In Scripture, idolatry involves at least two things: First, the inappropriate association of the one true God with anything humans create. Humans alone are God’s image, and that is why God commanded Israel not to associate him with any created thing, however beautiful or impressive.
Second, idolatry involves the destruction of human bodies. Worshiping Molech required child sacrifice. Baal’s prophets called out to him by gashing themselves.
We worship the one true God as image-bearers when we see those who are unlike us as fellow image-bearers and love and honor them.
This is how we know we are idolaters who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:23, 25). Idolatry ensnares us when we fail to see those who are unlike us as fellow image-bearers; when we diminish them by labeling, exploiting, dominating, controlling, and ultimately destroy them.
Our country was founded on an idolatry upheld by lies. We associated the one true God with the creation of a new nation we called “America.” This idolatry required our lies about native bodies—that they were not image-bearers to be honored, but “savages” to be removed and destroyed.
And it required our lies about African bodies—that they were not image-bearers to be honored, but “property” to be owned, controlled, and destroyed.
Our current enslavement to the idolatry of an economy of selfish grasping requires the destruction of bodies we see as “expendable”—the elderly, the poor, “essential” workers, disabled people, indigenous tribes, people of color.
The moment is ripe, as is every moment, to discern our national idolatries and expose the lies they require. This is the necessary work of awakening our imaginations to envision an economy of sharing, universal flourishing, partnership, mutual benefit, and inclusion.