Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Idol


My wife and I are used to going on long walks every day. During the holidays, however, with family and friends at our house we neglected our habit. What is more, we increased our caloric intake which is what people do on holidays, right? You know: ham, turkey, pies, cake—a familiar drill. So, today when our beloved family and friends went to their own homes, we set out on a nice walk down the hill to the railroad tracks.

A welcome sun made a valiant effort after a soggy Christmas weekend, but it did not do very much to warm us on the way down the hill. On the jaunt back up, however, lo, was that perspiration leaking through my shirt? My wife had said on the way down the hill that I may have to pull her back up. The opposite was true, though, as I trailed her about 10 yards until we got to the top. I confess I was more winded than she was but we were both rosy cheeked and happy with the effort.

Shortly after we arrived back home, a neighbor came to bring me an Episcopal Church Calendar. I love to keep up with where we are in the church year and the churches I am associated with these days do not put much stock in that. Did you know, for example, that January 20 (inauguration day) Fabian, Bishop of Rome and Martyr of Rome is honored? Per internet sources, with the advent of Decius the emperor, the Roman government's toleration of Christianity stopped for a while. Decius ordered leading Christians to prove loyalty to Rome by honoring Roman deities. Christians were obviously against such idolatry. Fabian himself was one of the earliest Christian victims of Decius, being martyred for not honoring Roman deities on January 20, 250. He would not burn incense to them.

I bring that up because I am concerned about idolatry on every level. A cell phone can be as much as an idol as the almighty dollar, nay, even an addiction. I have seen people escape into the electronic universe so deeply that normal conversation cannot occur. The phenomenon recalls Jonathon Swift’s “flappers” in Gulliver’s Travels, those dutiful servants whose job it was to flap their abstracted intellectuals on the ears when someone wanted to converse with them. Similarly, people can get so deeply involved in politics and the reporting thereof that all things political most assuredly become idols. And, heaven forbid that a citizen in our republic would venerate a political figure so highly as to make him or her an idol!

Anyway, a walk down and back up a hill can put us in touch with what is real about life. Seeking health and peace requires considerable work—work that can be rewarded not only with a spurt of endorphins, but with a culminating awareness of historical fact: refusing to bend the knee to the idol of state can bring martyrdom, but it can also bring freedom.

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