Idolatry Rocks

The worship of idols has been given a bad rap ever since the Bible’s golden calf.  Putting your faith in earthly things, rather than heavenly ideas, was considered heretical, not to mention embarrassing and primitive.  But as you might be able to tell from MM‘s obsessions with skulls, stones, and trees, I’m actually a big fan of investing ordinary objects with religious significance.  And now I’m not alone.  First there was Peter Manseau’s Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead, a fascinating narrative of relics and their worshipers.  Now David Farley, author of a book on one particularly weird Catholic relic–the foreskin of Jesus–has written a great little piece in Slate calling for the Catholics to reinstate their policy of having every church keep a holy relic related to a saint in its altar.  Farley notes that since Pope Benedict has reinstated the Latin Mass, he might as well reinstate the relics.  But Farley’s got the politics wrong.  Reinstating Latin Mass would be a theologically conservative move, like pretty much everything Pope Benedict does.  And relic worship may be an old tradition but it’s not a conservative one.  It’s nearly impossible for religious institutions to control the meaning of the tiny objects they set up for worship. Who’s to say what theology lurks in Jesus’ foreskin? Idolatry is the force that keeps religion from becoming sterile, distant, impersonal. Idolatry, golden calf notwithstanding, is often individual, irrational, and therefore liberating of the constrictions of organized religion.  No wonder the Pope wants to limit it, and no wonder MM thinks it’s the coolest stuff ever.

2 Responses to Idolatry Rocks

  1. Two more media mentions of holy objects–now it’s DEFINITELY a trend story 🙂

    Killing the Buddha encourages idol voyeurism by soliciting, then printing, photos of their readers’ bookshelves, full of oddly personal sacred objects:

    Slate holds a contest for the best short story to invest a particular object with meaning, and announces the winner here:

  2. […] comes from the generations of human veneration the object has received. Recently the MM predicted, here, that Pope Benedict would never reinstate relics the way he reinstated the Latin Mass, because […]

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