The current political theater and media event that is the government shutdown has brought my view of the changes in my life into stark contrast. And I am pleased with how it looks.
In the past, this kind of 'team' struggle in politics would have fired me up to an honestly annoying degree. My Facebook page, Twitter account and this blog would be filled with links to stories and opinion pieces. I would have seen my self as a social media foot solider in a great digital war. I would have fought for the side of the right and the good, and no one could have convinced me otherwise. Why then, is this not the case today? Well, simply put, God is restoring me from idolatrous sin.
Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god.
- M. Denis de Rougemount
When I came across this quote in the introduction to C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves, I did not grasp it's significance for my struggles. Lewis presents this quote in the context of remind us that, as John says, "God is love," but that does not mean that love is God. This is an excellent principle, and adherence to it by more Christians in the country would be fruitful, but it did not land heavily on me.
Then, in the first chapter on love for non-personal things, Lewis drops the hammer. In the context of man's love of nature he observes that when our love for the created thing is set above our love for the Creator, our form goes all pear-shaped:
This love, when it sets up as religion, is beginning to be a god— therefore a demon. And demons never keep their promises.
What Lewis calls a demon, many of us today call an idol. When we love anything more than God, we take him off the throne and place a created thing in his place. That is pure idolatry. Lewis's insights on how love for non-personal things can easily lead to idolatry was already working on my soul, but the Holy Spirit wasn't done with me yet. Lewis's last topic was patriotism.
Since my early teenage years, politics was a driving obsession in my life. I lived it an breathed it. When I studied journalism I was torn between sportswriting and politics. When I graduated college I briefly considered pursuing a career in politics. As a post-college adult I found much of my identity in it. I truly believed that the right series of decisions by voters, and then politicians could fix our problems. I looked to politics as my functional savior. It was only when I turned back to my true Savior that these sins became so clear, and so painful.
In the last 3 years God has begun healing me of my sins and granting repentance, day by day. Healing is a slow process, and I still bear the scabs that precede scars. But Lewis's words were a balm to these wounds.
Lewis lays out the faults of an idolatrous love of country— which is exactly what drove my political obsession. He shows the reader that idolizing our homeland leads to an inaccurate picture of her history, often glossing over or ignoring completely the horrific realities of her past. Next he points to, "a firm, even prosaic belief in our own nation, in sober fact, has long been, and still is markedly superior to all others." That doesn't like anybody we know, now does it?
Even more strikingly he points directly to where this leads, and where our country is today. "If our nation is really so much better than others it may be held to have either the duties or the rights of a superior being towards them." That belief, this very one, is the basis for America's position as the global police force. Because what is that other than a naked paternalistic view of the rest of the world? 'If we don't take care of this, who will?' we ask. Lewis goes on to discuss the moral dimension of countries actions, and how these views affect them.
If this is interesting, you really should pick up The Four Loves. My quick overview here does not do full justice to the nuanced and careful reasoning Lewis crafted on the subjects. I have left out many counterpoints and caveats that an interested reader will find edifying.
The reason for this post, questions of proportional length aside, is not to summarize Mr. Lewis's examination of idolatry of nation, but to talk about how I have been healed from one of my besetting idolatries. I found my hope in men, parties and issues. Not anymore.
It's not that I do not have opinions about the goings-on in D.C., I certainly do. But now I know that my sovereign Lord is in control, not political parties and fallen men. So I stay informed, I think deeply about events and I vote. But I do not attach unreasonable hopes to sinners who are just like me. Every day I am getting closer to seeing this world through Christ's eyes, because he is changing my heart. It will not happen fully in this life, because we cannot be perfected before the resurrection, but it will happen one day.
That truth, that unchanging, never relenting, never hiding truth is my real hope.