The Holy Spirit: Learning to Worship God Saves Creatures from Our Destructive Demands

Another reason God commands we learn to worship him is to save his creatures from our inveterate habit of “unduly demanding of them something which they, in their smallness, cannot give us.”[1]  Not only does idolatry make an addict of the idolator as he seeks to find satisfaction from what cannot satisfy, it also makes victims of many an idol.  Rain forests and ecosystems are obliterated by greedheads who see in them nothing but the satisfaction of their never-satisfied lust for money.  Women are stalked, raped, and murdered by the idolator who thinks she is the answer to his empty life and who becomes enraged when his idolatrous adoration is not returned.  Movie stars, musicians, and ball players are placed on pedestals by millions and then knocked off and despised for failing to be the heroes they played.  Religious figures are accorded idolatrous worship and then found to have feet of clay. Stephen King’s Misery is a fine portrayal of the way idolatry not only destroys the idolator, but visits torments on the idol.

Some people, burdened with the idolatry of Number One Fans, try their best to live up to the acclaim because they want to be good role models however inadequate they feel for the job.  This is an honorable response and much good for people—and growth in virtue for the hero—can result from the ball player or movie star who sincerely tries to be a good example for others. If the hero is a faithful Christian, his response will always to be to direct praise away from himself and toward God.  For example, the colossal genius Johann Sebastian Bach always wrote SDG (Soli Deo Gloria—To God alone be the glory) at the top of his music manuscripts. But idolatry can also crush—and corrupt. How many superstars have burnt out, killed by the drugs they took to cope with the fame?  How many have died by their own hand because they could not bear the contradiction between their own frail humanity and the adoration accorded them by their worshippers? But most pitiable and terrible of all are those idols who–soaked in their own pride, narcissism, and vanity—truly believe they deserve the worship of their idolators and who really try to usurp the place of God.  Think of the moral wreckage of a Hitler, a Jim Jones, or similar demagogues.  Few things are more deadly than the contract of worship between an idolator and a person who does their best to recapitulate the sin of Satan and take the place of God Almighty.

[1] Pope Francis, Laudato Si 88, May 24, 2015.  Available on-line at as of September 24, 2019.


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