On the most dangerous idols worshiped by modern man

A life not according to the Commandments is comparable
to a weapon without a safety, says Archimandrite Markell
(Pavuk), spiritual father of the Kiev Spiritual
schools.

—Father, why should we keep the
commandments?

—We all have the internal voice of the conscience.
It is the Law of God written on the heart of man. In other
words, the conscience
is the voice of the Lord within man. But due to the daily
hustle and bustle and the passions into which man often
plunges, the voice of the conscience fades away and is
barely audible. And it is precisely to wake up man
spiritually, to stir up the voice of his conscience, that
on Mt. Sinai through Moses the Ten Commandments were
given.

—What is the First Commandment, and why is
it the first?

—The First Commandment is: I am the LORD Thy
God. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

Every man is inclined towards deifying that which he likes
the most, or that of which he is most afraid. In ancient
times, for example, people idolized the forces of nature,
rendering praise to many different deities: to the sun
good, moon god, rain, they bowed and brought sacrifices to
the goddess of love, the god of war, and so on. But by the
First Commandment the Lord indicates to us that there is
but one God, and Him alone we must worship. After all, the
sun, the moon, the stars, the rain, and also every human
feeling are all creations of God, and they can be worthy
only of admiration, but not deification and not worship.
When someone puts them in place of God then, as a rule, he
senselessly and mercilessly ruins himself and others.

—And our Orthodox faith in the Holy Trinity
doesn’t violate this commandment?

—We can’t look deeply at this complex
theological question in the framework of this little
interview, but I will note only that this commandment, by
believing in the Holy Trinity, we in no way violate, for
we don’t believe in three gods, but in one. We
confess this constantly in the services, reading the
Symbol of Faith, which contains the words: “I
believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven
and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”
Although further on in the Creed we confess the Son of
God—Jesus
Christ
—and God the Holy Spirit, it in no way
means that we, as it seems to those unlearned in
theological subtleties, are slipping into polytheism. The
simplest, although not exact, analogy for the unity and at
the same time threeness is given in Sunday School books.
The sun is one, but has its form—a circle (the first
hypostasis), from it comes the rays (second hypostasis),
and we feel the warmth (third hypostasis). In this way one
is three. This given analogy is very weak and easily
refuted. From the point of view of strict human logic, how
a unity can amount to threeness is impossible to
understand and explain. Besides logic here, it’s
necessary to apply the force of faith. Actually, not too
long ago there was a famous mathematician Boris
Viktorovich Raushenbakh who tried to prove with the help
of mathematical formulas that it’s quite possible.

The Second Commandment concretizes the First: thou
shalt not make unto thee any idols
, that is, it
forbids man to bow down before anyone or anything.

—How can we translate these words into the
modern context?

If someone has weak faith in God,
he looks for other sources of adoration. For example, he
becomes excessively keen on sports, and accordingly, all
his passion goes towards strengthening his body.
Athletes who have attained the Olympic pedestal become for
him a kind of fetish, and the body an idol. The Church
doesn’t forbid anyone from playing sports.
It’s not a sin, but it’s very important that
in addition to the development of his body a man takes
care for the salvation of his soul. It’s a joy when
an athlete, before a long run or before a difficult dive,
makes the Sign of the Cross. He believes in God, and His
Creator helps him to break records.

—How should Christians treat their
bodies?

—A Christian shouldn’t shun his body, as did
some ancient heretics, for it is the vessel for the soul,
and moreover, it’s called to become the temple of
the Holy Spirit. The holy Apostle Paul calls us all to
this: Don’t you know that you yourselves are
God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in
your midst?
(1 Cor. 3:16). So we should take care of
our bodies, but how—that’s already another
question. In the first place, by prayer and fasting we
must root out the passions from our body which make it
corpulent and incapable of good deeds. Food, drink, and
clothes are also necessary means, but they are only
intended for maintaining health, beauty and strength. By
their abuse a man destroys himself. The passion of
gluttony, drunkenness and lust (secular doctors even talk
about this, not just the Church) most of all destroy our
precious vessel.

—What other idols is modern man inclined to
worship?

—The media quite actively creates idols out of this
or that politician or party. Man, who in the majority of
cases is spiritually weakened and disoriented, is easily
allured by the number of his fans. The trouble is at least
in that politicians with their promises quickly fade away,
like the stars in the firmament. Yesterday we bowed before
these idols, today we bow before others, and tomorrow
they’ll be toppled and we’ll bow before a
third group. Today it’s one ideology, tomorrow
another. To live and not have a miserable existence, being
blown about by every wind, we must prostrate ourselves not
before this or that politician, but, first and foremost,
we must try to be with God by hearing the voice of our
conscience.

The world around us is always trying to lead us to
idolatry. The hunt for man, for his feelings and desires
begins already in childhood. Now, for example, various
computer games are thought up for small children, and for
adolescents, who no longer play games but aren’t yet
interested in politics, they create idols of film and
music. But, alas, today one wave is popular, and in a few
years another. And in the end a man is left with nothing,
for he didn’t truly live, but was always taken up
with an imitation of life.

—What exactly is the danger in creating
idols and glorifying them?

—A man directs all his energy and strength to
honoring idols and sometimes therefore can’t fulfill
his daily responsibilities. His idol distracts him from
useful things and, overall, from life as such. This is the
danger of worshiping idols. Thus, the first two
Commandments admonish us against unhealthy predilections
and infatuations, and against blindly following politics
and fashion.

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