our American Idols, never questioning why we do this, what it is in our own minds that lets us swallow these lies and call them truth in our very actions.
Janis Joplin sang “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Americans are now losing a whole lot … homes, jobs, chances for health care, air to breathe and water to drink.
At times like these, freedom starts to have a bit more resonance to folks.
I read that the French Revolution started when women came to the bakery one day and there was literally no bread at all to be had. They were pissed off. They had nothing left to lose. The structure for the Revolution was there already, folks were very discontented and angry with the “let them eat cake” monarchy.
But it was not having any bread that sparked the whole thing, something very mundane and necessary and homely. This realization broke through not only the idolatry towards the royalty of the time, the sense that it was true the King and Queen were somehow “better” and “more deserving.” It also broke through the whole notion of going along to get along. Folks realized that even with their own sacrifice of the truth for lies, it still didn’t give them even the minimal food they needed to stay alive. At that moment they were free.
I think it’s time to smash some idols. America is ready to hear the truth.
Happy Friday to one and all.