The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville
November 7, 2013
The word “gospel” means good news, yet we frequently hear the message of Christianity portrayed as bad news. Instead of recalling Jesus’ ministry of healing and hope, care for the poor and outcasts, and God’s ultimate nature as Love, we hear that most people who have ever lived are going to hell because they haven’t been baptized or professed their faith as required by some denomination or group of people. A message that is meant to be good news becomes bad news. It is no wonder that an increasing number of young adults who hear this bad news are leaving the Church and are searching for spiritual meaning for their lives outside traditional Christian structures. This negative god is nothing more than an idol.
Edward Hays has pointed out that the most popular idol today is not made of silver or gold but, paradoxically, is a deformed god! This idol is made by stripping away all the mystery from the Divine One to create a small, understandable God in order to explain whatever we find unexplainable. He has noted that among the false gods there is a “sin-punishing God; or a ‘you-had-it coming’, retaliating God. Institutions easily make idols out of themselves that require unquestioned loyalty, obedience, and sacrifice.” (A Book of Wonders)
Regrettably, as an old adage says, “All idols require human sacrifices.” The sacrifices are not the result of faithful people living out a commitment of compassion and service, even to risking their lives, but to being sacrificed by those who alone consider themselves worthy of heaven. Those on the altars of sacrifice are often people dealing with relational and moral struggles, the poor who cannot afford to satisfy a conservative political agenda, and those whose sexual orientation is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Such people are often not viewed as children created in the image and likeness of the God, but as the condemned. A message of fear to alarm the public is, “Don’t go to hell with them.” This idol god replaces the God of Wonder, Love, Forgiveness, Mercy and Reconciliation.
If you find yourself worshipping a fake god, avoid becoming a human sacrifice to that idol.