How Many Hours a Week Do You Worship a Golden Calf?
All the people took off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He received what they handed him, and fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it a molten calf; and they said, "These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt." Exodus 32
Do you worship a golden calf? Perhaps you have a few of them. I certainly did. I had many of them as a new Christian. And probably, even if to a much lesser extent, I still have some now. As a Christian, my aim is to cut them out as much as possible. But as a member of modern society (and for most of my life as a non-Christian), it's impossible not to absorb at least some of its influence.
There are plenty of things (other than God, or Jesus, or even another religion) that people worship. You've probably heard of most of them. Money, sex, and the entertainment industry are some of the more common ones.
That the phrase "entertainment industry" even exists reveals a lot. Entertainment has become enough of a focus in people's lives to have an industry devoted to it. Entertainment is now so much of a golden calf that many people would think it quite weird to suggest that the main point of life isn't how much entertainment you can fit in before you die.
Some of the more popular golden calves / false gods are often called out in the church. Sex is probably the best example. And to some extent, material riches. But there are others which sneak into our lives, almost un-noticed by the majority of Christians. And continue to be freely practiced. With only occasional mention of their potential for harm. This page will discuss a couple of those.
Television, the Drug of the Nation
Has turned into
One nation under the influence
Of one drug.
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation...
I woke up this morning with the idea in my head to write this page. The idea started with a single sentence I'd written down from a sermon by David Wilkerson, that I found on YouTube sometime in 2018. So I played the sermon again to find where the quote was. It turned out to be right near the end, so I ended up listening to the whole sermon again today.
David Wilkerson is the preacher best known for "The Cross and the Switchblade". He converted to Christ the gang leader Nicky Cruz — whose biography "Run Baby Run" I read a few times as a young child (like from age 7 or 8 maybe). And which was a strong influence on my early life — both in terms of Christianity and also in opening my too-young eyes to many worldly things (as happened in the life of a street gang leader in the ghettos of New York City).
Most of the sermon is about following false doctrine, and covers the story of Jezebel and Ahab from the book of 1 Kings. Wilkerson describes false doctrine as that which promises us the things of the world, rather than the things of God; and that which fools us into allowing friendship with the world to draw us away from being true followers of Christ and the Word of God. He especially warns against covetousness (which means wanting things we don't have, aren't meant to have, and aren't good for us).
Leading up to the quote I'd written down from his sermon, Wilkerson quotes from the book of Jeremiah:
Behold, you trust in lying words, that can't profit. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, "We are delivered"; that you may do all these abominations?
Then Wilkerson says:
Now look this way. Hear it. And hear it good before I close. Here's where the deception is. Here's where people are swallowed up. And sell themselves to the Devil. Actually are sold to Satan...
He said "You trust in lying words". Somebody came along and told you that everybody's weak. Everybody sins. We can't be perfect... And you begin to trust in these lying words... Burning incense to your idols.
And to me, when the Bible says "burning incense" the modern translation is sitting there wasting hours in front of your TV idol.
The sentence that I'd originally written down is highlighted above in bold font. And they even literally call some of the shows "Idol" now. I couldn't tell when David Wilkerson gave that sermon. But it sounds like it's originally from a vinyl record, so it was probably many years before they had TV shows literally called "Idol".
And this is more true now than it ever was — apart from the slight change of focus from actual TV to YouTube, Netflix, social media, and similar online sources of entertainment. Which, if anything, has only made the scale of the problem worse.
Music, Sweet Music
The really big golden calf for me was music. As I was writing this paragraph originally, I typed the remainder of the previous sentence as "which stood tall above all the others". But then I realised that there were so many others, and many of them were massive negative influences also. With consequences that still carry on to this day.
So I re-thought that sentence, and I decided that it wasn't that music itself was the one big golden calf that was so much worse for me than all the others. But — music definitely did have a very special place in my life in terms of its negative influence. The best word I can think of for it is that music was an absolutely massive gateway, which opened my life up to so many other negative influences.
