I’d direct you to David Foster Wallace’s commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. Wallace is largely consider one of the best American writers of the past century and arguably the most insightful postmodern writer of our time. In the address he talks about how religious or irreligious, we’re ALL worshiping, and how destructive it can be to worship the wrong thing:
You get to decide what to worship. Because here’s something else that’s weird but true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for choosing some form of God to worship (he lists several possibilities from Jesus to Allah to Yahweh, etc.) is that virtually every other thing you choose to worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things…then you will never have enough. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. When time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths…
Worship power and you will end up feeling week and afraid, and you will need ever more power to numb your own fear.
Worship your intellect, you will end up feeling stupid, always on the verge of being found out….
And the insidious thing about these (false) forms of worship is that they are unconscious. And the so-called ‘real world’ will not discourage us from operating on these default settings, because the so called “real world” of man, and money, and power, comes merrily along on fuel of fear and anger and frustration and craving and the worship of self.
Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth, and comfort, and personal freedom, the freedom to all be lords of our own skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation.
The human need to worship
Uhhh….for starters, it’s any wonder this guy is easily one of the best writers of our generation – this has quickly been regarded as one of the most powerful commencement addresses in history. Second, he’s not a Christian – he’s merely objective enough and insightful enough to understand what makes humanity tick – the innate need to worship something greater than self, and this colliding with our destructive desire to rule the universe.
As we analyze the way we manage our time, energy, thoughts, money, attitudes, we come to realizations about what we truly love and worship, regardless of what we say or do on Sunday mornings.
The first step in overcoming the secular temple worship, then, is to become aware that we struggle with it.
The second step in processing sin is to repent of what we are and what we’ve done. All of life is repentance, as Luther said – a turning away from what we think things to be and surrendering to the righter, more beautiful authority of what Christ tells us.
Next, we recognize that Jesus not only paid for our mistakes on the cross that should have been ours due to our false worship, but he also lived the life we needed to and gave it to us. You simply couldn’t pull the man away from the real Temple – when his parents moved with the social caravan, Jesus dropped his anchor in God’s House, teaching and preaching, praying and praising. Worshiping. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them (Luke 2:49-50).
Faulty invitations to worship
The secular temptations offer salvation, like that shiny new Easy Bake Oven on the Christmas list offers the promise of eternal happiness to the eager child who cannot live without it. And then Dec. 29th rolls around. Four flavorless cupcakes later and you realize this Hasbro mainstay won’t solve all of the problems of your childhood. Neither will the non-Jesus, secular salvations offered to adults.
The only real worship option
There is only one real Temple to worship at – one where if you get the God who dwells there, he’ll satisfy you, and if you fail him, he’ll forgive you. This is the Temple that was torn down and after three days was resurrected (Mark 14:58; see also Matthew 12:6).