You’ve heard it said, “confession is good for the soul,” so I’d like to share my secret fantasy. Just remember, a fantasy is not necessarily something you could ever bring yourself to do, it’s just a fun way to use one’s imagination to vent creative energy.
So here goes – I dream of starting the 21st Century Iconoclasm Revolution. I’d like to revive the ancient zeal against idolatry as a show of support for the true and living God – A God not made with human hands (See Acts 19:26).
I envision a whole network of the Christian Underground, working world-wide to search out and destroy every idol that lifts itself up against our God. These zealots would smash the heads off of every religious icon and statue they see. The biggest targets would be private grottos, Catholic hospitals, churches, and cemeteries. The bigger the statue, the bigger the impact of the message we send to those who bow down to idols. The slogan of the Iconoclasm Revolution would be, “Off With Their Heads!”
The movement would have its own calling card that would be left at the scene that would contain a scripture forbidding the use of religious images in worship. (I’m not talking about religious art here. The difference is that art is not bowed down to nor presented with flowers and lit candles.) The most active time of the year for these demonstrations of outrage on behalf of the God of the Bible will be the month of May. May is considered by Catholics to be a time of devotion to Mary. This is when they carry on processions with Mary statues and have festivals called “The May Crowning” when they put a crown of flowers upon her head.
When did this fantasy begin? Ever since I was born again I’ve felt a knife go through my heart every time I would drive by a house with a grotto to the “Virgin Mary” out front. No doubt, the true mother of Jesus is pierced through her heart at the twisted devotion paid to her by the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church who are unfaithful to the One who shed His blood for all.
Well, one day I was in the car with my husband and three children as we drove by a house with a huge shrine to Mary in the front yard. My husband said to me jokingly, “Look at that! Do you want me to stop while you get the crowbar out of the car and smash its head?” I said, “Oh, I sure would like to.” Then my 10-year-old daughter quipped, “Wouldn’t Jesus be pleased if you did that? After all it must make Him mad too!” Wow, out of the mouth of babes!
I’m sure I’m not alone in my secret desire. The debate over the use of religious icons is a very old one. King Hezekiah destroyed all the idols throughout the land of Judah and was commended by the Lord. Just because today’s idols model a Christian, not a pagan, theme, that doesn’t make the sin any less offensive to God. The Bible says that what lies behind any idol of worship is demons (See 1 Cor. 10:19-20).
In the eighth century, Emperor Leo III (717-741) began what has become known in history as the Iconoclasm movement. In the Eastern Roman Empire the veneration of the holy icons had become part of the daily religious rituals and the emperor recognized that it was not much different than outright paganism. He began a public relations campaign to convince his subjects that the custom was wrong. He followed that up with ordering his troops to tear down statues of saints and of “Christ” and he cleaned up many churches of their idols throughout his eastern empire. That provoked a popular revolt by the opposing Iconophiles who killed an officer who was bringing down an icon.
Much blood was shed on both sides of the Iconoclasm debate throughout the 8th century until the death of Constantine V, Leo’s son, whose widow Irene took power and held a church Council at Nicea in 787 which reaffirmed the official dogmas of the “Church” condemning as heresy the Iconoclastic positions. The Council of Nicea brought back idolatry as an official Catholic doctrine and anathematized any that would reject the traditional use of icons.
The controversy was quelled for a while but resurrected during the Reformation. The Catholic Church had to defend their indefensible position at that time and at the Council of Trent (December, 1543) this official position was determined and to this day is included in the Catholic Catechism:
“The holy Synod commands that images of Christ, the Virgin Mother of God, and other saints are to be held and kept especially in churches, that due honour and reverence are to be paid to them, not that any divinity or power is thought to be in them. . .but because the honour shown to them is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by kissing, uncovering to, kneeling before images we adore Christ and honour the saints whose likeness they bear.”
Hebrew scholar Jacob Prasch put it well: “Graven images are idols. The Hebrew word for “to worship” is the same word to genuflect, to prostrate, to bow down. When you see a Roman Catholic bowing down to a statue, that is idolatry.”
Most Catholics would deny that they actually worship statues, even as they pray before them. They claim they’re not praying to the statue, but to the one the statue represents. Yet if the statue does not really have “idol” status, then they wouldn’t be so deeply affected by the destruction of one.
In Mexico, several years ago, a charismatic evangelist made a public spectacle by bringing out a statue of Mary at one of his crusade meetings and taking a sledge hammer to it, beating it to smithereens. The entire community went into a blind rage and succeeded in having him removed from their territory. The local newspaper reporters labeled him a cult leader and a madman for his behavior.
And recently in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, local Catholic bishops erected a huge 66-foot statue of Christ standing on a 33-foot pedestal on a mountain overlooking the capital. The non-Catholic Christians of the community publicly objected to the government using public funds to put up this idol. Its presence caused a mini-civil war in the city. The government officials put a 24-hour armed guard around the mountain to protect the statue from possible vandalism. The Honduran bishops released a statement claiming that the statue would become a symbol of Christian unity in their Catholic dominated country. Would any government take on such an expense of men and money for a mere religious piece of art? I seriously doubt it.
But, in all seriousness, we are bound by the laws of our land, according to scripture, and are not at liberty to destroy other people’s property, no matter how offensive it is to our eyes. However, I would encourage all those who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ to do what the new converts did in the book of Acts and systematically destroy all idols that are in your own possession, renouncing the sin of idolatry as you pledge allegiance to the King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1 Tim. 1:17).
If this offends you, you better examine yourself to see if you be in the faith. If you can look at people carrying statues of the “Queen of Heaven” (Jeremiah 7:1 in a procession while waving palm branches and singing “Ave Maria” and not get angry deep down in your spirit, then I doubt that you even know the Lord Jesus Christ.