Putting away our Strange Gods

The Beauty of God's Creation

“Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you
and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24)

When I first read this passage from Joshua, I was distracted by all the tribal implications of what Joshua was doing—commanding allegiance to the God who, as the Israelites believed, had selected them from all the peoples on the earth. I was thinking of how tribal monotheism has accounted for so much murder, conquest and mayhem in our world as it evolved during the agricultural era. It was during the agricultural era that land became the god—land, possessions, title deeds, armies to protect possessions, and warfare over land. And as I write this I think back to Francis of Assisi who told the bishop, “If we have possessions, we will have to have weapons to protect them.”

I also think of CUI analyst Ray McGovern’s article which I sent around yesterday (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/08-1 ). They, our soldiers, are at still dying in vain to protect the American way of life—domination and control of others to get at the resources we need to support our way of life. It is really about oil and water in Iraq. And how many people know that there is a natural gas pipeline that will go directly through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean without going through Iran? I once stood on a hill in Megiddo and listened as the tour guide told us how three major caravan trade routes came through the area. Instead of caravans with spices and silk, we have pipelines with oil, natural gas, and water coming through the Middle East.

Yet we are constantly exhorted to support our troops. We are being urged to support American imperialism. Troops “drafted” in the volunteer Army by promises of bonuses and a better life fight the corporate wars. Any pastor who would dare challenge American policies would be tarred and feathered and run out of his/her parish.

But, you know what? I think that deep down we do know what is going on. Notice how we are assuaging our guilt when we honor troops—free admission to sporting events with due recognition, uniformed soldiers holding the American flag on each hole of a golf tournament, rallies to support those who have returned from foreign service. Somehow this makes our wanton sacrifice of our troops all right. I believe Donald Rumsfeld once remarked that they are fungible (interchangeable like auto parts). At least, he was honest in his assessment horrible as it was.

The Gospel is clear—we are to put away strange gods and keep our eyes on the prize—Jesus the Christ who announces the new order, the new way, the Kindom of God. Those who keep their eyes on the Christ do not kill and murder and maim in order to protect our expansionist, consumerist way of life. The Kindom is about love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and justice (perceived not a retributive justice but as right relationship to God, one another and the cosmos).

Our wars are just part of our consumerist drive to destroy our own nest. God is not up there and out there beyond the dome. God is bursting forth in creation. It is God’s breath we breathe. It is God in the stardust that is us. It is God in every human being. It is the Christ calling us to the divinity—God image—that is in each and every one of us. Namaste means I honor the divine in you. The Christ became human so that we might become divine. Christogenesis tells us that the cosmos is the Body of Christ and that we are to honor the cosmos.

How then can we spend trillions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya and allow millions to starve and die needlessly in Somalia and elsewhere? When will we have the courage to apply Gospel values and ask why billions live on less than $2 a day? When will we honor the Christ’s imperative to seek first the Kindom of God? When will we who have the will and the know-how to put people on the moon apply that will and  know-how to ending 3.57 million deaths per year (1.5 million children) due to contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation? (http://water.org/learn-about-the-water-crisis/facts/)

Once we get past imperial tribal religion, Joshua does have a message for us. When will we turn our hearts to the God of the Cosmos—the God that breathes life into every human being and makes us one family? When will we see beyond American consumerism and live the Good News? When?

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