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The Idolatry of Contemporary Times | KFP Articles
The Idolatry of Contemporary Times PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:11

It seems that everywhere I look there are forms of idolatry but little attention is given to the problem.  In a recent homily Pope Francis gave this problem its due attention:

We have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security

All too often in our autonomy obsessed environment we hear ideological responses to political questions, sometimes couched in practicalist language, but ultimately rooted in a loss of our sense of humanity.  Now, I don't intend to be rhetorical when I speak about our society losing its sense of humanity.  Rather, its a simple identification of what it means to be human.  We live in a tension between this world and the next, between the attractions of the flesh and the sharing in God's Charity here on earth.  We often feel some strong desire, which at times is a thirst for recognition and success, hunger for food, lust  for sex, romantic attachments to ideas about our self or experience anger at injustice.  Attempts to satisfy our desire can never be fully accomplished.  By way of example, gluttony as a response to hunger or a desire for emotional escape only leads to bigger problems.  Ultimately, we need to live our life with our ultimate goal, our ultimate desire in mind, which is to know and love God.  Our political ideals should be no different.  We must live with the Person of Christ in mind.  Elizabeth Scalia makes this point well in her recent book "Strange Gods":

“To place anything–be it another deity or something more commonplace like romantic love, anger, ambition, or fear–before the Almighty is to give it preeminence in its regard. To become too attached to a thought or feeling or thing is to place it between God and ourselves.” The problem with doing this is–or should be–obvious. “When we attach ourselves to something other than God, God’s presence is blocked, unseen, and disconnected from our awareness.”

We can hold strong to our principles without losing sight of the human person.  Ultimately, we need to recognize that if we live in this tension, accept it and understand its foundation then we will find our happiness.  Here we find the intersection of our political ideas and personal morality.  Too many folks endorse radical capitalism in the name of liberty held as an idol, homosexual unions in the name of the idol of equality and legal killing of unborn children in the name of the idol of choice.  True equality rests in our shared experience as persons in front of the Three Persons of the Triune God and true liberty is the life lived in front of that reality.  

It's time that we Catholics rid ourselves of our idols, changed our life by making bold choices to build a culture of life.  Its high time we talked about idolatry with our brothers and sisters and recognized the ability of our media saturated consumer culture to market these idols.  For this analysis we turn to Pope John Paul II:

The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called "quality of life" is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence.

The values of having are exactly that; they are directed towards possessing for our own self.  The idolatry of money, food, sex, choice and the efficiency of our economic organization - a raw capitalism throw us back upon our own self and frustrates our forward progress.  Values of being are related to respect for the human person which draws us out of our self and towards that Charity that we ultimately seek. 

Recognizing the problem of idolatry is an important step towards diagnosing the errors of our times and reforming our Church and culture.



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