Over the last few weeks, churches around the world have been reacquainting themselves with the ancient stories of David, King of Israel – his triumphs and his failures. These accounts have reminded me of an uncomfortable Biblical truth – that from the perspective of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, there is ultimately only one sin – idolatry. I suspect that the Qur’an shares this perspective.
Idolatry is simply putting someone or something else in God’s place. That may involve setting up a graven image of wood or stone and worshipping it, or it can simply be making yourself the ultimate authority, as King David did when he raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband (2 Samuel 11), acting as if he were answerable to nobody but himself.
“Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned”, says David in Psalm 51, crying out to God for forgiveness. That cry might appear to trivialize David’s crimes against Bathsheba and her husband but, from a Biblical point of view, you can’t separate violence done towards God’s creatures from violence aimed directly at the Almighty.
As I read and listen to the daily news, it seems clear to me that our society has capitulated to a new form of idolatry – the worship of ‘the science’. I listen daily to our media commentators and politicians saying, “listen to the science!”, and, “we do whatever the science tells us to do”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an obvious example of idolatry!
I’m not saying that ‘the science’ is wrong. Indeed, I’m sure we have plenty to learn from ‘the science’. What I am saying is that for us ‘people of the book’, ‘the science’ is not our ultimate authority. On the contrary, “we do whatever the science tells us to do” is the language of idolatry, and it’s high time we toppled this idol.
In truth, there is no single body of knowledge known as ‘the science’. There is actually massive disagreement within the scientific community over everything COVID related. Some scientists tell us that we need to wear face-masks to stop the spread. Others say that face-masks are useless. Some say that lockdowns are the answer. Others say that lockdowns do more harm than good. Some think that the vaccines will solve everything. Others say that the vaccines may kill us all!. This idol is looking very wobbly.
Don’t think I’ve gone all fundamentalist here. I’m not suggesting that we should be anti-science. Even so, I am amazed at the extent to which the church – the self-proclaimed guardian of spiritual truth – has simply bowed the knee to this Baal!
‘The science’ told us that we could no longer meet for prayer and worship, and that we could no longer sing our songs of praise. Our spiritual foremothers and forefathers would have sooner been fed to lions than comply with directives like this and yet we – the twenty-first century people of God – almost universally capitulated, and those that didn’t were either prosecuted or held up for ridicule (or both).
I’m not suggesting that the virus isn’t real and deadly, and I’m not suggesting that science doesn’t have a vital contribution to make in helping us get through this worldwide catastrophe. Having said that, I don’t understand why we ever abandoned what is sacred for the sake of obeying ‘the science’.
Should ‘the science’ really be able to dictate to us whether or not we can embrace those we love? Does ‘the science’ really have authority to tell us that we cannot meet for prayer and worship? Who gave ‘the science’ the right to tell me that I can’t be with those I love when they are dying, and that we can’t meet together to grieve them when they do die? Some things are sacred – beyond the authority of all such earthly powers.
We can agree or disagree on what ‘the science’ says, and on what ‘the science’ has to contribute in helping us to solve our worldwide problems. I remain a religious man, believing that there is only one God with a claim to my ultimate obedience. I will not cast my pearls before the swine and abandon the sacred for the scientific.