The Uncontrollable Nature of Idolatry

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Our daily trip to drop the kids off at school every day is an obstacle course, as we try to avoid trucks, buses, bicycle taxis and pedestrians. In all of Ixtapaluca, there are very few normal intersections. Most have multiple creative access points, through gas stations and parking lots, and crossing almost against traffic at some points.  Most of these ins and outs not protected by a redlight or a stop sign (of course, stop signs don’t work too well here anyway).

You can blow through a stop sign, but a speed bump is impossible to ignore. Ah, the speed bump! There are, let’s see, I’m not positive, but I’m thinking there are at least 12 of them from our house to the first church. That’s exactly 1 mile driving. 5280 yards divided by 12…that’s a big speed bump every 445 ft. or so! The ratio has to be very similar going up to the second church…a bit farther, but with an abundance of speed bumps also.

This morning in addition to the typical parents walking and riding bicycles (some with one or two kids on the bike), all rushing to get to school before the 8 a.m. bell, we saw a young man carrying a probably 3 ft. high image of Christ. But not just any Christ. This was a statue resembling the Señor de los Milagros, Ixtapaluca’s (Catholic) patron saint.

All Mexican towns have a patron saint, or a patrón del pueblo. The patron “saint” in Ixtapaluca is Christ. Sort of. If you google Señor de los Milagros, you’ll probably learn about the Peruvian version of him. But alas, there is a shortage of good names for saints. Or Christ. Which is he…a saint or the Son of God? Depends who you ask. But in Ixtapaluca, a particular representation of Christ is paraded around.  You can read more about this in another post I did last year HERE. Or you can visit a Facebook page about this (Peruvian emphasis) HERE.

Idols take on a life of their own (too bad they can’t see, hear or breathe–see Psalm 115). Jesus, or a particular representation of him, is paraded around for a week, as fireworks and rockets keep us up at night. Another even more bizarre dynamic occurs with Mexico’s growing fascination with la niña blanca, or la santa muerte (the holy death), which is a personification of a demonic figure that we would probably call the Grim Reaper. Death is not a metaphysical reality here, she is a god. An estimated 3 million people in Mexico now worship…death. She also is paraded around during certain times of the year, prayed to, worshiped. She is considered the patron saint of thieves and assassins.  I’m not making this up. I’d encourage you to check out a photo report by TIME by clicking HERE. There’s even a santa muerte website and Twitter feed. Bizarre, sad, and demonic.

This is a glimpse into what happens when idolatry is permitted, and even encouraged. One of the ten commandments forbids making an image of God, or of any god. Why? Because when God is reduced to an image, he is reduced to something less than God. And there’s no telling where the distortion will end.

Below, a picture from a wall in Ixtapaluca, with a freaky representation that apparently attempts to wrap the holy death image in the familiar garb of Mexico’s favorite goddess, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

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