Ok, let’s see if we can remain sober and logical in our discussion about idolatry - specifically pertaining (but not limited to) the use of statues in worship…
I will be careful in my terminology so as not to cause a ruckus…
Something can become an idol anytime we treat it in such a way that it either replaces God or is given the same honor as God. If money is your idol does it mean you put it on an altar and light candles and incense to it and pray before it on your knees? Silly - of course not. If you did such things it certainly would be idolatry of course b/c you’d be giving it the same honor and treatment that only God should be given. But more subtly, one can make money their idol by putting the pursuit of it before all other things - and most importantly - before God. Another subtle example of idolatry may be one’s preoccupation with looking good in the eyes of others or protecting their ego. Such a person may avoid living as God instructs them b/c it draws attention or causes criticism. Such a person may avoid spreading the good news for fear of rejection… In this way they make ego their idol. A person may avoid doing the same things for fear of offending others. Then that person makes society their idol.
All of these are disordered affections. We should love ourselves and one another, but if we would put ego or other’s ignorant misconceptions above the commands of God we have commited idolatry. One can love their neighbor and themselves but it must be done giving God first place. This is why we must “hate mother, father, sister, etc…” if we will be Jesus’ disciples b/c we don’t truly know how to love ourselves or one another in a godly way. We very often love in a disordered way. So if we are to follow Jesus’ command to love one another it must be a self-less love - the kind of love with which God loves us.
Now, as far as statues and other holy objects, this is far more obvious. God no where tells us to construct such objects to be the focal point in worship. God does instruct us to use matter in our worship, such as in ordinances like bread and wine, water and oil, etc… , but He does not instruct us to then treat those things with reverence, honor or veneration. We should treat them with respect, certainly, but we should not treat them in such a way that they are given the same treatment as only God should receive. There is a world of difference in that. I respect money, but I do not bow before it, light candles before it, etc… I respect the water used in baptism, but I don’t bow before it, light candles before it, etc… Nature brings to mind some of God’s attributes and His magesty, and I show respect for it and I do admire it (He created it afterall), but I do not treat it with the same reverence and honor I would give only to Him. I appreciate art and music as a human expression, but I do not make the human expression my focal point during worship or prayer, no matter how good that expression may be. It may be appealing to my senses, but my focus is on setting my heart and soul on God and the spiritual. The arts are spiritual - there is no doubt about that, but it is a reflection of MANS spirit or spiritual state or man’s spiritual conceptions (and misconceptions) and not God’s. We have a tendancy to fixate our affections on man’s expression b/c it is very beautiful, but in so doing we are idolizing it. St. John of the Cross said something to the affect that even nature itself pales in comparison to God. The beauty of nature itself leaves him hungry.
Regardless, God clearly understood these things when He forbade the construction of images to be used in worship (do not bow before them, etc…). Instead of setting a statue in a place of honor in one’s house, they would do better to let Jesus sit on the thrones of their hearts and give honor to Him by living in joyful obedience, humble submission, and love for Him. Not implying that Catholics do not do this, but using an inanimate object as the focal point for worship and prayer is not only an offense to the Commandment of God, but at the very least makes no logical sense whatsoever when one considers that even the magestic nature we see before us is an insufficient representation of God - and I would consider God’s creation to be a far better focal point and far better representation of God’s attibutes than anything man can create - wouldn’t you?
There is a fine line between respect and reverence/worship/veneration. St. Gemma Galgani was resolved to love nothing above God and to never set her affections on anything else or anyone else. She had very little possessions - perhaps a hat, mantle, and dress, shoes, etc., and she had this 1 relic. Jesus brought the relic to her attention. She realized what affection she had for it and immediately got rid of it. We are called to love one another, but not in a way that puts others before God. Furthermore, whatever act of love we give to another is given to Jesus “Whatever you do the least of my people you do unto me.”. Where has God instructed us to treat objects this way?
There is a fine line between respect and reverence/worship/veneration. The best way to avoid going past it is to avoid it. Pluck out they eye, cut off the hand… Throw out the plaster and wood…
And lest you think these things are only for the monastic etc… let me remind you all of your call to holiness. Perfection is for every single one of us!
Peace, and Have a Blessed Easter.
I’ll pick back up on this tomorrow.