The Idolatry of Silence

Christians who lament the “the false god of politics” may be worshiping a different kind of prostitution..

Idolatry -- ancient and modern

Idolatry, in our time, wears a much more pleasant Sunday dress than she did 3,000 years ago. She wouldn’t dare put on those old, blood stained robes of Molech. If Hillary Clinton asked her supporters to bow down and worship her, along with sacrificed goats, well, that’s one rap she wouldn’t beat. We just aren’t likely to hear a Christian confessing that he keeps a shrine to Venus in his back yard, along with a couple of temple prostitutes. One of the great victories of the Christian age is the utter humiliation of old form pagan worship and sacrifice. The Aztecs no longer have their temples of doom. Praise God.

Idolatry these days is internal, and, in the case of abortion, it’s surgical and private. Paul the apostle identified the physically hidden version of idolatry, the sort that doesn’t result in meat sacrificed to idols: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The warning speaks to powerful internal passions and desires that are so strong they can blind our devotion to God. In Romans 1, Paul speaks of its substitionary nature as well. Internally, we are prone to replace God with things and people – the created instead of the Creator.

We accuse each other of idolatry, these days, far too much and too broadly. Remember, it’s an internal sin, and it appears to be rooted in uncontrolled and perverted desire. In the old days, when prostitution accompanied pagan worship, we could see the idolater having his way with one of Astarte’s maidens, but the visible signs of idolatry are less dramatic today. In one sense, idolatry appears to be the evil inverse of the circumcision commandment. We no longer judge our Christianity by the physical sign of circumcision, but by its internal sign of a “circumcised heart.” Similarly, we rarely if ever see pagan idolatry in the flesh, but scold it in our hearts.

But it still is a sin of the heart, and we can’t see on the heart. We have no idea where our fellow believers really place their faith, where and whom they internally worship–so we would be well advised to be cautious about leveling the charge.

Nowhere is the charge of idolatry more abused than in the pastoral rebuke of political activism. When a pro-life activist asks her congregation to consider their vote very seriously, to pray on the sidewalks of abortion clinics, to rebuke politicians who support the murder of the unborn, this activism is sometimes met by a pastoral rebuke. The political activist is told he is choosing man over God. He is making an idol out of political activism. I could quote many examples, but nowhere was this advice more damnably summarized than in John MacArthur’s book, “Why Politics Can’t Save You.” The Christian politician, we are told, is merely a man. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we can’t place faith in this world. We must save men’s souls, but make sure we scold them if any good comes from it.

"Why Politics Can't Save You"Let me be plain: these are all well-contrived lies from the pit of hell. God works in the heart of regenerated believer to heal the sick, feed the poor, protect the innocent and to proceed through life as though he actually believed the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” A believer who doesn’t want a better world, through politics when necessary, is very likely not a believer. You might as well tell your husband he is making an idol out of his work when he labors to feed your children, or that a doctor is making an idol out of healing when he removes the cataracts from your eyes.

We are told in scripture the definition of pure and undefiled religion: “to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Would a believer so inclined be engaged in the idolatry of “service?” Of course not. Would a prayer for healing be “idolatry” because it took place on the Sabbath? Absurd. Bite your tongue the next time you carelessly level the charge of idolatry.

On the contrary, those who call “good” (Christian political activism) “evil,” might be guilty of the very evil they lament — a different kind of idolatry. In our families, in our place of work, in our nation some of us may be guilty of worshiping silence. We can’t stand conflict. We worship the false peace of agreeing to disagree. The political discussion annoys us, and we are tired of thinking things through. It’s much easier to put our own obligations in the “God’s Sovereignty file” and leave it all up to Him. Besides, our church obeys the Internal Revenue Service guidelines for political commentary from the pulpit, and do we really want to lose a tax deduction?

I won’t call you an idolater on that front — but maybe you might want to think about it? Whom do you worship? God?

Or are you more inclined to worship a peaceful afternoon, with no unpleasant political conversation?

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