Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Smashing Idols With Pat Robertson

In this video clip televangelist Pat Robertson advocates for vandalism and destruction of property regarding a viewer's friend and her Buddha statue:

While I have no intention of labeling Mr. Robertson an idolator, this clip reminds me of something I wrote not too long ago--

You sometimes hear people warn against chasing after false idols, or being idolatrous, and the like. Yet idolatry is limiting the divine to a particular form and raising up that form as an icon of exclusion and ultimately intolerance. The idols become overly elaborate and demanding, serving to reinforce the existing views and prejudices of their creators. Those who can only see the divine in their own holy symbols, which they then guard jealously, are the actual idolaters.

I do think that the concept of idolatry has its uses, but it should be used cautiously and with a good dose of introspection and humility. Idolatry is a kind of hardening of the mental arteries as well as of the heart. It leads to a kind of choking, a lack of flow.

Those familiar with anatomy and physiology know that flow is important. It is essential for healthy feedback loops and homeostasis, and impeded flow (of air, urine, bile, but most important of blood) is a sign and a cause of illness. The ability for nutrients to reach their targets effectively and efficiently and for waste to be adequately and promptly removed is at the heart of many issues involving health. The premature "aging" of organs (including the skin) can be accelerated by impeded flow, and often times it isn't just an infection but the swelling caused by the inflammatory response , which in turn blocks blood flow, which can cause serious complications.

I assert that flow matters in what we conventionally refer to as the mind and "heart" as well. I would even extend it the process of biological evolution, but that is another topic. At times flow can be guided and redirected, and its power can even be harnessed akin to a dam or windmill, but if it is overly restricted or blocked the results are unhealthy--stagnation, decay, and rot among them.

This is not something that has to either embrace or reject a "new age" vibe. It's just an observable pattern that seems to hold true over several domains of human experience including the biological, mental, and spiritual.

One effect of idolatry, then, can be imagined as a damn that blocks all but a very narrow range of experience and forced everything else to be funneled into this constricted pathway. It doesn't allow for new growth, and chokes off the opportunity for such growth. The idol is threatened by anything that draws attention and flow away from itself. Intolerance ensues.

This leads to the issues of the rejection of such idols, the smashing of them. One is healthy, the other is not.

The unhealthy response stems from smashing an idol (or suspected idol) because it is seen as rival to your own. This especially includes the symbols of the perceived rival, as the idolator works on the level of literal and the concrete. Hence the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban (even though there have been no significant Buddhist communities in that region for many centuries) or the vandalism against Buddhist shrines and temples in South Korea.

The healthy response is to recognize that such idols are not physical but mental and emotional constructions which are blocking the flow of the mind, or spirit, or whatever term works for you. It is this internal idol which must be torn down and shattered, not some carved or sculpted object of veneration. This kind of tilling, pruning, and stinting removes the dead weight that drains vitality, blocks compassion, and stifles creative responses to challenges.

There are many idols in this world that need to be broken, Mr. Robertson, and they are not Buddha statues.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Robertson thinks he's serving the ends of the OT where Israelite were told to smash pagan statues.But he's also creating an idol. Not so much in the statue of Jesus but in taking down to the level that he assumes she's worshiping the figures and assumes Buddhists literally worship the figures they use. In making those assumptions he's creating a kind of idol of his prejudices.

    1. Idols are always cognitive constructions whether or not they are associated with physical ones. Statues of Jesus or Christians saint, crosses, and crucifixes can become the representations of attachment to an idol, but they are not inherently idolatrous. That's why I find it unfortunate that some religions which ban all physical representations of God or their founders are nonetheless plagued by idolatry and feel compelled to attack the sacred symbols and sites of other faiths and sometimes even their own.


Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Everything but spam and abusive comments are welcome. Logging in isn't necessary but if you don't then please "sign" at the end of your comment. You can choose to receive email notifications of new replies to this post for your convenience, and if you find it interesting don't forget to share it. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...