From Pastor Pat Kriss: Golden Calves in the Digital Age
(Posted October 14, 2017)
"The absolutely alienated individual worships at the altar of an idol, and it makes little difference by what names this idol is known."-- Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, 20th century
If there is one thing that rings true, it’s the reason that draws us to the stories that are contained in the Bible. That one thing is that, while thousands of years may have elapsed since they were recorded, human nature hasn’t changed very much at all. And this Sunday’s story about the Israelites who are alone in the desert while their leader Moses has disappeared up the mountain is familiar to us on a whole different, modern level.
The Israelites’ journey through the desert is one of trust… a wobbly trust in the word of a man who tells them about the words of a God they cannot see. After a long time thirsting for proof and hungering for leadership for someone who has left them alone in the wilderness for nearly 40 days, their faith evaporates like manna in the sun. So they resort to the next best thing. If they cannot see the God of Moses on their own time schedule, they’ll build themselves their own “god,” one they can see and touch. The Israelites fashioned a Golden Calf out of the trinkets they have brought with them out of bondage. And they bowed their heads to this graven image.
There’s a modern story wrapped up inside this ancient one. In the present day and age when we wander in a whole desert of doubt and uncertainty, looking for visible meaning in life and not seeing it when we think we should, we are inclined to create our own idols to fill the emptiness inside.
This is an age of self-imposed alienation. There are so many ways to fashion idols, but digital technology certainly is one way. With our smart phones and so-called social networking, we think we are more connected than ever. But the truth is, more than one generation of people have literally lost the skills of carrying on a conversation face-to-face with another human being. Every day as I walk down the street and I pass someone engrossed in texting on their iPhone, it hits me how much that person’s posture reminds me of one of prayer, head bowed and hands nearly together. But that to which we might bow our heads in rapt attention is not a spiritual presence, but a false god that masquerades as human contact. The real, “present presence” of God is all around us, resident in one another. There are, however, many idols today, not just technology. Idols are that which disconnects us from that which is really important, whether it’s too much focus on work or acquiring material wealth or power over others. The question we ask ourselves this weekend is, are there idols that we have fashioned that stand between us and the dialogue we could have with God, if our faith was strong? Stay tuned. --- Pastor Pat Kriss