Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On worshipping bag-ladies

This is a comment I left here which I thought might be worth sharing further.

What would it mean for you to worship a local bag lady? Presumably it wouldn't necessarily mean changing the bag lady (ie giving her a house and an income and so on) because then the bag lady wouldn't have the attributes that you're worshipping. It would probably involve giving the bag lady things that 'bag-ladiness' held to be of value (bottles of scotch whiskey?) but, more fundamentally, it would involve taking on the attributes of 'bag-ladiness' yourself. In other words you would do things like: ceasing to wash, sleeping outside, pushing around an old shopping trolley with all your worldly goods in it and so on. And you wouldn't do this because the bag-lady had told you to do it but - because you worship the bag lady, and see her as what is worth worshipping - you see the qualities of 'bag-ladiness' as of high value. And so, over time, you would turn into a bag-lady (or bag-chimp). In other words, and this is the axiom: you become what you worship. Those things which you hold to be of highest value in life, those are the things on which you will build your life, and your character and behaviour will then be shaped around them. Consider what it means to worship Mammon (ie wealth). For someone who actually sees money as the most important thing (which is what worship means) they will change as a person in order to accumulate wealth. That doesn't mean that they will turn into a pile of gold, but it does mean that they will become avaricious and Scrooge-like.
Now mammon is seen as an idol from a Christian point of view because it is something that destroys life, it is what we call an idol. Idols can be worshipped (and they don't have to be small statues, they can be ideas just as easily) and idols give what they promise - someone who genuinely worships Mammon will become more wealthy - but what they take in return is life, is integrity. As Jesus put it 'what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul'. The difference between an idol and God, in Christian understandings, is that worshipping the living God gives life in return - joy, freedom, peace etc etc. So instead of becoming a bag-chimp, worshipping God enables you to be CELTIC CHIMP in an exemplary way.
We'll probably come back to this as there is a fair bit more to say, but that's enough for now.

Actually, I'll say one more thing, because there is an inverse corollary: if you worship the living God, you become more alive, more integrated, more noble and spiritual etc - therefore, if you're not becoming more noble, spiritual, integrated, alive... then you're not worshipping the living God. Therefore if your experience of Christians is not recognisable by that description then it suggests something about who or what they are worshipping...

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