We sit in the audience listening to him. Perhaps he's the pastor at our church or maybe he's a speaker at an event or conference. He's speaking about idolatry and since none of us (I hope) worship statues anymore he focuses on idols in our hearts.
Our minds whizz with scenes from that latest TV show we watched. We think of a clever thing about it we could say to our best friend when we meet her next. We try to push these thoughts to the back of our mind, for now, and we listen, more or less attentively.
"These idols aren't always false gods," he says. "They're whatever steals our heart and focus from God. It could be your financial prosperity, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your looks, some material possession, your family..."
We listen, checking off boxes in our minds. Financial prosperity? I can always use money, but it doesn't matter that much to me. Boyfriend or girlfriend? I don't have one of those. My looks? For heaven's sakes, I'm not vain. I spend time on my appearance but I don't obsess about it. Some material possession? No, I can't really think of any I idolize. My family? For pity's sake, I don't love them nearly as much as I should!
All boxes done. All clear. We're not idolaters. He finishes his speech and we go home.
We sign into pinterest and scroll through the pins on our home page. We see a Sherlock pin. It says "This show has taken over my life!" We smile. We repin. We move to other pins and grin with the rest of the fandom that shares in our obsession. Then we write a blog post about how amazing this character that we love is. Maybe he's Sir Percy Blakeney. Maybe he's the Doctor. Maybe he's Mr. Knightley. Emails whizz between us and that friend who just happens to share our obsession.
After a long and fruitful evening on the internet, we go upstairs and rush through our devotions. Somehow we just can concentrate on them tonight.
In the few minutes before we fall asleep, our mind goes back to that speech. It was a good speech. Did he forget to mention anything you could idolize? We think through it again. No, we don't think so.
Then we fall asleep and spend the night dreaming about Lord Peter Wimsey.
"These idols aren't always false gods," the speaker had said. "They're whatever steals our heart and focus from God."
Of course not. Those movies, those books, those shows, they're (for the most part) clean and appropriate. They're exciting and well-done and have a good moral message. Some of the most loving, least idolatrous people we know love them. Those things are.... good.
But do you remember that gold the Israelites in the desert used to make the calf idol? It was perfectly good gold. The problem wasn't with the gold, it was what they made it into. The human heart is expert at fashioning idols.
God help us.