My mother sent me to Sunday Morning Bible study early in my childhood. Much of it was unremarkable, except for a few lessons. One such lesson I remember. The teacher fashioned an animal from Play-Doh and held it out to the class. “Check out this awesome animal I just made! Pretty cool, huh? You know what, maybe this animal has special powers. What do you think?” Of course, we knew there were no special powers. Our teacher was not an artist. Soon, we moved onward to producing our images than the merits of hers. The lesson remains clear 50 years later. Most human inhabitants create a strange set of ‘gods’ which we’ll throw ourselves upon without exception.
Jesus dramatically showed how the highly educated and the deeply devoted craft words and images about God versus the reality of knowing him. Rather than choose’ knowing God,’ a golden calf is substituted for truth. By instilling the virtues of an ornamental object, they are encouraging intellectual assent. As such, when the false God gets embedded, the outcome becomes tragic.
In embracing the calf, we lean into vast swaths of character flaws. Instead of discernment, we embrace bankruptcies, self-medicate, and dive into the idolatry of individualism. The dissonance between faith ideals and faith are rerouted to the calf where populism, sexual abuse, environmental destruction, and moral failure to authenticate the message are carried out by people gathering at rallies and weekly worships for Christ. “Yes,” we exalt. “This person (our calf) is our Christ.”
In doing so, we absolve ourselves, and those elected, from responsibility for any action. “Ah,” we scream. “Damn that deep state (or family issues, skin color, economic background). It’s cause and effect, never accountability. “Don’t look here, look yonder. He’s responsible. They’re responsible. Not me.”
We kill Christ with a perverted form of truth and religiously wash our hands. We practice our sabbath through the willful and systemic murdering of dignity, truth, and honor. We condemn those labeled ‘different’ only to elevate our reputation among followers.
America’s current calf has a long history of scandals: financial, sexual, and political. Yet our caricature of Christ appears as a wealthy republican or paranoid dictator as we neglect the real image of God, like those found in a lowly sharecropper, picking fruit, in the heat-soaked sun. Instead of a religion of peace, hope, love, and joy, our calf offers none.
Many evangelicals misunderstand our calf is a false prophet, as though all his words come from God. Like Children of Israel trying to find God in wrong places, supporters align. Some will protest, saying our calf puts prayer back in school, fights abortion, and meets with religious leaders. In doing so, we fail to ignore cruelty.
Christ said one can’t serve God and mammon. For either, you’ll love the one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24). Christ also said that inasmuch as you had done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40). When Christians praise a rich man who is cruel to the poor and cheats them, when we praise asylum seekers’ cruelty, we are worshiping mammon. When one idolizes the vile, we exclaim, “Fuck you, God.”
The unforgivable sin is specified in several Synoptic Gospels passages, including Mark 3:28–29, Matthew 12:31–32, and Luke 12:10. All of us need to reread these passages. For right now, we are God’s greatest blasphemy.