Another book that I have loved this year is No Other Gods, by Kelly Minter. It’s a realistic but gracious look at modern day idolatry. That is to say, it’s not an over-the-top legalistic view of idolatry which claims that watching tv or listening to “secular” music is a gateway for the devil. Instead the author focuses on her own humorous and even unflattering experiences with identifying and dealing with things- issues, habits, desires- that had become god-like in her life. She quotes John Calvin saying, “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.” So even good things, like for the author, a specific career path, can become elevated to ultimate importance. She even mentions that while ice cream and Friends reruns are certainly not bad, if the bowl and tv grow to be a necessary source of comfort or even numbing, how different is that from someone who looks to a bottle of vodka for the same thing? The tricky thing is, no one is going to judge you or stage an intervention over your tv ice cream time (or your stubborn passion for a certain career path). In fact, two people could be doing the exact same outward behavior but only one of them has made an “idol” out of it. Only you know whether your attitude about those things has placed it as an “ultimate” and therefore introduced a little or big wedge between you and God. On the other hand, she makes it clear that tackling “idols” with rules and legalism is simply another way to go off track, because the focus still isn’t on how you relate to God.
Several times in the book, themes appeared that I have been wrestling with over the last year (with which my blog readers are probably overly familiar). She talks about times that God purposefully leads her into the desert like in Hosea, but at the time it just feels like dry, homeless wandering. And that thankfully, eventually she sees the hints of a city line heralding an end to the desert time. (I hope I’m at that point now.) And there were at least three more strange coincidences that lined up with themes I was already exploring on my own. I loved reading the book, but a big part of that may be that it was so perfectly timed and in line with what I’ve been working through for a while.