A Brief History of Idolatry part 2

Who is the mysterious god whose presence is invoked on our money? There is one more chapter in this brief history of idolatry concerning this god with whom we must deal, a god who demands child sacrifice from his devotees, and who has been guilty of the blood of the innocents from the time of Herod to the present. This god did not plague the people of God until after the Christian era began. This is a god who never tempted Israel, but who has found Christians an easier prey.

Nearly four hundred years into the Christian era, the god called Patriotism changed his tactics and decided to make peace with the Church rather than trying to destroy it. Money had used the ploy so successfully against the Pharisees that he thought he might try it for himself. It was a surprisingly easy sell. The emperors of Rome who had tried to destroy Christians in the name of Patriotism, now merely agreed to leave them alone…in exchange for their service in his temple.

At first Patriotism had only one face, Rome, whose bloodstained mouth became oddly appealing when he smiled.  But when Rome failed, Patriotism found that he could set himself up with different names in different places and he could get much more sport out of his devotees. Not only could he get the Christians to compromise their devotion to Jesus, but he could even get them to kill each other in his name. It was his most astonishing and glorious victory: to get a Christian to kill, not just anyone, but a fellow Christian, a brother in Christ, in the name of Patriotism, while wearing the mask of Christ.

Patriotism’s gambit worked well, especially with European Christians, and most especially with the English. They were easily duped into thinking they had become the new chosen people, the new Israel, and in their thinking they were all too willing to cut off even appendages of the Body of Christ that did not accept their take on civilization. But the greatest success, the ultimate and most impressive temple to Patriotism’s name, was America. The English first moved to America with the false theology ready made; they were coming to be a beacon on a hill, a light to the nations; they were coming to establish a foothold of the kingdom of God on earth. It was all done in the name of purifying the church, of purifying the government of England which had decided not to enforce the Law of God. And thus with the purist of motives and the best of intentions the puritans came out of their Egypt to the desert of New England. They did not see themselves as serving any other god than the true one and in their piety they built a golden calf.

And this golden calf was America. The Puritans had been adroitly deceived into thinking they could establish the kingdom of God on earth, a righteous branch. But their descendants quickly deserted the Christ who was supposed to be behind it all and were left only with an idol glibly using His name. From the very beginning he had confused himself with God in their minds, and it was easy to erode any threatening vestige of Christianity over the years. God became only a memory, propping up the shadowy figures that had assumed His authority.

At first the Puritans had kept the influence of Money in tight control. People were not allowed to charge interest, they could not charge wages higher than a certain righteous amount per hour, they could not abandon the poor. But within a century, Patriotism saw to it that his wife was released from her bondage. For Patriotism soon formed a liaison with Money and she became his mistress. It was a fertility cult, and the cult prostitutes wore suits and became pillars of the community.

It was just before the American Revolution that Money threw off the worst of the Puritan restraints on her lasciviousness. The American economy had grown too enormous in its potential for her worshipers to remain content with her fetters. Charge interest to the poor. Charge whatever you could get away with for your time. Teach men to blame the poor for their own poverty, and give them as little as you can get away with. They called it the “free market”, not because it made men free but because it made Money free to do as she would.

Their cry for freedom was “No taxation without representation.” It was the freedom of Money that was at stake, and the freedom of her worshippers, not the freedom of men; but mythology is malleable. The American idolator was not long content having taxation even with representation. He was not willing that anything come between him and his Money, even the representative government that he himself elected. Thus, one of the first crises of the new nation was the Whiskey Rebellion, citizens protesting the right of their own elected government to tax them. Their whole Revolution had been a mere excuse to free their Money for the full and unfettered worship they meant to give her. And so their religion has continued to the present day.

But Patriotism did not merely act to preserve the sanctity of his goddess; he moved to protect himself as well. He first moved to make sure that his people reverenced his images, the flag, and his wife had her commitment to him written on her tokens as well. He had to make his followers think that desecration of the flag was betrayal of God Himself. Bestowing that kind of honor on that kind of symbol should have shown them that they had switched allegiance to a different god, but Patriotism had clouded their minds.

Patriotism developed a statement, a sort of confession of faith, in place of the Apostle’s creed, called the Pledge of Allegiance, but to deceive their conscience he inserted the phrase “under God”, a phrase vague enough they could pretend they were still being loyal to the true God. Thus they fell into a delusion and never noticed when Patriotism’s priorities conflicted with God’s. He managed to make his images, the flags, as common in Christian churches as their cross. It was a magnificent victory; he had not won such a victory in any other nation, though later he would accomplish the same victory in Germany through one of his greatest prophets, Adolf Hitler.

