Thursday, January 04, 2007
Tradition, Conformity, and Idolizing Religion
The other day a fellow blogger, Angela Messenger, posted a quote from a Peter Kreeft's -Heaven; The Heart's Deepest Longing:

"Anything - anything - can be an idol. Religion can be an idol. Religion is not God but the worship of God; idolizing religion means worshipping worship....Every divine attribute, separated from the divine person, becomes an idol."

She wonders, "I Think I Am I a Catholic Snob?" The most interesting thing about the post is how the comments so quickly started focusing on different parishes kneeling or not kneeling during the consecration of the Eucharist. That may seem trivial to some, but consider some of the debates we have had in the Methoblogosphere the last few months - Are we following tradition and conformity or is what we are doing scriptural?

The post is important to me because it delves into a complex, and for some, often overlooked, issue in the church: idolatry. To summarize Peter Kreeft's statement: ANYTHING within our faith, no matter how trivial it may seem, can ultimately become an idol. Sometimes our concerns about making sure that the liturgy is done in a certain format, or, from the Catholic perspective, kneeling even when the parish as a whole has decided not to pull us away from what the liturgy is all about: worshipping God. Is it a concern about not giving Christ His due respect, or is it our own need to continue the tradition to a point that it becomes less about glorifying God and more about edifying our own needs to show "I am a better (insert denominational title here) than you?"

As you go through the week, and start this New Year, think about the things in your life that you may not necessarily looked at as an idol. The one thing that Christ did do was not let His conformity to His religion take away from, and become the center of, His ministry. We should all look to the reason and method for sharing our faith. Is it the Glory of God, spreading of the Kingdom, bringing souls to Christ? Or is it to have the most trafficked blog, the wittiest comments, and the most thought provoking content? I hope that we all are trying to further the kingdom, but I think we all struggle with finding that balance.
Further Reading: Jason's previous post: Worshiping the Bible?

  posted at 8:33 AM

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Adoro Te Devote said...

Good post, and it is an important topic.

I agree with you (with regard to your comment in Angela's post) about the reverence which has been lost in some places, while retained in other Rites.

And focusing on the customs can, for some, become an idol of sorts.

But by the same token, we have to be careful for our customs have been designed with worship in mind, and what we are seeing now with regard to issues such as "standing v. kneeling" in the Latin Rite is what comes from a loss of reverence. We pray not just with our voices, but with our bodies. Our movements mean something, and glorify God. But sometimes that meaning is lost.

I do believe that the answer is in solid catechesis and in reinforcement of that catechesis.

But it's not really that simple to fix the problems in our midst, is it?

And our change has to happen with us, first, in our own hearts, in our own personal conversion. Because the closer we come to God, the more we reflect Him...and the less we have to worry about "idols".

I think we all struggle with this.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger JD said...

Adoro said:

"But by the same token, we have to be careful for our customs have been designed with worship in mind, and what we are seeing now with regard to issues such as "standing v. kneeling" in the Latin Rite is what comes from a loss of reverence. We pray not just with our voices, but with our bodies. Our movements mean something, and glorify God. But sometimes that meaning is lost."

We struggle with the same thing in the Methodist Church. We struggle for Orthodoxy and tradition while trying to balance that against the witness we have to all. Kevin Baker, a Methodist Pastor in North Carolina, has been posting a series entitled "Why I am a United Methodist." He addresses this issue in his latest posting. Quoting an article he read by Andrew Thompson, he writes:

"In this post, I begin to do some constructive work on the subject of why I am United Methodist. Put simply, I agree with a recent column by Andrew Thompson where he wrote:

'The conventional wisdom these days says that we need to downplay denominational identity in order to build up the church. I couldn't disagree more. If we think the Methodist approach to the Christian faith still has anything positive to contribute to the universal Church, we should be emphasizing its distinctive witness.' (from "What Does it Mean to be a Methodist?")

So what is the "distinctive witness" that United Methodists have to offer the universal Church? I will begin by describing some of our theological emphases using what Dr. Paul Chilcote calls a Wesleyan "conjunctive theology." The genius of Methodism has historically been its ability to live amidst theological and practical tensions; to be able to hold together ideas or themes that often elicit an either/or response. At our best, Methodists embody this practical divinity that calls the church away from false alternatives that tend to truncate a fuller expression of faith, worship, and service. Keep in mind, I am not suggesting that these emphases are not present in other denominations and communions; only that Methodists (again, at our best) have these as distinctive emphases that can serve the cause of renewal and transformation for the larger church."

I think all denominations are struggling with this right now, the balance to be true to the history of the faith without falling into the huge hole of Moral Relativism, denial of scriptural truth, and denial of the Christian faith.


At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all you had to prayerfully write...I agree with this very much. Many people I know have said they struggle with this. We must always pray to have our very souls in the right place with the best thoughts in mind for the love of Jesus and for holding our Faith close to our hearts. We have enough people out there refusing to believe in the REAL PRESENCE and I fully believe this has so much to do with the slow tearing down of reverence over the years. We cannot afford to let that go ourselves nor for what we have been asked to pass down to our can we expect them to be in awe of the Holy Eucharist if we aren't willing to hurt our knees just a little bit, as an example. I don't know...let us pray. :) Suzanne

At 10:05 PM, Blogger JD said...


Thanks for reading! I appreciate your comments. My main prayer, always, is that all the Christian Churches can be unified once again, as Jesus so diligently prayed for in John 17:20-23. The funny thing is, this morning, in Sunday School, we talked about the different loves in the Bible, Agape, Phileo, Eros, and opened our class by singing "They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love".


At 8:28 AM, Blogger Jason Woolever said...

good post man!

At 9:59 AM, Blogger JD said...

Thanks J,

Glad to see you are back from exploring the jungles of the Mayan Riviera.



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