Elizabeth Scalia claims to be a shy person, happy to hang in the background. But the popular Catholic Portal editor at Patheos, writing as “The Anchoress”, doesn’t shy away from offering opinions as strong as garlic. In her recent book, “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols of Everyday Life,” she has plenty to say about the dangers of modern day idolatry. But perhaps most controversial is Scalia’s recent assertion that the world may be making an idol out of Pope Francis, who recently received an 88% approval rating from American Catholics. Here, we discuss how she understands idolatry and the reasoning behind her questioning of American’s love for the popular Pope.
RNS: It’s so much easier to spot other people’s idols—in other centuries or on other continents in other religions—than to spot our own. What’s at the root of this blindness?
ES: It’s always easier to spot deficiency in others, right? Someone else’s hypocrisy or mean-spiritedness is always obvious to us, another century’s shortfalls are easy to see in hindsight, another nation’s aggressions more obvious than our own. We all want to believe we’re the good guys.
The truth is, we are all good guys, and sometimes we are all bad guys, too. In terms of idolatry, we all seek to find ourselves reflected in that thing or person that has characteristics we imagine we possess, too. Why did the ancient Israelites form a golden idol–and why a calf, especially? They’d been wandering a desert; they were feeling lost, uncertain of what they were becoming, and hungry for what was familiar. A calf was well-defined, strong, life-sustaining; its purpose was known. Hew it out of gold, polish it up and voila! In the glistening surface of the calf they literally saw themselves, projected onto this vital image. [tweetable]Our idols are always about ourselves.[/tweetable]
RNS: Were the eyes of ancient folks any more attuned to recognize their idolatry than ours are today?