Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The god of Art and Culture

If this post is going to make any sense to you, then you need to read this article on idol destruction in Nigeria. I want to give you my first, gut reaction, and then my biblically reasoned one.

I confess that as I first read this article I was deeply dismayed. I thought that the "Pentecostal Pastor" who destroyed these "heirlooms" was being rash. I thought that his motivation was all wrong. I have reconsidered my initial reaction and have decided that I was, for the most part, terribly wrong.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were commended for their zeal in destroying idols. It was always with great sadness that I read about a king "...but he did not tear down the high places" or some such thing. I got excited when men like Gideon went and tore down altars to false gods. So why was I averse to my brother in Nigeria doing the exact same thing?

Some may think, "Yes, Brad, they did destroy idols in the OT, but this is the New Covenant, man! We know that idols are nothing, right?" Well, destruction of things devoted to false gods is not exclusive to the OT. These idols this man destroyed were part idol part fetish, which means that they were believed to hold magical properties. Check this out:

And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand silver pieces (Acts 19:19).

Should he have spared them because they were valuable? Not according to this passage in Acts. Should he have spared them because they told the story of his heritage? That, in the end, would be the last objection.

He certainly should, if he so desired. Those idols represent bondage. Those idols represent a system of beliefs that sent his fore-fathers to hell. Would a freed slave want to keep shackles his father had worn? Perhaps, but perhaps not. If he chose to burn them with fire as a gesture of his newfound freedom, no one would protest that they were ancient heirlooms to be preserved

Most Westerners who read this article will be miffed at someone's wanton destruction of ancient cultural heirlooms. This deception is buried deep in the mind of the West, as if culture is above reproach and to be preserved at nearly any cost. (Unless, of course, it is Western culture!) Indeed, many will see the pastor's burning of these idols as an act of barbarism. They would have no trouble seeing him bow down and worship these mute and worthless things. That would please them. But to burn them...barbaric sacrilege!

Those were his idols, not his culture's. Let him do as he sees fit before the Lord. Burn the accursed things if you see fit, my dear brother. In the meantime, I will repent of my latent idolatry of culture and art.

1 comment:

Sista Cala said...

Would to God that people would see the need to destroy the idols of their life; both the tangible and those of the mind.

We witnessed similar acts when we held meetings on the Reservations of NM,Utah, and AZ. Born-again Native Americans felt that it was necessary to solidify their new stand/life in Christ. They wanted their families to see just how important Jesus had become to them. Sometimes they were rejected by their families. In such cases, their testimonies would also include thanksgiving for their new Christian friends and family.