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The Latest Outbreak of Golden Calf Syndrome

Identifying and diagnosing the disease plaguing our nation.

Susan L.M. Goldberg


March 23, 2014 - 10:00 am
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There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.

Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.

Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”

One comment, however, caught my eye.

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All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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When it comes to worshiping and understanding God, I have had to find my own way. I have rarely heard a voice in my head where God told me, "You are doing My will" or "You are offending Me."
There's a lot of guidance, and some demanding, available through organized religions. I find a lot of it valuable and I embrace it in my lifestyle. Some of the guidance and demands I can't embrace -- and neither do most Bible believers. When is the last time you heard of a woman marking the end of her period by going to the temple with a couple of doves to burn?
Between thought and prayer, I have a strong belief in God the Almighty. I think a lot of "revealed" religion is mistaken in God's will, though.
So I worship God in formal services as a Methodist and I work at worshiping God in my daily life and my daily tasks. I don't worship Him according to the forms of the Pentateuch. And I have to worship Him on my own terms because that's the only way I can worship him with all my heart.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry don't understand, perhaps it is genetic....
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
How is crediting God for your success creating a false idol?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am not sure I understand rightly, but I think that Susan means that we will lose the cultural war waged against our Tradition if we accept the shallow level of discussion in which "G*d" is mentioned WITHOUT a real effort to understand the depth and the strength of the commitment required from us in our spiritual and practical path towards G*d.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a time and place for deep discussions but for an awards ceremony a simple "I thank God," is appropriate and even praiseworthy if there is pressure on one not to.

In fact, a deep explanation is probably best not to try unless one really has a gift or calling. It would be like trying to say something long and profound at a mealtime prayer.

If McConaughey lives a particularly scandalous lifestyle and is boasting about it, then it would be appropriate to call him out for mentioning God. My understanding, though, is that he lives a fairly unscandalous one. So if he's just a guy thanking God for success, then props to him.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sweet. Right on, righteous sister Susan~ !

"Praise God!" said too much is vain and emptying.

It's a similar thing with demanded flag worship and the demands that they be worshipped from vets under the motto of "I Served" that infests American patriotism today.

The Pledge of Allegiance, too, is a Golden Calf.

What's the real thing for real patriots? The ideals of the Declaration, the solemn charter of the Constitution. To learn and uphold those ideals, which are rooted back to that which the ancient Israelites were married, to their G-d, now ours too. Natural Rights are those things that our G-d has told us are right to do, and Natural Wrongs are those our G-d has told man and men not to do.

OUR IDEALS are not a flag, and solemn pledges if repeated like parrots are really not solemn, are they? Nor is it only the duty of a soldier to serve, it is the duty of every person to serve their G-d, our G-d. That is the service due from each and every soul born into this world, and if a so fortunate to be born a citizen or become one -- the primary duty of any citizen of any nation is to serve G-d, and only to serve to a level circumscribed by that higher service. Thus to serve their nation, but only in as much as the Nation itself serves G-d.

Our military men are not our priestly class, no more than our politicians and holders of high offices in government and establishment, or those famous in media and entertainment, nor every mighty team in an NCAA tournament. We do no good to make idols of them either.
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48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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