Tis the season when those two familiar characters re-emerge on our television screens and in our psyches. Scrooge and Marley. Marley spent his life worshipping money. Making it. Counting it. Hoarding it. During his lifetime he was surrounded by ledgers and strong boxes with locks on them. Relationships meant nothing to Marley — every encounter with another human being was in service to his god: Money. After Marley’s death his partner Scrooge kept up the company practice. Making more money, counting it, storing it.
For both Marley and Scrooge money was the god they worshipped. Everything and everyone else was sacrificed in service to that god. After death, however, Marley learned that money was a god far too little for his needs. It was one thing to make it, to count it, to store it in this life. It was another thing altogether to be bound by the weight of those strongboxes and locks for eternity. In an act of kindness — perhaps the first in his life — Marley wanted his partner Scrooge to learn the lesson that he had failed to learn in this life. The god money was far too small. You know the story.
This ought to have all of us thinking about the little gods we worship. Last week as I watched the aftermath of another school shooting, I couldn’t help thinking that the most notorious god we worship in America is killing us.
Some among us have become so enamored with the idea of guns and gun ownership, that collectively we seem to have lost the ability to think about them with common sense. An overwhelming percentage of the American people may be convinced that gun ownership does not have to be a free for all, that reasonable people owning guns are willing to take more than reasonable precautions. But too many politicians know. They know that this little god we worship has assumed unreasonable power. And they stoke, they foster, that sense of power because it benefits them. It is not in their own best interest to have us think responsibly about gun ownership. We have become like Marley: Bound by a false god of automatic and semi-automatic guns, by vast quantities of ammunition, and a flagrant disregard for how this idol robs us of life itself. The nightly news anchors might well be Marley’s ghost to us flashing across the screen in an endless repeat of the madness and mayhem of seriously unrestricted gun ownership.
Through the prophet Isaiah God admonishes the children of Israel who have become enamored with the little gods they construct.
“Who would fashion a god or cast an image that can do no good? Look, all its devotees shall be put to shame… The ironsmith fashions it and works it over the coals, shaping it with hammers…a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?’” (Isaiah 44.6)
When will we learn? That the little gods we make and worship can do nothing for us? They can and do, however, take much from us.