America’s Serious Problem with Idolatry


Charlton Rhinehart

America has a serious problem with idolatry, there are idols all around us, and I am NOT referring to worldly riches!  We have all been in a church bible class at one point in time when one of the many scriptures that refer to idolatry was read, of course what comes to mind for us is some tribe of half naked people on an island dancing around a big painted wooden head. Because this seems so distant from anything we can relate to in our culture, we quickly tie any passage that mentions idols to the comparison of our desire for the physical riches around us. While materialism, selfish ambition, greed or the love of the world can and will cost many their souls, these bible terms are truly sins that take our time and hearts away from God, but they are not idolatry. We do not bow down to the car of our dreams, we do not say a prayer to that one house in that certain neighborhood, and we would never tell someone a name brand of clothes is our God. Don’t take me wrong, these things are serious sins often times, and there are a lot of comparisons that do relate, but at the same time we have to admit these are not the false gods that we know scripture is referring to when a passage mentions an idol.

Many cultures have real idols, India is a prime example of such a culture today. We  also remember Paul walking through the city of Athens observing all the gods there (Acts 17:23), we know there are physical false gods that people really worship. While we grow more diverse in culture every day and I suspect it will one day be common here, we still do not see these images around us being worshiped regularly. However there is one idol that Americans really do worship, there are temples built all around us for worshiping this false god in, there is a complete structure with thousands of priest and literally billions of dollars are given by Americans to these gods every year. So what is this false god that we have such a problem with? What image does he have or who is this large group of people that worship it? Who is this idol that I say America has such a problem with? – It is the god that those who identify themselves as Christians worship, most of them identify this idol as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Before you string me up for blasphemy, let me say plainly what I am talking about. When people make God into whoever they want Him to be, when they change His teachings, they extend His grace beyond what it is, when they write off His commands as not applying to today, they make the one true God into their own personal idol, and they worship that idol how they please. This is something America has a very serious problem with!!! This is a god that might wear the one true name of God, but this god is false. His words teach something the true God has never taught, his character is not a match to God, the sermons taught of him do not describe Him, and the promises he makes are not His. How many thousands of churches across America have preachers and leaders that describe God not only in a different way from each other, but also different from the plain teachings of scripture? The even greater trend of today is to be part of no church at all but to hold your own personal views of God apart from any church. If we put ourselves into this trend of thought for a moment, to say there is no true church, that each individual can find God in their own personal way, what does this change? To enter this state of mind and religion causes us to admit that God has no right and wrong, that maybe only one or two principles are important and the rest is simply meant to be overlooked. This is who we have made our god out to be, and this is not the God of the Bible!

Paul tells us through inspired scripture to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1:13). Notice that there is a “standard of sound words” that we are to hold to, that he does not tell us to do so just by faith and love, but rather by THE faith, revealing that there is only one standard, one religious faith that saves. He speaks also of this standard or pattern in Philippians, “Brethren, Join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,” (Phil 3:17-18). Notice again “the pattern” we are to walk in and observe, there is only one pattern, but those who twist and distort that pattern making different patterns are enemies of the cross of Christ. Peter also warned of these who distort the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet 3:16). There is a standard, a pattern, plain teachings given by scripture that we can understand alike, but this is not what we observe around us. America has a serious problem with idolatry, we all have the same idol that wears the same name, but that idol has a different standard we each have created. We worship, we pray, we sing to and teach about this false god, our personal idol we have created. Worst of all we have fallen for the thought that if we just claim the name of Christ we all will be saved. What idol have you created Christ to be? Maybe you can identify some parts of your idol that matches scripture, but does He match all of scripture?  Let us heed the words of the apostle John as he ended his first letter, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).