I wasn't a Christian until about ten years ago, so I grew up as a nonbeliever. I got very heavily into music around mid-primary school, and remained very into it for a long time. My parents weren't really into music much at all, so it's not like I can even blame them for it. In fact Mum was very, very against me playing the anti-Christian music described over the following paragraphs. I had plenty of other problems that I did blame my parents for — but this one was nobody's fault but mine:
Oh, nobody's fault but mine
Nobody's fault but mine
Trying to save my soul tonight
Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine
The devil he told me to roll
The devil he told me to roll
How to roll the log tonight
Nobody's fault but mine.
Until I started playing guitar, I listened almost entirely to popular music on the radio. Sometimes I taped songs from the radio onto cassette tape so I could play them again, like most people did back then.
After I started playing guitar I got into guitar-oriented music, and started listening to albums. The lyrics, musical style, and overall message was much darker. Around that time of my life, a whole lot of things started to change. For the worse. I'm sure most people who know me in real life (probably pretty much everyone) would be quite surprised to hear that I regret ever learning to play the guitar, and wish I could have never even touched one in my whole entire life.
I still play now, at church, because I spent all those years learning how to play — so it's something I can do in service as a Christian. And I do enjoy playing (when my health is good enough to enjoy it). And I find that doing it in a Christian context helps me to deprogram some of the original damage. But if you average out the effect that guitar (and the lifestyle that I adopted because of guitar) had on me over my whole life — it's a long way into the minus.
There are so many ways worldly music and guitar negatively influenced my life that I could write an entire book or website about just this one topic. Because I was so shy socially, I didn't go out to see that many bands play live. I think the band I saw the most number of times (four) was The Angels. The first album I had was The Angels Greatest. One of the songs that got the most stuck in my head all day long was called "Who Rings the Bell?"
Ya' diggin' a mountain,
And lookin' for gold.
You worship a calf,
Like days of old.
I saw The Angels a lot because they played a lot of gigs around Sydney, and often close to where I lived, like Blacktown and Penrith. They headlined the first music festival I ever went to. It was in a huge hall at Flemington Markets, and featured ten relatively-local 80s bands like The Uncanny X-Men, The Radiators, The Church, Dragon, and finally The Angels.
The opening words from their album "Two Minute Warning" well describe my new life, including my life at home. Music and guitar had become my religion:
Found a new religion,
made your mother cry...
Star on the rise,
small price to pay.
The Angels were called "Angel City" in the USA and possibly some other countries, since there was a different band there already called The Angels. Along with many bands in this genre, they had a lot of dark lyrics with strange religious undertones. Like Mr Damage, After the Rain, Save Me, Shoot it Up, and like what I thought of for much of my life as the ultimate apocalypse song — Dawn is Breaking (In the Graveyard). And many others... But they were hardly the influence that led me to the darkest places. They weren't as satanic as Black Sabbath, or as evil as AC/DC — just to give two random examples — there were so many others, I could easily write a whole book about this stuff... And I don't think use of the "e-word" (evil) is too strong here:
If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine.
There are two main ways that music was such a negative influence on my life. One was the spiritual aspect, which not everyone believes in. Not even all Christians — some Christians believe that Christians are immune to this kind of problem, and some perhaps even deny its existence outright. If you have zero belief in spiritual/supernatural/demonic influence, then this is something you probably won't take much (conscious) notice of.
“According to the band, the song was inspired by an experience that Geezer Butler had in the days [when the band was called] Earth. Butler, obsessed with the occult at the time, painted his apartment matte black, placed several inverted crucifixes, and put many pictures of Satan on the walls. Ozzy Osbourne handed Butler a black occult book, written in Latin and decorated with numerous pictures of Satan. Butler read the book and then placed it on a shelf beside his bed before going to sleep. When he woke up, he claims he saw a large black figure standing at the end of his bed, staring at him. The figure vanished and Butler ran to the shelf where he had placed the book earlier, but the book was gone. Butler related this story to Osbourne, who then wrote the lyrics to the song based on Butler's experience.” Source: Wikipedia.
For those not old enough to remember, or were never into this kind of music, Ozzy Osbourne was the original singer of the band Black Sabbath. Based on conversations with people in recent years, more people now have heard of Ozzy than of Sabbath. This song is how Ozzy's fame began — and it's interesting and unusual to see the force which lies beneath so much of modern worldly culture so clearly exposed:
What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn 'round quick and start to run
Find out I'm the chosen one
Big black shape with eyes of fire
Telling people their desire
Satan's sitting there, he's smiling
Watches those flames get higher and higher
Oh, no, no, please, God, help me!
