Ruth Marcus asks the obvious question: “Why do we let children buy firearms?”  The answer is: Idolatry.  Let me explain. 

“The Showdown.” Boys “fool around with heavily modified AR-15 rifles (the civilian cousin of the M-4)” Photo by Danny on Flickr.

I think a big chunk of America is in an idolatrous relationship with the second amendment, the NRA, and with fossil fuel companies as we alluded to in yesterday’s DM.  Such a relationship trumps the health and sacredness of our children and grandchildren, the Earth and their common future.

What is idolatry?  Most people think it is about worshiping a statue.  But in truth it is about worshipping any false god.  Money.  Power.  Stocks.  One’s job as a senator.  Projections of all sorts.  In idolatry one surrenders oneself to a false god.

Recovery groups meeting at the Serenity Center in Columbia, MD. Notably missing: guns.

Aquinas warns that idolatry is a kind of tyranny, and all tyranny involves idolatry.  Might this insight apply to addictions of any kind? After all, the word “addict” comes from the word “dictator.” Do all addictions have something tyrannical and idolatrous about them? A settling for the part instead of experiencing the whole?

A false god can be found in a bottle or a pill, a relationship or a shopping spree, a power position or a religion that is literalist and addicted to a book–it is all about settling for someone, some thing or some relationship that is less than worthy of the greatness of one’s community or one’s soul and the beauty therein.

The medicine for idolatry is to move from a false god to a larger mystery —the Source without a Source, creation itself, the universe and the Earth and our human community networked to the community of creation.

Aquinas warns that idolatry is among the gravest of all sins. The false gods we worship are invariably not those revealing themselves to us in the universe’s mysteries, but instead are manufactured and indeed projected from our own fears and compulsions to control. Idolatry is a perverse religion and it always rejects a cosmology, a creation that is bigger than oneself which we do not control.

“Second Amendment Rally Against Gun Control.” Photo by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Any “ism” is capable of becoming an idol for us and a pseudo-religion be it fascism or nationalism, racism or sexism, denominationalism or colonialism. So powerful are these forces that they can smother and even co-opt other belief systems.

You can tell an idol by what it demands of you: complete surrender of your conscience, that is to say, total obedience.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 209f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: America: Finger on the Trigger. Photo by Emily Stanchfield on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What idols are we worshipping that smother the sacredness of children’s lives?  And of community and communion with others?  Especially those who may be different from ourselves?

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18 thoughts on “Idolatry and Gun Culture”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask us in our Queries for Contemplation: “What idols are we worshipping that smother the sacredness of children’s lives? America is in an idolatrous relationship with the second amendment, the NRA, and with fossil fuel companies; and many “ism” such as fascism or nationalism, racism or sexism, denominationalism or colonialism. Then there is money, power, position, and–“sex and drugs and rock n’ roll.” A false god is all about settling for someone, some thing or some relationship that is less than worthy of the greatness of one’s community or one’s soul and the beauty therein. And how we go about healing this idolatrous situation is by turning from our idols to the “Source Without Source,” God / Goddess, the Universe or Cosmos, Creation or Community. The false gods we worship are not those revealing themselves to us in the universe’s mysteries, but in our own fears and compulsions to control. Idolatry is a perverse religion which always rejects a creation that is bigger than oneself; which we do not control–and especially those who may be different from ourselves. They are treated as “less than,” or not worthy of receiving what we have, for they do not worship the same idol that we do.

