Nov 10 2011
Memo to Ourselves: Don't Idolize People

Don't idolize people.


No one. Not football coaches. Not politicians. Not TV personalities. Not athletes. Not movie stars.  Not musicians.

Shoot, let's name names:  Don't worship Joe Paterno. And don't idolize Tim Tebow. Or Billy Graham. Or Bono. Or Chris Tomlin, or Steve Jobs, or Mercy Me, or Albert Pujols or Kirk Cameron or Stephen Hawking or Casting Crowns or John MacArthur or Francis Chan or Joel Osteen or Barack Obama or Whoever the Republican Nominee Will Be.

Don't worship dead humans, either.  Don't idolize Mother Teresa or Ronald Reagan or C.S. Lewis.

Don't idolize your preacher. Ever. Or your cool worship leader. They're sinners, they tend toward self-centeredness, and your idolatry will destroy them.  

Don't worship your spouse. Ever. Or your mom or dad.  

This is because they are humans. Humans are not to be made into idols.  Idolatry first blinds people, then leaves a wake of victims, wondering why no one seemed to see what was so obviously there.

You don't have to be a freak to engage in this. Normal people do it. And when idols are toppled, we deny, we lash out, and sadly, we wind up looking like the fools we have become.

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Comments (15) -

11/10/2011 7:40:24 PM
mjp United States
Well stated!
11/10/2011 8:01:42 PM
Jason United States
I think there's a difference between idolizing and strongly looking up to.  For example, C.S. Lewis is a hero of mine.  I desire to learn much from him so that I can learn about God in a way that makes sense to me.  I quote him often.  But in the end, I know that he is not God nor do I project him to be.

The same goes for you, Brant.  I look up to you because you're one of the rare kinds of people I understand.  Most people in the world don't make sense to me.  I look forward to your insight because I've yet to gain the maturity that you project and I so deeply desire that kind of maturity.  But I know you're not God, either.

So I guess I'm explaining this poorly, but I think it's okay to have heroes.  Heroes are people to trust to be anchors in a crazy world.  I would have a much more difficult time understanding God without C.S. Lewis.  I would have a much more difficult time understanding how to behave as a Christian when surrounded by normal people without you, Brant.  I think for some people those heroes may be parents, pastors, writers, and others; but as long as one is able to greatly respect a man without idolizing him, I believe that's okay.
11/10/2011 9:05:48 PM
Sue United States
I've always said that unless they can walk on water, don't be too impressed...

And God has a way of "refocusing" our attention on Him when we become to focused on them (idols), by usually having them fail us...

But I really love the way you said it Brant and I couldn't have said it better!
11/10/2011 9:24:10 PM
brant United States
Regarding "hero" and "idol", I don't really know what to make of this.  It's something to think about.

I'm honored to be someone's "hero", but only to the point that I'm pointing someone to Christ, period.  If it's meant in that way, "I respect, and learn from, how you seem to follow Jesus," I'm happy about that.

But even with my "heroes" -- C.S. Lewis among them -- I have to be careful not to ascribe to them more than is worthy.  All the good that flowed from Lewis' pen, or typewriter, is a gift from God.  God used a sinner, given to selfishness, in the creation of "Til We Have Faces" or "Perelandra".

Those who elevated Teresa of Calcutta were thrown, after her death, by the revelation of her very long, dark night of the soul, lasting 50 (!) years.  For those of us who respect her, but do not idolize her, this was not a shock, but a confirmation of our condition as humans.  Those who idolize her have a different reaction to this.

It's no surprise rioting ensued at the dismissal of Joe Paterno.  When idols are deposed, it's a bitter, angry, disbelieving mess.  Cults don't pass easily into the night.  Ironically, had he lost more games - say, 40 more, to use the number of counts against Sandusky for irony - he would've been fired long ago, without van-tipping.  The winning kept the idolatry alive.  No winning, no problem.  Winning gave people what they were looking for from an idol, a sense of self and community.
11/11/2011 1:26:39 AM
Scott United States
The current situations at Penn State and "occupy wherever/whenever" have given me much fuel for thought.  So many of us seem to be looking for stress release, ways to vent.  But what are we truly angry about?  Certainly with the PSU occurence, we should be angry at how many lives have been disrupted and damaged.  But last night I was contemplating how much more we might accomplish if we poured all this energy into helping those who have been hurt.  The mob mentality accomplishes very little, and I always question the motives of the majority for being involved in those scenarios.

You are spot on about idols.  Having "heroes" - positive role models who have accomplished things to advance the Kingdom, those we can admire and look up to - is something we all need.  At the same time understanding that we are all human -- fallen, broken, not worthy of worship -- is essential.  An idol is anyone that we, knowingly or unconsciously, place at or above the level of Christ in our lives.  Once we do that, it will always eventually lead to disruption, and potential devastation, not only for us, but those around us as well.  And the higher the pedestal, the harder the fall when the idol comes crashing back down to earth.

