Jesus and the American Golden Calf

Many years ago, I heard the full story of exactly what was happening at a somewhat routine passage in John 7, and it blew my mind – and altered my life forever.

The passage in question is this:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38, New King James Version

Like I said, a fairly routine passage in a chapter that is a bunch of “quick hit” scenes. Nothing at all remarkable about the text, on its face.

But here’s where things get interesting: You see, that first verse (until it says 38 above) is actually FULL of details that have direct impact into at least one controversy swirling America as I write this. Because the “feast” in question was one of the holiest moments of the Jewish calendar of that era, the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the very holiest of days of one of the holiest religious observances of their year, Jesus protested. He claimed they were dead wrong, that their celebrations meant nothing. That he and he alone was what they were looking for. In Modern American Christian parlance, this would be similar to some travelling pastor walking into CNN on Christmas morning and proclaiming himself the Second Coming of Christ. It was *that* big.

And here’s the pivot to the American Golden Calf. You see, the Jews of Christ’s era were familiar with the story of the Golden Calf – as are many American Christians. Long story short (and it can be found in Exodus 32), Moses was up on the Mount of Sinai for a LONG time getting the 10 Commandments. While he’s gone, his brother commissions a golden calf to be made that the people of Israel begin worshipping – and then one of the 10 Commandments Moses comes down with turns out to be “thou shalt have no other gods before me”. Oops.

Now, what is the American Golden Calf? The United States Government. And specifically, its symbols – its flag and anthem. American Christians are no different than those Israelites of long ago, so tired of waiting and so bored and so sure of their own significance that they will worship almost literally anything that seems to give them an iota of purpose. In our case, they have eschewed “thou shalt have no other gods before me” for placing their entire faith in the American Flag. Sure, they’ll say they don’t. And they will and do make a big stink about how much they don’t. But their big stink shows just how much they do. Because in their every action, they continually reiterate their absolute devotion to that flag. They think that that flag and the cross Jesus died on are the very same thing, when in fact the two are polar opposites.

That flag in modern times does not in any way stand for freedom. The cross never has. That flag in modern times stands for tyranny, oppression, and force – in every detail of life, all over the globe. The cross stands for absolute supplication to the Living God – by each man’s choice. That flag in modern times demands “you will worship me or else”. The cross has always been about personal sacrifice to show the path to God. That flag in modern times says “If my agents are even the least bit intimidated by you, they can kill you any time they want”. The cross says “I would rather die to show you the path to God than let you die without knowing it.”. That flag in modern times says “I will judge you according to my arbitrary rules.” The cross says “I don’t judge you at all.”. That flag in modern times says “I have the right to kill you.” The cross says “If a man strikes me, I will turn the other cheek and allow him to strike it too.” That flag in modern times says “I will scream in your face about anything I want, and you have to stand there and take it because I’m the most powerful force on the planet.” The cross says “I serve a God who created literally everything, and I humbly present my case for his glory.”

When Colin Kaepernick or the literally hundreds of other sports players protest that flag at the height of the modern American religious festival that is the National Football League, they are doing exactly what Christ did all those years ago. They are being, by the very definition of the word, Christian.

When you rabidly adhere to the American flag, you are by the very definition of the term worshipping a falce idol.

Choose this day whom you will serve, Christian. Will it be the God that gave the Ten Commandments and later proclaimed himself to be the living water to the desert population? Or will it be the golden calf and the religious leaders who thought they had killed some madman claiming to be God?