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    Historically up to the present day the roots of so much personal and societal evils and actions that have caused and continue to cause so much human suffering has been our separation (egocentricity, especially in toxic masculinity/patriarchal societies) from the Sacred within and among us. Fortunately, there have also been many mystics, saints, indigenous peoples, and many good unrecognized common people (especially women and mothers) with deep, intimate relationships within the Spirit of Divine Love~Wisdom in their compassionate personal and communal lives. They inspire and remind us of our faith in our Loving Source~Creator’s Presence in our eternal Soul’s evolutionary spiritual journey here on earth, in our multidimensions with other spirit beings, and as cosmic conscious co-Creators in our multiverse Cosmos — Divine Love~Diverse Loving Oneness~Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

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    I recall learning about entropy being a ‘closed system’. Entropy is the Second lay of Thermodynamics. The First and Third laws of thermodynamics are not closed systems. It is like a trinity. I eventually compared entropy to idolatry. Micro entropic closed systems degrade inexorably to “heat death”. An idolatrous human being is one who is not open to the living system of their communities, local and global, which require constant ‘Spirit’ inputs to create communities of increasing order rather than communities which degrade into increasing disorder. At the macro human level, a person who is idolatrous is not open to an exchange of ideas (energy) that build integrated dynamic communities which continue to evolve in a positive way. Idolatrous human beings are those who allow their communities degrade into ‘living hells’.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, I see entropy as the opposite of evolution. Entropy always ends in dissolution and/or death while evolution is the process of life. As Matthew says, although not with reference to entropy and evolution, that there are two ways of life: Necrophilia and Biophilia.

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    Jeanette Metler

    The idols that I see humanity worshiping are technology in its various forms, such as computers, cell phones and gaming systems. Tied in with this is the idol of consumerism. Other idols are sports, the athetes and the gambling associated with this. Other idols are the entertainment and fashion/ modeling industry, along with the actors and models, whose lives then become images to self-emulate. All of these idols smother the sacredness of our children’s lives, in many harmful ways.

    The statement Mathew made in today’s DM… connecting idolatry with a loss of conscience… rings true. Without a conscience, all morals and ethics fall to the wayside… replaced with an attitude that anything goes… which is then defined as freedom. The other statement, that idolatry is also a form of racism, also rings true. This expression of idolatry is associated with a superiority complex and psychopathic tendencies… tethered to loss of conscience, this then becomes, violent, chaotic anarchy.

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    Pure idolatry. Politicians Worshipping power over justice, white citizens worshiping white power, hate and violence over love and community. How do we break the cycle? There are many forces at work in this phenomenon. Capitalism that has broken down the white male leaving him aggrieved and feeling powerless. Guns offer a kind of power. The gun manufacturers exploited this perfectly. But the system also leaves black males feeling powerless also. Ultimately the material and spiritual violence of the system must be addressed.

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      We must intentionally be in the now and celebrate each moment–it takes a lot of intention and practice, in the face of ever growing disillusionment with all the systems that seem to be conspiring to rush us even closer to extinction.

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    In response to today’s DM about addictions. Consider adding “guilt” as the rat at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. I think our society is largely addicted to guilt, and people who feel shame is the widespread result.

    How constant use of guilt leads to shame

    I’ll start by defining shame as I mean it. Shame is when I tell you, or you think, you ARE bad. Guilt is when you DO SOMETHING bad. They are greatly different. I’m sure we’ll all be guilty of DOING something bad because we’re human, and imperfect. But we can never BE bad because we’re made in the image and likeness of God. Guilt is a good thing used in moderation. It helps us know when we did, or are thinking about doing, something bad. Shame is never good. It is a lie to think of myself or anyone else as BEING bad.

    The problem is that when people are corrected, and corrected, and corrected, with no word about being good, they tend strongly to conclude that they not only DO bad things, but that they ARE bad creatures. Psychology has proven this. Then a whole host of unsavory psychological things come, like anxiety, fear, anger, depression, addiction, murder, etc. They also tend to believe that their community will judge and reject them. This puts people into a spiral into hell on earth basically. When people think they ARE bad, it drives them further and further away from God.

    But if we point out their error with love, from the standpoint of them being basically good, but with unhelpful belief systems, then they learn that they ARE good, but have faults that can be forgiven and changed. And they believe that their community will help them. This is the way to help people spiral into something closer to heaven on earth. It brings them closer to God.

