Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Strange Gods

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There have been several recent books published on the subject of idolatry, so I did not know what to expect when I began Elizabeth Scalia’s new book Strange Gods. Would she merely echo what others have written? Would she present any new insights on this age old problem? Would this be a book I would recommend, knowing there are other good books on the subject? I found Strange Gods to be an enjoyable read that challenged me to look at the idols in my own life.

Strange Gods is different for several reasons. First, it is written from a Catholic perspective. Scalia is a practicing Catholic and often quotes popes, saints, and Chesterton. However, this is not a book just for Catholics. Protestants would be blessed by this book and might appreciate some of the different angles Scalia takes to address certain issues. Second, I found this book to be very personal. Some of the other books on idolatry that I have read approach the subject as a cultural or church-wide problem. Scalia recognizes that some idols are the result of the culture we live in, but she always makes it personal. The chapters in Strange Gods are not sermons compiled in order to sell another book, but they are the personal reflections of a Christian who has lived and struggled with idols her whole life. This approach is helpful for Christians looking for a book to help them discern and overcome the many challenges they face in their own life.

At the heart of the book are the Ten Commandments and a saying by Gregory of Nyssa. Scalia continues to return to the ideas that idols are something that stand between us and God, and she believes Gregory of Nyssa was correct in saying, “ideas lead to idols.” She shows how idols do not have to be something that is evil. An idol can be something that is good, but if it stands between us and God, then it is a problem. Scalia’s adoption of the quote from Gregory of Nyssa is also helpful. Her book explores how there are certain ideas that lead to idolatry that we need to watch out for.

Strange Gods carefully balances living in a modern culture while adhering to an ancient religion. Scalia addresses topics like technology, coolness, and busyness. She understands that these are issues we all face and she does not blindly dismiss them. She embraces her job as a blogger, but also understands she has to be careful with technology and her time on the internet. Throughout the book Scalia comes across as having a good grasp on current trends in culture, while at the same time holding on to the practices and beliefs of an ancient faith.

For me, one of the most beneficial aspects of the book was Scalia’s ability to address certain controversial topics without being able to label her as conservative, liberal, or whatever other kind of label people sometimes give. Scalia points out how labels or ideas can turn into idols and can get in our way of seeing God. I did not agree with everything she writes in the book, but I do believe she was always approaching the subject as a Christian and not as something else. Scalia also gives helpful advice in chapter 9 on dealing with people who want to label others. She calls readers to stand in the truth and be comfortable there.

Strange Gods is not a lengthy read. It is not designed for clergy or academics, although I am sure they would benefit from reading it. It is a book for all Christians concerning the idols that one deals with on a daily basis. Because no one is unaffected by idolatry Strange Gods is a book that would be beneficial for all.

You can purchase and learn more about Strange Gods here

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