The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C. states the Second Commandment as:
Thou shalt not make any graven image, or bow down before any creation in heaven or on earth.
It is generally agreed (even among the unreligious) that humans are fallible. The chances that any person will make the correct decision in every situation are remote. However, history is filled with people who are able to make a very large number of astute judgments. These people become leaders when others notice this. The more wise decisions they make, the more they become admired, adored, even worshipped. The more praise that is heaped upon such people, the more likely their words will be taken uncritically, even when clearly wrong.
There is an old scam that goes something like this:
1. Send out 512 letters telling people that your investment firm believes stock X will rise. Send out another 512 letters telling different people stock X will fall.
2. A week later, forget the 512 you guessed wrong for. To the remaining, send out 256 saying stock X will rise and another 256 saying it will fall.
3. Repeat this strategy until you have a core group of people who will be willing to sell everything they own to give to your investment firm.

The warning against idolatry is one mechanism that enables societies to avoid such mistakes. Matthew 6:24 warns against the worship of money.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
While collecting wealth is clearly useful for many aspects of survival, wealth is like a wise but fallible leader. Those who allow it to dominate every choice and aspect of their lives become a menace to their neighbors. In July of 1971, the Christian Filipino Democratic Movement issued a statement that read:
Capitalism has set up once more the idols execrated of old by the people of God - mammon, Baal, and Astharte. Filipino Christians have the obligation to smash these idols enshrined in the capitalist structure, both in its foreign neocolonial aspect and in its domestic semi-feudal manifestations. We must collaborate in building a new world order wherein men will strive not for selfish gain but for service to the common good of the human race.*

*the radical bible, adapted by John Eagleson and Philip Scharper from bibel provokativ, edited by Hellmut Haug and Jurgen Rump, translated by Erika J. Papp, 1972, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.

I*dol"a*try (?), n.; pl. Idolatries (#). [F. idolatrie, LL. idolatria, L. idololatria, Fr. Gr. ; idol + service.]


The worship of idols, images, or anything which is not God; the worship of false gods.

His eye surveyed the dark idolatries Of alienated Judah. Milton.


Excessive attachment or veneration for anything; respect or love which borders on adoration.



© Webster 1913.

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