Thursday 16 February 2012

How to start your own cult (or turn your church into one)

Last night at Rock Fellowship we looked at the funny yet tragic story of Micah's house of idols in Judges Chapters 17 and 18. I suggested that we could summarise the passage as a "how-to" guide on starting up your own cult. Here are the three steps we saw:

1. Don't start from scratch
There's no need to come up with fresh material. Use the bible. Start with Christianity. Call it a church, even, and baptise your members.

Yes, Micah starts his own religion with his own idols. But he also had an ephod, installed a priest and called upon the name of the LORD (Judges 17:13). In other words, he was building upon the faith of his fathers. His was a new and improved version of Israel's god.

2. Get someone famous
The turning point was the arrival of a Levite from Bethlehem who turns out to be none other than a direct descendant of the great man of God, Moses, himself (Judges 18:30). Even the Danites recognise this personality simply from hearing his voice while standing outside Micah's house (Judges 18:3).

Micah immediately hires the Levite as high priest to preside over his new religion, saying, "Now I know the LORD will prosper me" (Judges 17:13). In other words, this was a celebrity endorsement. With someone this famous on Micah's team, God must be blessing his church.

3. Fill it with disgruntled Christians
Soon, the Danites turn up. No longer is this one man's religion, it becomes a whole tribe's. The Levite gets a promotion to Archbishop of Cantebury. A megachurch is built overnight.

But notice how the Danites came to chance upon Micah's religion in the first place: The were leaving their own. For generations, they had been struggling in "Zorah and Eshtaol" (Judges 18:2). This was land given them by God as an inheritance. However, right from the beginning of the book of  Judges, we learn that Dan never quite managed to take control of that land (Judges 1:34). Rather than stay and fight, the Danites had decided it was easier to pack-up and leave.

What they found in Micah's god was approval. Approval to leave their city (Judges 18:6). Approval to attack another peaceful city (Judges 18:27). Here was a god who endorsed their sinfulness. Whatever they wanted to do - even if it was against God's law; even if it was against their own conscience - this god said, "OK." "Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD" (Judges 18:6).

The author summarises this sad situation with one recurring phrase:
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
Judges 17:6

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