Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 12 Idolatry
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 12 Idolatry

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

The Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly warn against idolatry. What is idolatry, and why is it such an offense to God? I think idolatry is the attribution to God of human characteristics. We are idolatrous when we create God in our own image.

Many people attribute Godís repeated admonition against idolatry to jealousy, but I am not convinced that such an apparently petty motive adequately explains Godís denunciation of idolatry. From a Girardian perspective, what God is trying to show us is that scapegoating victimization, which people have been doing since the formation of human culture, is wrong. People have never recognized that their scapegoating victimization derives from their own mimetic desires and their own mimetic violence. Rather, they invariably attribute their own violence to the god(s), insisting that the god(s) demand sacrifice. This is idolatry, and it runs directly counter to the God described in 1 John 4:8: ďGod is love.Ē

I see the Bible as Godís revelation that sacred violence is scandalous. The ancient Hebrews repeatedly wanted to worship a range of gods, because they had difficulty seeing God as having one essence. Polytheism is needed if one envisions the divine as having diverse (and conflicting) attributes and desires, but monotheism posits that God can be defined and understood as a single concept, and I think John is right when he asserts that God is love.

Godís attempt to reveal what has been hidden since the foundation of the world (Mt 13:35) has required human growth and maturation. The first step has been to discourage idolatry, which prepares the way for a monotheistic way of thinking and believing. This was the challenge set before Abraham, which I will discuss next week.

Go on to: Part 13: Abraham and Isaac
Return to: Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence Table of Contents
Return to: Christian Living Table of Contents