Our Broken Idols

by David Browder

By the time this article is published and delivered, Election Day 2020 will have come and gone. We may not know all of the results yet but the voting will be done (and, mercifully, the ads will stop). Many of us desire a period of healing — but I am not sure that will be in the cards for some time. Why do I say that? Because I believe the issues surrounding this election and everything that led up to it are symptoms of a greater and more basic problem in our nation and with the human condition in general.

I describe that problem with an old-fashioned word that might rankle some: “idolatry”. What is idolatry? It is the worship of something that is not God. It is making something ultimate that is not God. This has been a human problem since the beginning of time. The Old Testament is full of warnings and judgment against idolatry. In our postmodern and post-Christian era our innate desire to worship finds other things besides God to bow down to. Idolatry takes many forms but, predictably, worship follows power and there is power in politics. Mix our yearning for a tribe to which we can belong with the siren call of power and we have something like what we have been experiencing for the past decade or so.

The resultant tragedy is found not so much in anonymous and vicious Twitter or Facebook rants but in the real fissures created in families. Reuters published an article recently called “You Are No Longer My Mother”: How the Election is Dividing American Families. One son tells his Trump-supporting mother that she is no longer his mother because of her vote. Another man disowned his sister because she voted Democratic; he did not even inform her of their mother’s death. This is deeply tragic and long-lasting stuff. Is it any wonder why the Bible is so hard on idolatry? It isn’t that God is a killjoy or a suffocating control freak. Rather, God intends human beings to flourish as creatures who trust in Him alone. You see, God is the only one capable of handling the weight of our worship. Only He can take being ultimate. Idols, on the other hand, destroy people and they destroy families.

Someone will win and someone will lose this election. We will go through the same thing four years from now. Every election we are told it is the most important election of our lifetimes. As we get progressively more post-Christian, the intensity of each election increases. Is there not a better way? Are you not tired of all of this?

Perhaps after this election Christians should pause in their elation or despair over the results. Perhaps, trusting God as the ultimate, they can instead ask questions and seek understanding. Why did my friends or family members vote for Biden? Why did they vote for Trump? What concerns do they have? Do they feel besieged? Did they feel there was no other alternative? Trusting God in Christ as your ultimate allows you to hold everything else much more loosely. That enables you to step into other peoples’ shoes for a little while and begin to understand them. Perhaps that can be our Christian witness: a service to our community. It would certainly be a good start.