    That’s why Jesus told us to walk the extra mile, forgive – forgive – forgive, overlook the speck in our own eye, etc. It’s His way of showing how to correct with love and bring us closer to God.

    That’s why I talk, and talk about how shame doesn’t do any good. Like a stinking broken record! Constant correction and criticism, constant use of guilt, leads us to a deep sense of personal failure, shame, and away from God, and that’s nobody’s goal. Somehow, though, we got the idea that it helps, and so we keep using, and overusing guilt on each other, thinking it’s good, when in reality it’s just making things worse and worse.

    Overuse of a good thing often leads to bad results. Everything in moderation. Lots of examples here. Add guilt to the list.

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    Very eye-opening DM. It wasn’t until Matthew’s meditation today that I understood what idolatry is.
    “… there to remain a senator at any cost” – eight words that sum up US politics
    Another idol we worship is the car, a lethal machine that is absurdly prioritized everywhere, making public spaces too dangerous for anyone not in their own car (like children).

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    The idol that supercedes all others is the Penis.
    Emphasis on, idolizing of, some overtly unrealistic perception of maleness and its self-perceived importance has produced most of the misery in the world and is inseparable from a pathological obsession with the size and power and importance of the prime symbol of maleness. It becomes the obelisk sculptures found all over the world, including in the Vatican forecourt, the enormous cross in Oklahoma, the Washington Monument, etc.
    And it becomes an AK15.
    If the world ever overcomes its ludicrous obsession with maleness invested in the perceived importance of the male member, we will have at last evolved into civilized beings.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Olive, though I am a male too, I totally agree with you. One of my pet peeves at present, and which I have written at length, is the fact that women are not allowed to be priests in the Catholic Church, as well as many other Protestant denominations. And their only reason for not allowing them to be clergy is because they are women, and because Eve was supposedly responsible for the Fall of humankind–as if Adam was some kind of half-wit who couldn’t think for himself, and so just followed Eve’s lead. Disclaimer: I definitely do not believe in a literal Garden of Eden or Adam and Eve, they are just part of Jewish Mythology.

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    Thank you for the list of helping organizations for addiction and for pointing out the connection between dictator and addiction. Someone said, it might have been Richard Rohr or Matthew, that our chief addiction is having to be right, which is a manifestation of the need to have power and control. Notice that all the evils are carefully rationalized and justified by representing some sort of individual “right”–completely ignoring the rights of the community. Power for its own sake, whether it is symbolized by a gun or by white supremicist rhetoric or by repressive laws, is the supreme idol, in my opinion.

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    Olive Bolivar has it right in her comments above. Experience is rooted in the ground plan of the body. Erik Erickson and other developmental psychologists have written about the differences between how male and female children play. With few exceptions, boys are interested in rough, aggressive play, usually involving projectiles of all sorts found typically in most sports. And many men are stuck the phallic-narcissistic stage of development, where like preadolescent boys, what is most valued is about who has the most, biggest, most impressive symbols of power, and the accessories that go with them. And with boys, it begins with who can pee the farthest in the back alley, and ends with which country’s nuclear projectiles can travel the furthest, and with the most destructive power, or whose “manned” phallic projectiles can “penetrate” the farthest reaches of space, or land on the moon first. As Olive cogently pointed out, the archetype for all of them is the male member. Said Freud, reiterated by Napoleon, “anatomy is destiny.” Little did they know how prophetic they were. If you’re waiting for the first female mass murder in these times of male assault rifle carnage, don’t hold your breath. It falls primarily to women to create and nurture life, and to the lot of men to challenge, conquer, dominate, control or destroy it.

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    What idols are we worshipping? At Uvalde, an 18-year-old boy murdered 19 students; 15 were girls. Both murdered teachers were women. Male superiority is another idol at work here. Authoritarianism, the patriarchy, male superiority, hierarchies, chains of command – call them what you will – they are pernicious destroyers of community. Knowing this, I join in community action. Thank you for this moment to reflect on the sacredness of community.

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