Exchanging the Glory of the Immortal God for Images

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This is one of the rather intense blog posts, so if you’re not really interested in getting a bit worked up, you probably should skip it and not read it. I got a bit worked up writing it.

There are indeed so many other more pleasant topics to write about…15 year old celebrations, weddings and Christmas dinners and a Christmas carol competition at a local jr. high school…and maybe I’ll get to those events in coming days. In the meantime, if you’re interested, you can check out Finding Direction and In Avoidance of the Perfunctory, our co-workers’ blogs.

The topic I’d like to write about is idolatry. I’ve written about this before. Now, you might be preparing yourself for a reflection on the perils of materialism, or the distractions of technology during this Christmas season. Indeed, nearly anything can become an idol for us idolatry-prone humans. But I’d like to talk about old-school idolatry.

I’ve put a number of pictures below. The first one is Mexico’s newest fad, the “Cristo Rey” or Christ the King image. That’s a bit of a twist. Is Christ a saint or is he…well, Jesus? If he is Jesus, why is he being carried for miles on the backs of people and bicycles? We have the same phenomenon here in Ixtapaluca, where the patron saint is Señor de los Milagros, or Lord of Miracles. So…is Christ a saint or…God? Is He an image or an idol or both? Has the image of the invisible God been reduced to this?

The next image is the Virgin of Guadalupe. Mexico just celebrated the date when on December 12, 1531, the virgin of Guadalupe “appeared” on Tepeyac hill. It is the most celebrated day of the year, with the possible exception of Independence Day. Millions of people ride bicycle, run, walk and come in caravans to visit the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is a damn shame, or perhaps the grammatically correct way to say it would be a “damnable shame.”  Is Guadalupe Mary? If she is, why is her name Guadalupe? Why do those committed pilgrims commit all sorts of immoral acts on their way in and out of the city, strewing the streets with garbage and confounding already miserable Mexico City traffic? Is there any merit in a pilgrimage to a false deity? Why does no one question these practices? Why do the major networks here all drool over these events, and give hypocritical homage to made-up gods?

The third image my son took with my iPod as we were on our way to the northern part of Mexico City last week. This humungous image of the Holy Death, or grim reaper figure stands next to a shrine to the same image. If you want more pics, type “santa muerte lopez portillo” in your browser. An estimated 3 million Mexicans revere this detestable image, and its influence is now felt in the United States. Once again, when you open your religious system up to idolatry, one never knows where it will take you. Not a huge leap from worshiping one image to worshiping another.

As the third picture, a mural painted here in Ixtapaluca, so artistically and horrendously illustrates.

Really now, what is the essential difference between the worship of all of these different images?

Romans 1:21-23 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

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