A new religion has swept the globe and it has almost more followers than all other religions combined: Politics. Politics is the new religion, and it has set itself up as a golden-idol in the hearts of millions around the world.
In the Old Testament, idols were anything that enthralled people’s attention, excited their basest passions, and consumed people’s waking lives. People were willing to defend their idols with their lives, even their deaths. High places were set up in their honour, so that wherever people went and whatever they did, their idols were always there. They comforted them, surrounded them, delighted their eyes and deceived them to think they protected them.
They looked to their idols to defend, prosper, and save them. Their hearts became consumed with them. Despite the trust they put in their idols, and all the attention and earnest efforts to secure them for their own prosperity and wellbeing, inevitably their idols never saved them. Instead, they invited the very destruction they feared.
An animal of a religion
The worst idol in the Old Testament was a golden calf made by God’s people the Israelites. Having saved them from Egypt, Israel went back to Egypt in their hearts by making that idol made of their own gold earrings.
As beautiful as it was, as proud as it stood, and as widely as it was adored, the gold calf idol remained something made by them. Israel made this idol because they thought they had to lead and save themselves; Moses had ‘disappeared’ up a mountain, and suddenly the God who had once saved them didn’t seem ‘enough.’
Although an object that seemed valuable, regal, and real, it could neither save or prosper them, and Israel responded to the golden calf by wild living; indulging their basest instincts. They believed their exaltation and passion (their version of ‘worship’ and ‘service’) delighted God. They found out how wrong they were when Moses returned from the mountain to demonstrate how they had broken God’s Word by smashing the ten commandments before their very eyes.
As absurd as Israel’s actions were then, the world, and even the Church has done the same thing in the last four years of the Trump presidency. Both Trump, and those fervently ‘for’ and ‘against’ all played their part in creating this ‘beast’ of an idol called modern-day Politics. And just like idols in the Old Testament, our idol brought out the worst in us too.
Millions ‘followed’ Trump on Twitter. Media organisations fawned and fretted. Furore ensued. Bitterness resulted, and proud arguments abounded. Trump and politics were suddenly found everywhere online, in every home, workplace and church, and in every conservation. Our attention was drawn obsessively, adoringly, and bitterly to one thing: the golden Idol ‘Politics’.
Losing our religion
Today, absurdly, alarmingly, and terrifyingly, politics has become not just the new idol but the new religion. This is because it isn’t just adored and defended, masses around the world have taken it up as the new main purpose of their very lives. And shockingly, like a trojan horse straight from the pit of Hell, politics has been given prime place in the Church and well and truly made its home there; openly and proudly, like it belongs!
If you doubt this, consider the reality. Our conversations are rife with it, our online news feeds dominated by it, and our phones and TVs filled with it. Like a perverse imitation of true religion, politics sits in our hearts and in our lives as though it has been appointed by God for a sacred veneration, attention, and pursuit. As though God Himself has determined that we should give our lives for it. Make no mistake, the temple ‘Politics’ has been erected, and millions bow, sacrifice, and have wholly given their hearts over to it.
In Israel’s day, making a new religion out of idols never ended well for them. Especially in the case of the golden calf. First, it corrupted their true religion by corrupting their hearts, nature and relationships. Then it corrupted them as a people, then as a nation. It dominated every area of their lives, and only rarely (in the entire history) did they ever succeed in completely stamping out their idolatry.
Idols became their adoration and their snare by taking away their attention and love for God, and putting it on a created thing. The Bible called this worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Today, the new religion ‘Politics’ has also created a new figure for worship. Not just Trump, but what Trump and the opposite Party stands for: an obsessive pursuit of our own best interest, and thus the worship of ‘us.’ There is no more terrible idolatry than self-worship, because it places itself in the place of God; the very sin that made Satan fall and first provoked God’s wrath.
Pursuing self or God?
At its heart, this is what all new and thus ungodly idols and religions have done; made mankind and our own interests the centre of worship instead of Jesus and His Kingdom’s interests. Idols may look a lot different to what they did in Israel’s day, but they are no less harmful, deceiving, and ultimately futile. Today, self-worship has manifested as politics, sweeping the globe, captivating and corrupting millions, even infiltrating the Church.
Like in Israel’s day, the key to defeating idols is to deal with our own hearts, lives, and focus. Idols aren’t dangerous because of what they are (there’s nothing dangerous about a golden calf), but because of our own fallen nature which clings to them. When we adore idols, we make a religion out of them. The key to destroying them is what it’s always been; to do whatever it takes to rid our obsession with them.
Politics may have its place in the world and God does work in and through it, but God is the ultimate ruler of mankind, and he has his way no matter what. Understanding this crucial truth is vital in being able to ‘let Politics go’ in the way we know we should.
The best way to do this is to fill our lives with God, his Word, and his Kingdom priorities. False religion and its idols will never survive this pursuit, and will ensure all other interests have their proper place, or if our treatment of them is wrong, no place at all.
Tim is a high school teacher in Queensland and just finished a season being a youth pastor in America. He has a passion for the gospel and for seeing lives changed by the power, person and love of Jesus Christ.
Tim Price’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-price.html