Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Zeus worship

It has been centuries since Zeus-worshippers have gathered at an Athens temple to bend their hearts to the old Olympian. The Roman empire outlawed such gatherings in the late 4th century and, well, that was the end of that.

Until now.

Probably not much of a threat to global religiosity, recent modern pagans (around 20) paid homage to Zeus with costumes, hymns, wine and incense. Said one wag from the WorldMag blog: “One may well ask why anyone would exchange the loving, self-sacrificial Christ for a malicious demigod who married his sister, raped women, and was more like a sinful human being than a transcendental authority.”

Well, yes, Zeus was a bit of a mess. But twenty confused people singing mythical songs to the creation of imagination is hardly worth an article in the Associated Press. And that people have a hankering to toss his name skyward is probably more a result of shared eroticism, something they likely grew a taste for watching American television and reading Western magazines than studying Hercules’ father.

When I was in Lagos, Nigeria the last couple of weeks I strolled past a wall on my daily trips to the graduate school where I taught and saw this strong message spray-painted on the side: “Beware, this property is not for sale!” I queried a friend about it and he told me that it is not at all uncommon for unscrupulous real estate agents (or those posing as agents) to sell a property over and over again. He said, “Sometimes, five people can ‘own’ a property before anybody really knows what has happened.”

Zeus worship aside, I have wondered if the American Church – or the Church found anywhere on the globe – can have the same tendency of selling her soul to multiple loyalties if we are not very careful. Could a local church worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit and new buildings, more people, fancier accommodations, increased prestige and respect within the community. Wasn’t it A.W. Tozer said that significant discipleship means getting rid of that “and” and putting God alone on the throne of our hearts where He deserves to be?

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, knew the temptation of the Church to get captivated with more than the God.

“You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises- very much of heaven on earth.

"Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.

"You must do it.”

No one in the Church would say they serve Zeus, or Bacchus, or Apollo or Aphrodite or Plutus. But these “gods” were known for eroticism, wine, music, beauty and wealth respectively. The Church, like much of the world, has been sorely tempted with all of these.

And sometimes, throughout our history, has fallen hard for them.

Whether we bow to Zeus or actual eroticism, Apollo or pop culture, Plutus or lust for mammon makes no difference. The “god” or the tangible reality reflected in our lives is an idol worth rebuking nonetheless. By the grace of God Almighty we were meant for far more than selling our collective souls panting after “pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects” rather than following after the Christ who leads us to a cross.



At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

I would imagine your time in Nigeria refreshed your perspective on the church in America.

These are some very good, and serious questions for us to think about. Thanks, Matt, for your reminders to truly look within, and seek what the mission of the Church truly is to be.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

p.s. Please forgive me for asking... (eeek! and a smile, too)But I am wondering your thoughts on Rick Warren's recent trip to and comments on Syria? Also, his recent invitation to invite Barak Obama to speak at his church?

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...

Rick Warren - I generally like what he does.

The Syria comments were misquotes and taken out of context. I wouldn't have had Obama in my church, but I have no serious disagreement with him for that, either.

On his Africa initiative...I think he is a hero.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

Thanks, Matt.


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