And so it has continued to the present. Any attempt to put the true God in place of Patriotism is met with a violence formerly reserved for heretics. Their schools required all their children to pledge their allegiance to Patriotism, and then cover up the idolatry by reciting some prayer to their former God, usually the Lord’s Prayer. If any American Christian refused to pledge his allegiance to this rival god he was suspected, and sometimes accused, of being a traitor both to God and to country, for the Americans could no longer tell the difference between the two. In this way citizenship in America supplanted membership in the body of Christ as the individual’s personal identity.

But by far the greatest victory of Patriotism over the Kingdom of God has been the willingness with which these Christians kill in Patriotism’s name. Ask any American Christian, “Would you fight to the death to defend the freedom given you by the Constitution?” and there is a good chance he would say with pride, “Yes”. Ask that same Christian, “Would you fight to the death to defend the name of the holy Trinity” and it is even more likely he would say “No”. A new devotion thus seized the heart and the soul of the American Christian; the truth he fought for, the truth he lived and died for, was the Bill of Rights and not the gospel.

On the contrary, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus Ye Soldiers of the Cross”, reveal exactly how far Americans confused the gods with God. These songs can be sung with fervor for the gospel, but all the while they sing, American Christians think of their country as much as the kingdom of God; they no longer clearly discern the difference between the two. They need no longer trouble themselves to justify an American Christian serving in the military of a nation of this world; the question never arises; it never troubles our consciences. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If an American Christian can kill to defend his country, then why can’t a Russian Christian also kill to defend his country, or a Chinese Christian also kill to defend his country, or an Iraqi Christian also kill to defend his country?

And inevitably they must kill each other. There were only two centers of Christian worship left in Japan in 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Christian church was a small presence in Dresden in the 1940’s, and it is a small presence in Iraq, but how many of them were “collateral damage” when their brothers bombed Dresden and Baghdad? Is the Body of Christ thus divided? Is this the spiritual equivalent of “shooting ourselves in the foot”?

It is too easy to forget that the soldier of the gospel is part of a different army fighting with different weapons and using a different strategy than any army in the world. A soldier fighting for America must neutralize or kill his enemy; a soldier fighting for the cross must love his. Jesus has never permitted His soldiers to kill anyone, brother or not. To paraphrase Luke 16:13 slightly “No soldier can serve two commanding officers, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve  both God and country.”

The weakness of God has always been that He would not share His worship with another, however splendid the craftsmanship of the image. He is determined that He alone will be God, that the idols of the world will be forgotten and every knee will bow to Him and to His Messiah, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. America is indeed a splendid and beautiful temple, if you do not look too closely at the dead men’s bones mixed with the stones of its foundation. The Constitution is a lofty and beautiful document, the greatest imitation to a Scripture that has yet been devised by man,  easy to confuse with the gospel itself. This trick of disguising himself as an angel of light has paid off for Satan in spades.

It was a Jewish teenage girl, pregnant out of wedlock, who had it all right two thousand years ago when she prophesied the demise of America and Wall Street and Walmart and the Chinese economic sphere of influence and all of the disguises of the gods of the world: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away…”

Maranatha.

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3 Comments on “A Brief History of Idolatry part 2”

  1. Eric Alagan Says:

    Taken in a broad sense – idolatry is everything that does not encompass God.

    Now, for the meaning of ‘God’…each claims his is the One True God…the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, et al. Nothing much has changed since the days of fire worshippers, it would seem.

    “…It was a Jewish teenage girl, pregnant out of wedlock…”

    I find this choice of words interesting…


  2. Yes, when you look closely at what Christians believe, it is a scandal and an offense to the world. It is that combination of contrasting traits in the Christian understanding of God, His perfect goodness and His perfect offensiveness to our sensibilities of what we think goodness should be, that convinces me this must be true. Reading the Bible is a startling experience, one that my years in churches did not fully prepare me for.


  3. […] Idolatry is alive and well in our secular culture, but that is no surprise. Idolatry is alive and well in the American Church and that is probably the single most widespread work of the flesh among us. If you want more extensive comments on idolatry, try my longer essay “A Brief History of Idolatry” which begins here: https://calebseye.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/a-brief-history-of-idolatry/ and continues here: https://calebseye.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/a-brief-history-of-idolatry-part-2/. […]


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