This may or may not be the last post in this series. We’ll see.
Once again, I want to reiterate that I’m not saying that the geeky tendencies I’ve been discussing are, in and of themselves, inherently sinful. I believe, though, that they are shadows of more serious spiritual problems.
Last time, I promised I’d throw some Martin Luther at you. Well, the time has come. In his Large Catechism, Luther wrote this about the First Commandment:
A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.
Basically, what Luther is saying, is this: there’s no such thing as an atheist. Everyone has a god. A person’s god is whatever he or she turns to first, last, and always. It’s what they believe in most, what they look to for their identity, where they go to find their comfort. Their god might be a “traditional” god like Vishnu, Allah, or others, or they could be the more mundane objects we find around us, such as money, family, or ourselves. So the question isn’t, “Do you have a god?” but “What is your god?”
Luther goes on to say this:
Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.
That means that a lot of people, including Christians, can be guilty of idolatry. If we’ve ever let something or someone other than God take His place in our lives, we’ve created an idol and made it our god.
For geeks, those gods can be a mad man in a box, the denizens of a galaxy far, far away, or any number of fictional characters. In short, our fandoms become our gods.
I had an experience with this when I was in the Seminary. There were a number of my fellow students who were Trekkies. This was back when Voyager was the only game in town. The day after each new episode aired, we would meet for lunch and dissect each and every episode. We’d try to tie it into the larger canon, discuss any inconsistencies we saw, and speculate about what might happen next.
It was during one of those conversations that one of my friends got really quiet. When we asked him what was wrong, he commented, “I just hope we’ll bring the same passion we have for this to our ministries.”
It was a sobering thought. Far too often, we geeks are guilty of idolatry. We create shrines of idols in mint condition. We memorize dialogue and data like they were holy writ. We find our highest joys and seek our greatest comfort from our fandoms.
Am I saying that all geeks are guilty of elevating their favorite characters and stories to the level of false gods? No. Am I saying that we shouldn’t collect swag or cosplay or anything like that? Of course not. Our personal idols can be any number of things. As another one of the Reformers (John Calvin) said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
But thanks be to God. He is in the business of shattering idols. We see it in the Old Testament with Gideon, Elijah, and Josiah. We see it in the New Testament too, with Paul’s speech at the Areopagus. But best of all, God doesn’t just take the idols away. He replaces them with His Son.
So enjoy your fandoms. But don’t let them rule your hearts, my friends.