Yesterday, the City of Angels was rocked by news almost as cataclysmic as an earthquake. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers basketball superstar extraordinaire was killed in a helicopter accident along with eight others, including his beloved thirteen-year old daughter. In a grotesque twist, the crash happened the very morning that LA was abuzz in final countdown for the Grammy Music Awards. As reports flooded in, shocked Hollywood insiders were arriving at the Staples Centre itself, the very nexus of Kobe’s long and illustrious career. While determined organizers, media, nominees and presenters preened on the Red Carpet, attempting to maintain the atmosphere while still being respectful, outside, tributes drifted in with devastated mourners. Though grief was palpable, Hollywood upheld its golden rule: “The Show Must Go On”. Not surprising then, that every possible reaction swirled around the venue in a perplexing cacophony, mingling with the most celebrated sounds of the year.
This drama puts me forcibly in mind of timeless, reoccurring themes. Remember the golden age of Greece and Rome; cultures steeped in the veneration of idols? Leading the pack was the great Zeus, who ruled Olympus, home of the gods. Hera, Hermes, Apollo, Aphrodite, Bacchus, Dionysus, Poseidon, and Eros were there, to name but a few whose exploits were legendary. Mere mortals could only gaze in adoration (or horror) from the earth.
Isn’t it funny how Award Season is exactly like this? We watch, from afar, the great athletes, actors, movers and shakers of our generation. Through our TV screens, we vicariously enjoy the bestowal of prizes and privileges ions removed from our grasp. There’s fascinated admiration and envy as we silently covet the recognition and reward our labors will never know. We worship the gorgeous splendor and no-holds-barred glamor of the entitled, lucky few. Welcome to Olympus.
No, you weren’t imagining it - all the gods were there on Grammy night. Beauty, Creativity, Talent, Ambition, Intelligence, Skill, Sexuality, Networking, Money, Power, Fame, Privilege, Experience and Excellence. Then came Tragedy to elevate the baser elements amid the bacchanal.
Given the fact that humans possess a built-in propensity to worship, it’s not surprising that we regularly struggle with the idolatry problem. If I’m honest, five or six in my own life can crop up with alarming regularity. We all have our preferred veneration, and admitting it is hard. Even Job, a man totally upright in his generation, has no problem describing our secret tendency to adulate things we shouldn’t.
If I have made gold my hope, Or said to fine gold, ‘You are my confidence’; If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, And because my hand had gained much; If I have observed the sun when it shines, Or the moon moving in brightness, So that my heart has been secretly enticed, And my mouth has kissed my hand; This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, For I would have denied God who is above. Job 31:24-28 NKJV
Part of the reason that the death of Kobe is appalling to so many is found not only in the loss of several lives, but in the unspoken idea that stratospheric stars shouldn’t die like mere mortals. It always surprises us when the things we worship don’t fulfill the expectation we hope for. We’re stunned when people fall off pedestals we’ve placed them on, dreams turn into nightmares, relationships go sour, or our long-vaunted ambition leaves our satisfaction unsatiated. The thing we so hankered for leaves us cold. We’re disappointed, disillusioned, devastated, and then, we blame God for our own perfidy. Our idols have feet of clay, and it’s shattering.
“What you saw, O king, was a huge statue standing before you, striking in appearance. And terrifying. The head of the statue was pure gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and hips were bronze, the legs were iron, and the feet were an iron-ceramic mixture. While you were looking at this statue, a stone cut out of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, smashing its iron-ceramic feet. Then the whole thing fell to pieces—iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits. It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion. But the stone that hit the statue became a huge mountain, dominating the horizon. This was your dream”. Daniel 2:31-35
Keep your heart with all diligence, because it really is a game of thrones. The kingdoms of this world are going down, and with them everything that has exalted itself with such volume and even melody against the Lord. Don't be surprised at the weeping and gnashing of teeth when the fondest idols of men are detonated forever. Best to maintain a safe distance from the blast.
Image by Bing