Buzzards on the Brain

The fear for ages has been that a monstrous army of robots would one day infiltrate our society, overrun us, and in the end would force us into slavery or perhaps completely destroy us. The images of a red sunset casting dark shadows on a robot-infested city in ruins has come across our television sets time and time again.

However, others, such as Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) feared that we would instead “become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.” He remarked in Brave New World Revisited that the “civil libertarians and rationalists” who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In the book 1984, written by George Orwell, we find men who are controlled by inflicting pain. In Huxley’s book, Brave New World, people are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

Author Neil Postman explains that George Orwell, looking into the future, feared that what we hate would ruin us.

But Aldous Huxley feared that what we love would ruin us.

In saying such a thing, Postman is attempting to communicate that technology, specifically in his case television, [1] is the thing that we love and it is the very thing that will ruin us. I would agree and argue that what we love will indeed ruin us—but the problem is not television. That is simply an outworking of something much, much deeper.

Our hearts.

I Met the Buzzards at Church

For some reason, during church services in particular, distracting thoughts seem to swoop around my head like a flock of hungry buzzards waiting to eat a dead carcass.

It’s a pretty disgusting thought.

But maybe you have the same problem. I just drift off into distraction all the time. I have an infinite desire for distractions!

And I am in desperate need of some kind of deadly weapon of retaliation in order to rid myself of these brain-devouring distractions. Especially when it comes to taking part in the things of God, like a Sunday morning at church.

Now, what exactly is the connection between Huxley’s Brave New World and the vultures circling around my slowly disintegrating consciousness as I’m sitting in the pew? It’s rather simple, really.

Your heart and my heart desire to please themselves—and part of that means entertaining (or distracting) ourselves. Remember the statement that “people are controlled by inflicting pleasure”? That’s our society—that’s me! I am completely controlled by the things that please me—not others, and especially not God.

There is a reason that I am never distracted while watching Sports Center or watching my favorite television show. I’m never worrying about what I’m going to have for dinner, or that project that’s due tomorrow, or the conversation I need to have with a friend. Those situations still exist, but when it comes to things that entertain me, all of those things seem to fade into the background.

But for some reason those very things seem to leap into my mind as I’m writing down point number two from the sermon from my pastor. Let’s take a look at why that may be by taking a closer look at the “heart.”

Idols, Idols, Idols . . .

We have to realize we have disgusting idols permeating our beings. Not physical idols that we create and bow down to in our living rooms. These are much more subtle.

My own heart is the center of production for these things! And they’re not always initially bad things,per se. They are simply things that we love more than God, things we look at and say (sometimes unknowingly), “I can’t do without that thing. I just can’t be happy without it!” It might be a good thing (like a relationship, a car, or the latest phone)—but when you lose a good thing, there is some time of sorrow, and it can be replaced by something else. But when you lose an idol . . . you despair. [2]

My distractions just happen to be one particularly powerful way to detect these idols that are in my life. Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” That is frighteningly true. Wherever my mind most often drifts can help me to discover and address the current idols that I have within my heart. If my mind drifts off constantly to the relationship, the car, the latest phone, or whatever, I have the perfect opportunity to test and detect the idols that I may have haunting my heart.

What Now?

Since Sunday morning just happens to be an excellent time for me to realize the idols that are in my heart, the appropriate response to those idols is to do the following:

  1. I must acknowledge I have idols in my life. We all do! And I just happened to figure out what mine were in the moments when my mind began to be assaulted by what seemed like lovely creatures yet were actually disgusting buzzards waiting to devour the roadkill that had become my mind. That’s what idols often do—they take over the brain and heart, completing destroying our allegiance to what should be first place: Jesus Christ.
  2. I must realize that I cannot overcome or destroy these idols alone. Without help, I am completely enslaved to these idols. I am without the weapons to overcome them.
  3. I must preach the gospel. The gospel is the very thing that I need to destroy the vultures, or idols, or distracting thoughts. Often our being distracted is showing that we do not care about the gospel enough to seek after the Word of God, His church, or His community. I want to be so enraptured by the gospel that I take it and make it “of first importance” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.

Let’s not allow our sinful nature (or the infinite desire for distraction) to rule our lives. If we are believers, we have Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin! We are no longer slaves to sin, but servants of Jesus Christ. Because He has saved us, He must be first in our lives. First does not mean second, or equal to other things in our lives.

There are so many other ways that we can have or allow idols into our lives and so many other ways to detect idols. But for now—when you see those buzzards, watch out. It might just be the perfect opportunity to start breaking some idols you’re worshipping other than Jesus Christ. 

[1] Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves To Death. Introduction.

[2] I recommend reading Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller for further information.


Author: Tim Sweetman

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