The ancient Greek stories of the pantheon of gods were full of lust, envy, jealousy, and revenge. Though gods, they acted just like humans. They could be tricked, lied to, and make deals. They are fickle at best and even in their most glorious moments act in ways that are selfishly motivated. They really serve better as cautionary tales rather than models to follow. (For a great summary of ancient Greek pantheon read “Mythology” edited by Edith Hamilton.)
In America, we have created our new religion pantheon of gods and goddesses with their own special powers and temples. Our pantheon of gods are usually built around real people who did impressive things. Their temples are movie sets, concert venues, and celebrated theaters. Their feast days occur nearly daily with award banquets, premier days, and contests where viewers get to elect the next god into the pantheon. Our pantheon of warriors are not in fact warriors at all but athletes who conquer their foes on the playing field rather than the battle field.
With the recent biogenesis clinic problems that MLB is facing in suspending twelve players for 50 games and one of their most notable warriors Alex Rodriguez through 2014, we are reminded much like the Greek pantheon, our gods are all too human. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, entertainers, and others we hold up as our heroes fall from grace on a regular basis, some even end up as convicted criminals. We watch their larger than life dramatic stories much like the Greeks listened to the pantheon of old. We scrutinize their actions and celebrate the consequences to their actions as though they are fictional people without real feelings, damaged hearts, and wounded families. It serves as our entertainment and as our worship.
The one big difference between the Greeks and us is that the average Greek probably didn’t believe they could become a god. True enough some humans married gods or had half-god half human children. But for the most part this was not the norm. But these humans never became gods or were ever worshiped themselves.
We have moved from the worshiper to the worshiped. We can become a god.
We are training our children that through hard work and focus they can become gods in professional athletes, musicians, or the next governor. The biggest church in many states is their state university football stadium (it certainly is in my state) or pro baseball teams cathedral. We drive our kids from soccer, to band, to baseball, to dance, to whatever else because we may not admit it, but we really believe these kids will go pro and become a god.
We can have a difficult time seeing the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it in the midst of this pantheon of athletes, entertainers, and other gods. Our worship of anything other than God is an idol. But to believe we are not worshiping these things is to lie to ourselves. We may not have mythical heroes of ancient tradition, but we certainly have a growing new religious pantheon full of temples and gods all across this country. None of them are Christ.
Greg Mamula is an ordained minister and the Associate Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.