I am not a huge gamer but there are some video game series that I really love. One of those is the Bioshock world of games. I love the first two because they challenge the philosophical underpinnings of Ayn Rand‘s thought (which I despise and think is a threat to genuine Christianity). I love the third game in the series, Bioshock Infinite, because of its confrontation of civil religion, an equally abhorrent threat to real Christianity.
By civic religion here I don’t mean the general civil religious values of a society a religious ideology in which the state is the deity. Rome, as well as others, did this with the Imperial Cult. To worship Caesar was the highest good. Such worship led to the Caesar’s believing in their own divinity and that they alone could save the world. The early church denied the divinity of the Caesars and in the process gained its first confession, Jesus is Lord, from its refusal to say the creed of the Imperial Cult that Caesar is Lord.
The second you place anything else in Jesus’s position you commit idolatry.
The thing is that it is quite common for this to happen with people who love their nation. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to love your nation within some boundaries. Our homelands are good things. It is good that we love them. I hope everyone can love the place you are from. Yet when the homeland becomes our ultimate source of meaning and purpose that is a terrible and dangerous thing. Our nation should never be our ultimate source of meaning and purpose.
Bioshock Infinite does a great job of breaking this down. The game displays so many of the symbols of our country being treated as religious symbols. In the game there is religious zeal associated with them. In the game’s reality people pray to and worship the founding fathers and the flag. In Bioshock Infinite Jesus has been replaced with and image of America, Washington, and even Old Glory.
The sad thing is that it happens in the real world too.
If you look around you will see it. It is one thing if you don’t proclaim Jesus as your Lord. I still think such civic religion is bad for you because I don’t believe such a faith in the state can healthy be anyone’s ultimate value. It is an entirely different thing if you, like me, are someone who proclaims that Jesus is their Lord. If He is your Lord then you can’t allow anything, no matter how good it may be, to replace Jesus.
When we take our eyes off Jesus and place them on a nation or the symbols of our nation we make an idolatrous choice and idols, even the ones that come from originally good items, are destructive to us and the world in which we are a part.