The Trouble With Idols

Why are we so surpised when it all goes wrong…

 We Christians love to place those in the public eye — celebrities and athletes — even higher up on some fancy tower every time they say something that affirms our faith. We make memes of their words, blast their music, and share their pictures as if to proclaim to the world “Look! This really-popular-person-that-everyone-in-the-universe-thinks-is-cool, he believes what I believe!”

But then we’ve all been at the foot of those fancy towers when they’ve crumbled into nothing but jagged rocks. Our favorite celebrity, thought to be a beacon of hope in a dark world, has said or done the unthinkable. We crawl back into our corners, cleave to the wall, look to the sky, and scream “WHYYYYYYYYYY!!?”

In Bono’s conversations with author Michka Assayas [Bono on Bono] he dives deep into expressing his faith and his awe at Christ, painting a portrait of a man deeply convicted in his beliefs…and quite naturally, the Christian world rejoiced.

When Lady Gaga posted the photo of her and a priest on Facebook, quoting him as saying, “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food God gives us,” the internet broke…

And when Mark Wahlberg and his wife Rhea posted a photo of them with ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday, Catholic media went crazy …

These ARE commendable things and we should celebrate them…but then…

When U2 plastered a banner on its social media platforms, calling on Ireland to repeal protections for the unborn, the Christian world collectively grasped its chest, shrieking, “How could this be? He says he believes in the Scriptures!”

And, “How can Lady Gaga go on supporting abortion and at the same time post pictures of herself praying the Rosary?”

And also, “Why does Mark Wahlberg act in movies like Ted?”

And on and on…

Without going into every contradiction we see in those we admire, one glaring truth is apparent. They aren’t perfect. And there’s a simple reason: None of us are perfect.


A priest I know once likened people to shopping carts…the ones with the broken wheel that always pulls to one direction and crashes into things. It’s in the carts’ broken nature and our fallen nature that we dent car doors in the parking lot and say and do things that cause scandal.

It’s natural to be disappointed in those we look up to when they fail, but in reality, we’re not that different. We all fall down. We all make the wrong choices. We say the wrong thing. We cause scandal. The difference is that we have a smaller audience and no one is exalting us.

Do people in the public eye have a greater responsibility to do better? Certainly. But that’s for another article. This one is about you and me.

When the golden calf emerged in the Old Testament as Moses headed down the mountain, we can be pretty certain that the calf, being a pile of metal, had no desire for the adulation of the swooning crowds…but the crowds worshipped it anyway…the calf’s fault?

In our soul is the undeniable truth that we were made by God, for God, and our desire to be united with Him cannot be suppressed…but being broken as we are, like the shopping cart, we veer off course and often choose to unite ourselves with something or someone less. We are made to worship…it’s in the who we worship that the train sometimes runs off the tracks. Idols are born by misdirected “worship.”

It’s perfectly fine to marvel in people’s accomplishments, music, acting, but we need to acknowledge that there’s only one Savior, and ain’t nobody like Him.

So, we can continue to find affirmation from the people we admire, but we must not forget that they are as broken as we are. Let us pray to keep our worship where it belongs, and pray for those in the limelight who garner our affections, that they might live up to their true purpose. Because at the end of the day the trouble with idols isn’t them. Just ask the calf. The trouble with idols is us.

Feature photograph by Peter Neill via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0 See more of Peters incredible work here.

Inset photograph by S Pakhrin via WikiMedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Text by Jeffrey Bruno

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