21st Century Idolatry

goldencalfWhen I was younger, I loved the holidays.  I love the music, the lights and decorations, the cookies, and celebrations.  I also like people being nicer to each other even if its for a brief time.  This really fun seasonal experience is usually ruined by “the Faithful,” the purists who decry the holidays as tainted.  They base their position on debates over whether Christmas is really Yeshua’s birthday or not; or whether Christmas trees are kosher, or of pagan origin.  They justify their wet blanket behavior by claiming they are trying to be biblical.  

The reality is, the Bible never gave Yeshua’s birthday.  Maybe its not important what day he was born.  Maybe its just a good thing that he was born, and that his coming is worth celebrating, no matter what day it was.  Maybe its just fun to enter into seasonal festivities.   Some people would “rather be right,” and claim that if you celebrate Christmas, you are somehow participating in Idolatry.  I really don’t buy it.

Idolatry is lifting your heart to worship a false god.  Scripture tells us over and over that God looks upon people’s hearts.  If in your heart you are not worshiping an idol, but lifting your heart to him, its not idolatry.  I really don’t celebrate Christmas myself, but I don’t condemn those who do.  Its a stretch to claim putting up a tree and decorating it with lights and ornaments is idolatry.

Some of the practices of idolatry in biblical times were not simply differences in theology.  Idolatry involved sex as well as murderous sacrifice of babies.  The high level of immorality associated with it added to the condemnation of it’s practices.

It could be argued that the zealous attitudes against Christmas, and fanatical desire for “purity” in holiday observance also qualifies as idolatry.  The ironic thing is that while “believers” rail against innocuous things like Christmas trees, they aren’t doing enough to speak against the real idolatry of our society: Political correctness.

Because of political correctness, we are being enslaved by protected speech.  Duck Dynasty is being brought down because their patriarch spoke how he honestly felt about gays.  Gayness is a protected subject in our society these days.  My point is not to put down gays in this discussion, but to make the point that simply making a comment could make a guy lose his job.  On the other hand, what happened to his right to speak his mind?  They were sacrificed to the Idol of correct speech.  Paula Dean had her career ruined because someone asked her if she ever in her life used the “N” word. White on black murder grabs national headlines, while black on white murder is ignored by the media and by politicians.

I’m NOT saying any of those things are good, but when we start making decisions on what is “acceptable” speech and behavior instead of on being fair and honest, we are done as a society.  Reverse bias is still bias.    I’m tired of people being overly attacked because they didn’t endorse gay lifestyle, or blacks, or Muslims, or whoever is the golden idol this year.  I’m also tired of getting a free ride because they are the golden idol this year.

The answer is not right-wing extremism.  The answer is not reverse discrimination or affirmative action. The Torah teaches we are not to favor the rich OR the poor.  Real justice is without partiality.  Real justice happens when we treat people with decency, not by being politically correct, and not by condemning holiday celebrations.  May we all make wise choices this season and throughout the year.


4 thoughts on “21st Century Idolatry

  1. Then there is Amos 5:13, which I have a hard time with, because I also like to express myself, having grown up with the idea that it was sacrosanct. But torah does not provide us with freedom of speech; only the admonition to speak the truth and speak up for the oppressed. Political correctness has always been with us; it has merely changed its tune. “Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.”

    We are told that all who desire to live godly in Messiah will suffer persecution. So, I am seeing a lot of what is going on today as whining about loss of Christian privilege. You didn’t hear these same sorts of people complaining when they were on the other side, when colleges had Jewish quotas, school children were forced to participate in religious activities that were not of their faith community, and job applicants were required to list their religion. Perhaps what is occurring today is judgement towards those who were silent, and now the world will be silent as they are the victims.

    I am far more concerned about the history of antisemitism associated with the various Christian celebrations than their pagan source. I believe in informed consent, that people need to understand all the history and ramifications of what they are doing, so they can make a wise choice about their behavior.

    I am sure you are aware that ancient Jews didn’t celebrate birthdays; that was a pagan practice, so the actual day is not significant.

  2. It’s interesting to me that all through America’s history, Phil’s remarks would represent the “normal” and mainstream opinion. And, since the media and Hollywood didn’t actively promote the gay lifestyle until fairly recently, one has to consider how it ever became such a “protected” issue to the extent that no one is allowed to have any opinion about it other than full support–or else.

    For the last 30 + years the “mainstream” (who disagreed with equating gay maraige with traditional marriage, and believed gay behavior was sinful) have listened to those with opposing views because their opinions have been constantly featured in all types of media. Americans were told they should be tolerant, compassionate, and willing to listen to another POV, and that they were “haters” and homophobic if they didn’t. We were told every American had the right to their opinion, even if it was different from the mainstream.

  3. Big revelation: I AM GAY! I am happy, joyful, ebullient in my expressions of joy, etc.
    Second revelation: I do not CHOOSE to practice homosexuality.

    How is Phil Robertson any different from the Prophets of the Tanakh? He told publicly what G-d says, and he is being ridiculed for it. The US will not listen to him any more than Israel listened to Isaiah.


  4. Great article Rabbi. I too tire of the incessant political correctness that has broken our society and divided us all. It’s good to hear someone offer a balanced view.

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