Saturday, March 12, 2016

Materialism Distracts From What Is Essential

The Old Testament shows us the fight between idols of death and the God of life. Exodus from Egypt is the victory over idols of death. An article in the Catholic Times reminds us of this religious truth and goes to explain its meaning.

With the help of God, Moses and the Israelites overcame oppression and exploitation of the Egyptians to reach freedom: only to complain endlessly in the desert. Finally making an idol of a calf they knew from their stay in Egypt as their God that delivered them. They escaped from Egypt, got rid of their external chains but not the internal ones. They were still under the control of greed and the material attractions they left behind, symbolized by the golden calf they made in the desert.

Even when they arrived in the promised land, they began worshiping the Canaanite God Baal. We have the incident explained in the  Book of Kings 10:18-27. Baal worship was so wide spread they even called Yahweh, Baal, the God of abundance. This fight against the idols in society was a recurring theme in the Old Testament, and not merely a local religious cult;  the root of this idol worshiping goes much deeper. The golden calf and Baal promised wealth and abundance: material prosperity was their craving.

Not so conspicuously as our ancestors in the faith but with other illusions, we  seek abundance and in the process make chains for ourselves with oppressive  and exploitative structures.
We people of faith continue to make idols which continue to challenge us. Words of Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel #55  express this well: "One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption."

This kind of thinking is expressed well by the words: efficiency, competitive strength, economic development and the like. Our  industrial complexes have to do well if the citizens are to live well are the unverified words, we often hear. Economic development and profits from industry do not return to the welfare of the majority of the citizens. The article concludes with the observation that when
'bread' is plentiful it does not mean we are all living well. It is not a sign that we are living as humans.

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