Christ cannot and must not be replaced by any other.

Thanks for your willingness to tackle the tough issues.
11/11/2011 12:32:21 PM
Beth M United States
Beth M
You mentioned that idols give people a "sense of self." I agree. It's an interesting thing. I once heard that whoever you depend on for your identity, you will idolize. We need to depend, rely on our identity in Christ, so we idolize only Him. Also, wherever or whoever we fix our eyes on, this is what or who we become.
11/11/2011 1:02:16 PM
Megan United States
Sometimes we just need to realize that all those "great" people are humans, too.  Even though we haven't exactly accomplished what they have accomplished, we are all on the same level.  For example, if you somehow become friends with a great athlete, it's easy to smack that "special" status on yourself because you're friends with "them."  But all in all, we've got gotta realize that they're plain old humans just like we are, no matter what they've done.  I see no problem in looking up to someone, as long as you don't give them the power in your life over Jesus.  (btw, a thing that's helped me is to look at everyone as a friend.  When you're friends with someone, you don't see them as someone who's wayyy above you.  Though they may be awesome and you greatly admire them, you see them as someone equal to you.  And that's exactly what they are.  Hope that makes sense.)

And nice blog post, Brant.  Good reminder.
11/11/2011 8:47:03 PM
Adam United States
I've learned the way to know if you idolize something is if, even for a second, you would show loyalty to another if forced to choose between God and the idol.  That is really easy to do with a significant other.  That is why Paul was pointing this out in Corinthians 7:25-on.  While there is nothing morally wrong with marriage, he is aware it is a difficult task to be married and loyal to God. A task that only the extraordinary and blessed can fully accomplish.
"One who is unmarried is concerned about hte things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband."
There is a great temptation to idolize someone you love deeply.  However, Paul's suggestion isn't for everyone, he acknowledges it is possible for some to be devoted to God and a spouse.
"...those who have wives should be as though they had none;"
My personal belief about how to succeed in this task involves being picky about who you date or marry. If you are to be able to serve God and a spouse; you must find someone who desires the same. You also must learn to pass on those you feel infatuated towards, the opposite of society's advice. Then you must consciously try to focus on God. In a sense your marriage needs to involve 3 individuals: you, your spouse and God. Of course, I'm just a young man; so what do I know?
11/12/2011 4:23:11 AM
Sylvanna United States
Even with "Hero's" it can get messy, we should respect all peoples who have been good examples of Christianity , but even be super careful about those because through our respect they  be tempted with pride.  The only one worthy of absolute respect and  respect for being a Hero and "idolizing" (even though I hate to use that word Because it isnt Idolizing when it is HIM) Is God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. Thanks for the Post Brant , Keep up the God Work
11/14/2011 2:42:15 PM
Michael Salazar United States
Michael Salazar
True. Very true.
The Second Commandment is "You shall have no other gods before me."

And the problem with "heroes" is that we hold them TK such a high standard, one that only Christ can fufill, that when they fall - and they will because they are just people too- we are disappointed and shocked. Shocked that they're not perfect! Shocked that they sinned and need forgiveness as well.
We are all human. And once in a while we will fall, because that is the way our flesh works. That's where God's grace is most amazing.

There's a fine line where a hero becomes an idol. We must be sober and vigilant to see we never cross that line. And it's ok to have a role model, as long as you can look past them and see Christ instead.
11/17/2011 10:53:27 AM
Mari Beth United States
Mari Beth
So true, Brant!  Thank you for being bold and honest, especially when it isn't popular.  
12/4/2011 11:56:28 PM
yep i agree
12/13/2011 2:12:50 PM
malibu United States
I always wonder why people get so caught up with a person that may appear to have no sin in their life but and believe and trust them, but when it comes to the word of God itself, they ignore it.  They continue to be unforgiving, hateful.  They chose to see that person as God but not to see God or his word.  It is getting worse and not better, I know these are last and evil days that people want to be the judge of everyone and feel they have a right to tell God who should be accepted by him and who should not.  Is it because they have not hope and don't care?  They don't believe there is a hell unless they want to send you there.  Where is the faith in God?  
10/2/2012 9:22:52 PM
Andrew United States
I looked up "idolizing people" because recently I have been obsessed with the musician Beck. I don't deny his flaws or anything, but I can't help hit see him as exactly what I want to become (not the fame and fortune part).  But the thing is, I don't feel like I WANT to change that..
10/2/2012 9:25:01 PM
Andrew United States
Wait, what the fuck? Wrong website.  Down with religion.  Fucking hypocrites.
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