Christian history hasn't always been mono-theistic. I don't mean DaVinci code kind of "theology" here - I mean, that when you trace back the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition you find out that this idea of there only actually being one God wasn't always what they thought to be the case. They were, however, monolatrous. That is, they only worshipped one God.
It's right there in the first commandment: You shall have no other God's before me. If there were no other God's wouldn't that commandment be redundant?
This idea really crystalized though around the time of the exile into Babylon when they were inundated with new ideas and philosophies and became the mono-theistic religion we all know and love.
Well, sort of.
That idea it turns out was pretty much the apex of modernity. If there is only one God then His will is absolute - and if His will is absolute then everything is either right or wrong - and the universe quickly becomes a black and white place. Monotheism spread like fire until it had covered most of the globe in some way, shape, or form.
This wasn't all bad - because this kind of thinking actually led early scientists to examine the most minuscule elements of nature in search of the fingerprints of God. It may be a stretch, but we probably wouldn't be where we are today without monotheism.
Here endeth the lesson.
For real this time.
So that was modernity.
But we don't live in modernity anymore.
We live in a world with all sorts of options. Getting up on Sunday morning for church is just one voice among many; the Good News of Jesus is really just one voice among many. And I don't just mean only the many formally recognized religions that make up our landscape today. I mean sports; sex; money; science. These are the temples that most people worship at today.
We scrunch our noses when we hear religious language associated with things like these - but what if that's only because we've been overwhelmed with the language of monotheism? What if we've told ourselves for so long that there is only one God and so it doesn't matter who or what we worship - that we've actually started to believe it?
When the apostle Paul visited Mars Hill in Athens, the book of Acts tells us that he pointed out all of the gods being worshipped in this place and that they even had a temple to the unknown God - in case they missed one I guess... and so Paul proceeded to tell them about this unknown God.
He didn't go in and tell them that there was only one God and they were stupid for praying to stone and wood. Paul was monolatrous; not monotheistic.
For my money, that sounds a whole lot more like the world we live in today. I'm not saying it's a perfect translation - you lose some steam when you move from pre-modern to post-modern - but the principle remains the same. There are so many things that people treat like Gods today - more than one thing for so many.
What if that's how the church worked today? If we didn't go in telling people why their God was wrong - but went about explaining - in words and in deeds why our God was better? What if life wasn't about what we were against, but was defined by what we were for?
"Let me tell you about the God you don't worship yet"...