Day 30: Abandoning Our Idols

BY EDWARD SLOANE | March 14th, 2024
Today’s readings

In today’s first reading, God and Moses discuss what to do with the Israelites who have made an idol of a golden calf. Simply put, idols are “false gods.” National security, money, personal comfort, or popularity are many of the most persistent idols. As liberation theologians point out, we can judge these things as “idols” by the victims they produce. 

 How are we called to respond to this very human tendency to center our lives on idols? 

Two things inform my response. First, I am a lay minister and educator committed to both the care of persons and to justice in the world. Second, I reflect as a person who has internalized a lot of negative self-talk about myself and the identities with which I move in the world. 

Context matters in questions of pastoral care.  

We are told that Moses has been “delayed” in coming down from Mount Sinai (32:1). It can be tempting to read the Israelites’ response as one of frustration, selfishness, or impatience, but, again, context matters. This is a community still processing the trauma of generations of enslavement, healing from internalized oppression. A better reading might be that they are feeling abandoned and scared. 

For oppressed communities, it becomes easy to believe the lies that dominant society tells us about ourselves. When we internalize this dehumanizing narrative, the perspective of the oppressor inhabits our souls. We begin to doubt that we are loved or lovable. Sometimes, when this happens, we start to act like oppressors too. We make idols in an effort feel secure or regain a sense of control, and, in the process, we hurt ourselves, each other, and other communities. 

 Under these circumstances it can be difficult to believe that God is a God who hears the cries of the oppressed (Ex. 2: 23-25). Lent is a time to remind ourselves and each other that even when we feel hurt or deserted, God does not, and will not, abandon us. When this conviction inhabits our hearts we can begin to abandon the idols we construct and cling instead to the God of Love and Mercy.

  • Without passing judgement on yourself, what “idols” sometimes lead you to doubt your own worth or the worth of others?
  • How is God inviting you to move toward healing, for yourself or with others, this Lent? Who can support you in this healing journey?
2 replies
  1. Teresa Thompson
    Teresa Thompson says:

    Ed, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever read on ISN. Naming security and control as today’s “golden calves” is really powerful.

    I appreciate the great compassion you have for those who are misled or get involved in wrongdoing in the wake of fear and trauma. As a person of oppressed communities, thank you for speaking to us instead of about us.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *