The values of America’s founders are not represented in today’s American political landscape and that is too bad
Idol worship. Why is it bad? Is it, in fact, bad? What are idols? The Old Testament is, in essence, a polemic against idols and their worship, idolatry. But what is it that is so objectionable about idols? Idols are physical representation of spirits and deities that could affect certain aspects of human existence in supernatural ways, or so their worshipers believed. Many of these deities gave comfort to people. They did it by fulfilling a deep spiritual need to address something that is above the mere natural plane; give people hope that things may yet work out, that crops may yet grow, that the next pregnancy will be a successful one.
Others were evil and vengeful and needed to be appeased, often via precious sacrifice, including that of the most valuable and precious commodity that people could offer: their own children. But the character of the idol, good or bad, malignant or benign, is not the key issue. What makes idols objectionable, is their selfishness, their “what’s in it for me?” attitude. Idols do not ask their worshipers for self-betterment, they ask for more frequent and more precious sacrifice.
Many passages in the Torah and in he writings of the prophets make the opposite point, they teach that God cares nothing about sacrifice, that what He wants is for us humans to follow the path of righteousness. Sacrifice service is intended to placate our need to give something, the lack of belief that existed among the ancients that without sacrifice God will surely not heed their prayers. Sacrifices in the Torah are more for us than for Him. For us to be in His good graces, it is enough to do the hard work of self-betterment, of being better husbands, wives, siblings, children, people.
Progressive movement seeks to discard and in fact overturn the Biblical recipe for being a better person. It does so by the effacement of every boundary that separates righteous from sinful behavior; in essence, by eliminating the concept of sin itself. Boundaries that define acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviors such as homosexuality, adultery, incest, and pedophilia, are erased by the progressive movement. “Small” crimes such as theft up to a certain sum of money are decriminalized. Major theft via claiming various spurious government benefits is not only discouraged, but actively encouraged. The younger generation, far from being brought up to revere its parents and grandparents, is being taught to think of them as old fools who know nothing.
Conservative movement is supposed to provide an alternative to this Godless and inhumane agenda. Alas, it does not. In America, progressives worship the idols of self-indulgence at others’ expense, of sexual debauchery and perversion, of sloth, of substance abuse, of child abuse, and of self-destruction. In response, the conservative movement in America offers only the worship of another, no less pernicious idol: Mammon.
Americans are urged by their so-called “conservative” leaders to worship their paychecks, their bank statements, their 401(k)s. They are encouraged to measure their success in life by the size of their homes and their cars, not their families or their hearts. Virtually no conservative voices are raised against rampant sexual depravity, child abuse, proliferation of government programs that steal from one American to give to another, or any other part of the progressive agenda.
It is true that raising these issues, tackling them head on is fraught with very real dangers in the progressive totalitarian dictatorship that is today’s America. One could get denied electronic platforms of speech, lose their job, have their bank account terminated, and even get spat on in public places by evildoers and idol worshipers. Still, these perils hardly equate to being thrown to the lions or being banished into exile. Among the so-called conservatives in America there are people who are wealthy enough to withstand the wrath of the progressive establishment. And yet, almost nobody speaks out.
Conservatives, including their ostensible leader president Trump, offer the American people the Mammon-inspired Faustian bargain of artificial wealth inflation via lower taxes in the face of a rapidly growing government, the deficit covered by unchecked borrowing against the blood collateral of future generations. This is what sacrifice to Mammon looks like. Everything is fine as long as the mighty Dow is happy.
What is the difference between our government and Bernie Madoff? Madoff ran a classic pyramid scheme wherein he used his charm and charisma to sucker people into entrusting him with their money, using a fraction of it to pay other clients who needed to make small withdrawals and the rest to support his lavish lifestyle. Well, I have news for you: our government is doing exactly the same thing on a vastly larger scale and we are all its willing marks.
Everybody knows that should even ten percent of us wish to withdraw all our savings in cash, sell all our shares, liquidate our 401(k)s, and get rid of all our bonds and other paper, the economy would immediately collapse. There would be nowhere near enough money to make the payments. Should the Fed print enough money, it will immediately devalue to a fraction of its worth. A very small fraction. We know this, or at least we should, but we are not worried. Stock market investing became the art of not being the last guy left holding the bill. Are we really to believe that we are smarter or better informed than our ancestors in antiquity who gave gold coins to temple priests to intercede with Mammon on their behalf? Is our belief that the pixels on our computer screens represent real wealth any more rational than theirs was in their idols made of clay or marble? I think not. At least their idol worship was not likely to wipe them out financially, whereas our worship of the financial markets has been proven to be a folly and a dangerous one at that many times over.
The drive to succeed, to do better for oneself and one’s family is, within limits, a noble thing. It is good to be industrious, innovative, productive. But that is radically different from pyramid scheme investing and making profits from institutionalized gambling. There is nothing noble about that and in fact it will be the ruin of us all. It is a recent and dangerous development that we expect our leaders to sustain an unsustainable growth in our financial markets. We demand of them to be Bernie Madoffs on an unimaginable scale, to game the system on our behalf. We forget, we don’t want to notice that it is not our government’s policies that are holding up the markets. It is our fear of what will happen once they start falling. Because of that fear, no one wants to yell that the king has no clothes, though we all can clearly see his nakedness.
Nothing is too big to fail and the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed is that EVERYTHING will fail. Our Mammon worship, our obsession with material goods, our addiction to borrowing heavily to obtain these goods, are all actions that hasten the inevitable collapse. How refreshing would it be to have a leader, at least one, that would advocate for the return to the old-fashioned American virtues of frugality, of spirituality, of living debt-free, relying only on our own ingenuity and resources. Such a leader would be unpopular, that’s true. In a world in which all politicians from all parties compete on who can spend more trillions more quickly, he would be maligned, laughed at, ridiculed. In this, however, he would share the fate of many a great leader and in the fullness of time, when the unthinkable happens, he would provide a guiding light to those who survive.
History teaches us that truth and God always prevail, but their victories are never final. The arc of the universe is a figment of our imagination and in fact the mere idea of such an arc runs against the teachings of the Bible. The Bible teaches us that to live in a moral universe, we must merit it. We must make it moral by doing the hard work of overcoming our own built-in immorality. In some places, at some times, we have managed to do so. Partially, imperfectly, but still. In other places, at other times, like right now in America, we are doomed to live in a deeply immoral and dangerous world. Only we can change that, only we can right the ship. Will we? Eventually, yes. For many if not most of us it will be too late.