For 20 years I went daily by an inspiring statue of Daniel Boone, pedestaled high in the middle of a plaza. It is the centerpiece of the university campus where I taught. All passersby see it for what it is – due honor given to a heroic and dedicated pioneer of territory west of the Cumberland Mountains. It is carved granite. It stands as a stalwart reminder to college students for emulation of Daniel’s courage, perseverance and dedication. The statue intercepts the daily campus routine. Emanating with inspiration, a student passing in Daniel’s shadow can receive encouragement to overcoming the challenges of academic life; (or according to folk-tale with the rub of his now shiny boot a student could receive good luck on an upcoming test).
Did anyone ever think that this granite sculpture was in fact Daniel Boone? Are students gathering around this statue ever found talking to Daniel? Do students believe somehow this granite that takes on the image of Daniel, becomes animated by the life spirit of Daniel? If ever so, that would be making Daniel’s statue something of an idol. Wherever we travel throughout the world we will be bumping into statues (hopefully not literally), demonstrating a universal human effort to bestow honor on outstanding persons.
Presently here in Corbin, Kentucky, where I live, with great enthusiasm and expense a statue is being erected. It is to honor our most famous Kentucky citizen, Colonel Harlan Sanders, who operated his famous restaurant here in Corbin.. Public buildings, parks, memorials and cemeteries all over the world are proliferated with such statuary.
It has always been a bit confusing to me to find some people crying “idolatry” if they see a statue of Jesus, or a Christian Saint (a hero of God) in a place of worship. Such religious statuary has the same purpose – God’s Holy ones being honored and emulated. Such statuary has been a part of Christian tradition from its earliest years.
Similarly I would be surprised if someone would criticize me for pictures of my mother and father setting on my mantle; accusing me of thinking somehow this framed photo paper was in fact my parents - pretty outrageous.
Our love, devotion, honor and reverence for outstanding people in one’s country and in one’s personal life, will always invoke the desire to cherish them through images; so well demonstrated in prehistoric statuary and artwork.
If there is going to be an accusation of idolatry in our day, let it be known that idolatry is raging and ramped. The preponderance of money worship and the things money buy has inundated America. Our churches tend to be half empty while our malls are overflowing.
“You cannot serve both God and money. [Mt.6:24]
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
email@example.com blog at inspirationsandideas