Rich Paxson

“Just as the Hebrews discovered God revealed to be not one of the gods, we are still discovering the same thing today. Who or what are the gods that tempt your devotion?”

If God is not ‘one of the gods’, then Who or what are my gods, my idols? The question brings idolatry to mind. Chris Hedges in ‘Losing Moses on the Freeway’ wrote: “Idols comfort us, reassure us and empower us.” In the beginning idols are familiar and present when I am ready for them. Only later on must I conform to their schedule for an increasingly-difficult-to-attain familiar, but false sense of security, empowerment and goodness.

What does it mean to worship idols? Richard Rohr wrote in ‘Jesus Plan’: “When there is no experience of the True Sacred, we will always fall into the worship of the false sacred. The false sacred will invariably become a pretext and even a holy justification for prejudice, marginalization of others, scapegoating and violence.”

James wrote on page forty-two of ‘Forgiving Victim’ that “… our self-identity as ‘good’ is one of our most sacred idols.” I can know myself as good only when I know others in some ways as bad. The comparison is necessary to reveal, to emphasize the meaning of real or imagined differences. I know I’m worshipping the idol of a good self-identity when I hear myself piously intoning liturgies blaming ‘them’ as the cause of my problems. These perceptions can be burning bush realizations where ‘God, who is not one of the gods’, is calling me into mindful attention.

James wrote: “In the face of “I AM”, pure deliberate unhurried protagonism, creating and moving, all of us are peripheral, symptoms, “it’s,” “they’s” being turned into a “we” and an “I” through a historical process of relationships in which we find ourselves being called into worshipping the Lord.“ We are inducted over time into relationship with God, we cannot ourselves grasp God. James wrote “… ‘I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE’ … … … is something that cannot be grasped, coming towards you, and the ‘not-being-able-to-be-grasped’ is essential to what is going on.”

So “what is going on”? How does one wake up to their idol worshipping practices? I think of Moses at the burning bush. I AM, WHO I AM became present to Moses through a commonplace bush. Moses recognized, stopped and attended. James wrote: “ “I AM” turns out to be the real protagonist, the one who brings everything into being, and it is thus only in the degree to which anyone stops attempting to be the “I AM” in the face of God, trying to make God an “it” or a “he”, that that person, or that group, will start themselves to receive their real “self”, their real but subsidiary “I am” as a group and as individual persons.”

Recognize, stop and attend – initial responses to I AM calling from utterly ordinary, non-threatening, mundane reality. It is enough in the beginning to respond mindfully, attentively … to go with the flow.