As I mentioned in 2018, the golden calf the Israelites made in the desert while Moses was up getting the Ten Commandments may be partly misunderstood. As bulls were often worshiped as steeds for gods, Aaron and the boys may have thought they were expressing their admiration for YHWH by making him this really cool thing to ride on, showing his power. I very much doubt this was their primary motive, as the traditional explanation likely holds, that they followed the usual pattern of what people did for miles around whenever they got nervous and things seemed to be going wrong: they made a figure that they hoped their god would inhabit, to both speak to them and listen to them. Still, I think the secondary explanation has some real weight. It is exactly the sort of rationalisation humans engage in all the time about God. Oh, I'm sure he'll like this. This is what gods in general like, so I figure he will, too. It's really all the same thing, y'know? We keep our old way of doing things, and please the new god too. Win-win. We don't make such gods now, so we can't fully enter into their understanding anymore. The thought is distant.
If this is even partly correct, it provides a pretty dramatic tie-in to the gods of our own age. This is pretty much what Christians getting into politics looks like, doesn't it? Oh, I'm sure he'll like this. Jesus cared for the poor and marginalised, and this is something nice for the poor and marginalised, so what's not to like? Win-win. Or, This is good for America, and America protects religious freedom, and anyway lots of Christians have lived here, and the founders had mostly Christian ideas, so I'm sure God is on board.
As usual CS Lewis has the most appropriate comment, when he has Screwtape advise Wormwood on how to neutralise his patient's Christianity and slide him ever-closer to hell. This passage was written in WWII, by the way, when the stakes were high in both the secular and spiritual realms. A choice between pacifism and patriotism* has few real consequences for the individual now. One can find friends either way, or jobs, or mates, or churches. There might be some consequences with family and with old friends, but often these can be smoothed and the topic simply avoided.
Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘Cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of pacifism.
Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University has commentary with a more modern example.
But a subtle danger threatens the congregation that would be overly intentional in its intention to institutionalize racial and ethnic diversity. If the church allows its multiethnic mission to define its central and sole identity, it will be tempted to mute, ignore, or even revise aspects of the Bible, orthodox theology, and/or sacred tradition that do not support and promote that identity. It will be tempted as well to judge other congregations (and individuals) not by their adherence to the gospel message but by how they measure up against the diversity yardstick.
If such a congregation continues to slide down the slippery slope toward idolatry, it may discover, too late, that it has ceased to be a multiethnic CHURCH, and has morphed into a MULTIETHNIC church. Ethnic diversity will no longer be one of the fruits of the Great Commission; rather, Christianity will have been reduced to one more helpful ally in the building of an egalitarian, multiethnic utopia.I use the multiethnic church as my example, not because I think the ideals that undergird it are bad ones, but because they are so praiseworthy. But then, to paraphrase a line from Lewis, brass is more often mistaken for gold than clay is. To the modern American mind, nurtured since birth to believe that equality and inclusivism are absolute virtues on par with faith, hope, and love, it is easy to so conflate the promise of ethnic diversity with that of the gospel message that the latter comes to serve the former, rather than vice versa.
"Brass is more often mistaken for gold than clay is." This, exactly. We love hybrids and excuses. One of my own maxims is that "Of course wolves hide in sheep's clothing. It wouldn't do them any good to hide in wolves' clothing."
This is not part of the Tim Keller/Jonathan Haidt/Michael Novak (Social Justice Isn't What You Think It Is) posts, but it does relate.
*Understand, please, that those two are not necessarily opposed in any era. They often have little overlap and much antagonism and are thus a good example of Christian difference, especially in wartime. But Lewis did not consider them logically incompatible, nor do I.