As our political, church, and cultural life continues to become more toxic by the day, it may be useful to think about our situation in a very traditional religious context: Our root problem is idolatry. (There’s a reason that the warning against idolatry is in the first of the Ten Commandments, rather than somewhere down the list – God seems to think this is especially important.) So who is the idol our culture worships? I suggest one candidate here: Moloch. (I’ll have others in future columns.) Who is Moloch?
Moloch in the Hebrew Bible is a god of the Canaanites who requires child sacrifice and in return bestows prosperity. In today’s culture one might argue that Moloch isn’t doing his giving-prosperity part, but evidence for the sacrifice of children and young people is beyond dispute. A few examples (all refer to the U.S.):
I could go on, but the point is inescapable: There is too much destruction of young people that could have been avoided, but that we collectively choose not to avoid. In effect, these children are sacrifices to – something. Calling this history an ongoing sacrifice to Moloch has two advantages:
First, it reveals the pattern behind what might seem disconnected trends: We are not, as a culture (and despite what some politicians say) worshipping the God of Jesus Christ: the culture has other priorities.
Second, it makes clear to us who want to be disciples of Christ what we are up against. Tweaking slightly some details – through laws, programs, or the like – will not fix the problem at the root. We have a different vision of what life is to be, and a different God Who gives that vision; the culture’s values are not ours (though, tragically, they may have infected some in our church).
On the one hand, that presents a challenge different from the one that Christians have imagined: so currently proposed remedies are unlikely to work.
But on the other, this simplifies matters; for our church has much and valuable experience in how to conduct a mission to a pagan culture, starting with the Roman Empire in which the church was born.
I’ll have more to say about this in coming weeks. In the meantime, think about Moloch.
Until next week, peace.