I made a rare opening night visit to the local theater a few weeks ago. As is typical now for a father of three, it was to see the latest animated kid’s movie, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2. It’s tough to take a moral look at animated films. Most of the time they’re poking fun at many of our shortcomings which, in reality, are quite difficult to cope with. The rest of the time they’re highlighting some pretty typical familial themes. In Cloudy with a Chance, the father-son relationship between Flint Lockwood and his dad is the strained relationship in which the two have nothing in common and cannot ever seem to understand one another. The sequel continued that dynamic, along with all the others from the first. However, in the sequel there was a new character presented that in many ways spoke to the general tendency toward celebrity worship that props up countless gossip magazine and filthy television shows in our culture today.
Growing up, Flint Lockwood didn’t mimic the popular movie star, athlete or musician of the day. Instead, he had posters of Tesla and Einstein on his walls. One of his idols even as an adult was the world-famous scientist, Chester V. Chester V invented a food bar that revolutionized the food industry. Since Flint had just invented a machine that turns water into food, they’ve got a lot in common. Flint gets the opportunity to meet his idol face to face and he falls head over heals. Whatever Chester V asks, he is willing to do, even pushing aside plans for a brand-new laboratory with his girl Sam Sparks. Throughout the rest of the film we see Flint going to some extremes to please Chester V, despite some clear warnings from his friends. At one point, Chester V even convinces Flint that his friends are working against him. This got me thinking about how meeting my idol, and having regular interaction with them, would affect how I treated or listened to my friends.
When I was growing up Michael Jordan was in his prime and Michael Jackson was releasing albums like Bad, Dangerous and HIStory. I can just about guarantee you that if either of them had, by some miracle, interacted daily with me and need something I would have done it in a heartbeat. They were my idols. In the Old Testament, the Jews had some idols of their own. These weren’t people they propped up as their stars, but literal gold-plated statues of things like calves! In moments they felt distressed, they completely disregarded Jehovah, who repeatedly delivered them and made a covenant with them, and turned to these emblems they themselves created. This has always boggled my mind. How can you craft something with you own hands, put your own sweat and ingenuity into it, and turn around and call it a god and worship it, even asking it to answer your calls for help! As strange as this sounds, we aren’t so far off of this today. Only today, our idols aren’t gold-plated. They’re plastic-plated, with HD screens, video on demand and automated voices.
In our culture today, Samsung, Sony and Apple have replaced Baal and Molech. 60” widescreens have replaced 6’ graven images. If we’re all honest with ourselves I’m sure we can find something that has us beholden to it. I have a 58” Plasma HD TV that I love watching and showing off to people. It’s my idol. If you can’t go 10 seconds without picking up your iPhone or Droid to check the latest Facebook or Twitter updates, then that is your idol. You could almost say it’s in our nature to latch onto something, to need something with near obsessive addiction. But in all this we forget the one through whom all things exist and are upheld. The one who blessed us with our own abilities of discovery and creation with which we craft these things we then become bound to! Kinda crazy, huh?
The great news is that no matter how deep we feel we have fallen into this new age of idol and celebrity worship, God is still there for us. Nothing can separate us from him, “not death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 39). Whatever people or things we put first in our lives, we place them above God and thereby risk cherishing most that which can most easily fail us. If we’re going to beholden to someone let’s be beholden to the God of the universe, in whom there is no changing and in whom a firm foundation is provided, for “there is but one God; the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Cor. 8:6).