Book Study: Strange Gods Chapters 8 & 9

Chapter 8 The Super Idols
Chapter 9 Through the Looking Glass: Super Idols and Language

I am a quilter who is actively pursuing a career in the world of quilting. One of the most important lessons I’m trying to learn, to let sink deeply into my being is, “It’s not about me” or more to the point, “It’s not all about me.” The beginning of this lesson, this setting aside of my self for the good of others began long before I ever dreamed, considered teaching. The earliest memory of a deep desire for my life to be about the other seems to be around fourteen or fifteen when I knew I wanted to do a year of volunteer service with the church I actively participated in at the time. Part of this, most of this comes directly from our Lord in Gethsemane, “Lord not my will but Yours,” with Jesus knowing full well what would come next. The reminder that “this is not all about me” presented itself through both the Lenten season and recently while teaching. When reaching out to a friend she lovingly pointed it out to me and in some sense I blew her off, “no, no I’m not doing that again am I?” Well, yes, actually I was and so stepping back to look at this is essential.

It is in this place of looking at my own behavior and thought processes wherein the examination of conscience begins to take place asking where did I do well, and where did I not do well. Where did I uplift the students and where did I fail them. Beyond that where do I think I’m totally, completely correct in my process for learning and teaching? It is here where I know I have room to grow, to set aside my own ego, and ideas and am reminded that we are all unique individuals and sometimes I am the student. In my own experience it’s hard to be a student when it doesn’t seem the teacher understands me as an individual and that my learning style isn’t their own learning style.

This weeks reflection is a little late in coming as I needed to and wanted to think about these chapters with the women in the book study and also one/one with a friend. One of the fascinating things that I learned in the conversations is a technique used in debate wherein terms used in the debate are defined for both understanding and clarity of conversation. Any word can mean one thing to the world at large and in a community can have a completely different meaning. As quilters we use color differently than the world at large, we are looking for value – how light or dark a fabric is relative to the colors around it to create both the design and feel we’re trying to achieve in the quilt. My own way of looking at this is, “color plays with us.” As in any given community we have our own language that takes time to get to understand and know, and it’s not easy and sometimes it shifts, as happens in the greater world with defined words.

In both chapters 8 and 9 the highlighter feature is heavily used, adding to the reminders of idea, ideologies, and use of language all giving an opportunity to reflect on each component and how they are employed in my day to day life, giving consideration to each and working to rightly order each toward God. Rightly ordered toward God. Whew! that’s a big one. Let’s look at both the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane here for a moment. Eve, Adam, and Jesus all exercise their free-will here. Eve is beguiled first eating the fruit, Adam follows Eve and eats the fruit – they both, then cognizant of their wrong-doing choose to try and hide from God because shame is a powerful thing. In Gethsemane Jesus says, “Take this cup from me, but not my will but Yours” saying yes to the Father. Adam and Eve said yes to their own will and ideas, they said no to God and then experiencing the deep pain of loss. Jesus continues to say Yes to God even though the coming pain will feel as though God has abandoned him (the ultimate loss.)

If our ideological enthrallments make us aggressive in our doubts, fierce in our judgements, and all to willing to set our own ideas in stone (like commandments from on high) until we are imprisoned within them, there is yet another side that is super idol. It is the side that tempts us to think too well of ourselves to ever make a judgement at all, except upon those who dare to judge others – something that we, of course, would never do.” Chapter 9

This is how we begin to see “the other” as a threat. While it’s simmered down a bit there are often times when it seems as though this style of quilter is at odds with that style of quilter, because this style of quilter seems to believe they have invented quilt making although we all know the truth that I (Teri) did! Okay we all know I didn’t invent quilting. We all have to goal of living in a society wherein people are free and those in need have those needs met in a way that builds them up rather than puts them down, or demands a groveling “thank you” rather than the hand of friendship, respect, and love.

As I’ve watched the last several major political seasons I see a couple of things:
– we all want a lot of the same things however we disagree on how to get there
– we passionately hold on to the how of getting there and those who don’t agree with us are non only morally wrong but downright evil
– there is a lot of wrong, and evil and these things need correcting
– there’s a lot of speaking and not a whole lot of listening and hearing
– not everyone who doesn’t speak out is “taking the side of the oppressor” sometimes they’re listening to learn what action to take, what amends to make
– people are hurting deeply
– loneliness is brutal, deep, and frightening
– we are giving into fear way too easily
– there is an unreasonable expectation that everyone should respond in just *this* way to *this* problem/issue/catastrophe

I see these things in the Church too.
At this moment I assure you I do not have solutions, I’m still listening, examining and working towards peeling away those ideas, ideologies, and listening for, looking for the places to grow, to advocate, to be present, and sit with. While this seems passive, it is rather active, and painful.

This book, like Elizabeth’s “Little Sins Mean a Lot” are a really good way to examine my own life and actively attempt to live in this moment for God.

God bless,


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