Is it the end, my friend?
Satan's coming 'round the bend
People running 'cause they're scared
The people better go and beware
No, no, please, no!
Note the similarity between the line "Telling people their desire", and what David Wilkerson said about how to discern false doctrine. False doctrine offers you exactly the same thing that Satan does — your desire.
The first song on the first album was also the most overtly satanic song of the band I was into most of all during that period of my life, Van Halen:
I live my life like there's no tomorrow
And all I've got, I had to steal
Least I don't need to beg or borrow
Yes I'm livin' at a pace that kills
Runnin' with the devil
Runnin' with the devil
Interestingly, when their vocalist David Lee Roth left Van Halen, the first song on Roth's first album with his next hot guitarist (Steve Vai) shares its name with the last two words of the Satanic Bible. The same year, Vai played the role of the Devil's guitarist in the movie Crossroads. After Roth stopped playing with Vai, his first album with his next hot guitarist (Jason Becker) has a picture of the Devil on the cover, and in the first song, Roth sings, "I don't think the devil's ever gonna give me back".
If you went into a mainstream Christian church and there were pictures of the Devil proudly on display as the centrepiece, and they sang songs containing lines like those above (or further down on this page), it would probably be all over the news. But when people (including mainstream Christians) listen to and own copies of the types of music discussed on this page, hardly anyone even thinks twice about it.
The second way that music affected me negatively is something that everyone can consciously accept as real. This was the physical, emotional, psychological, and lifestyle aspects to it. It's very broad, but a few specific issues were huge for me. And I think also for a great many other people.
One was the substance abuse issue. Despite having the "alcohol gene" from both parents, I truly, honestly believe that I would never have become a problem drinker if I hadn't looked up to (i.e. idolised) so many musicians who preached very loudly with their songs, image, message, and their lifestyles the "benefits" of excessive drinking.
"Very loudly" has many meanings that apply here. Including literal ones, like how you could sometimes hear our home stereo from the local shopping centre on a quiet day. Like how my cassette walkman was always turned up to 10. And how I liked it when I got new batteries, because after I changed out the old batteries for new ones, it went even louder. So I became slightly hearing-impaired, and spent a fair chunk of my adulthood struggling to hear what people were saying in social situations with background noise.
I can very well remember how highly I thought of these famous musicians that I idolised, and how desperately I wanted to be like them. And how earnestly I tried to live like them as much as I possibly could.
Whiskey, gin and brandy
With a glass I'm pretty handy
I'm trying to walk a straight line
On sour mash and cheap wine
So join me for a drink boys
We're gonna make a big noise
So come on and have a good time
And get blinded out of your mind
So don't worry about tomorrow
Take it today
Forget about the check
We'll get hell to pay
Have a drink on me
Have a drink on me
Have a drink on me
Have a drink on me (yeah)...
I'm so lucky that during those years I didn't have close friends who did a lot of hard drugs. Nearly all my friends smoked pot (marijuana), but I didn't like it much myself, and so I never really took to it on a regular basis. It's hard to look back and count accurately, but maybe I smoked it 30-40 times ever. Which is not a lot when you hang out with (and sometimes live with) all-day, every-day tokers.
The first time I ever smoked pot was immediately after a church service, when I walked to the nearby house of a friend (who didn't go to church). I remember being especially motivated to go because I heard that a guy would be there who I'd heard a lot about, but hadn't yet met. He was revered among my group of friends for his guitar skills, and could play "Eruption" by Van Halen. I went there to meet him, intending to eventually jam with him and improve my own guitar skills.
So I got stoned for the first time right after church, and mainly because I wanted to improve my guitar skills. I hadn't forgotten that the first guitar book I owned ("Lead Guitar" by Harvey Vinson) included "playing stoned" as one of its tips for broadening your musical horizons. I went to Church because Mum took me — I wasn't to become a Christian myself until many more years had passed by.
I'm 100% sure I would have been quite keen to try many more of the other, harder, drugs, if they had been readily available to me in those years. I'm also 100% sure I would have never got involved with any of this type of thing had I not been so influenced by music, and so keen to copy the famous musicians that I idolised.
The hardest drug I ever took for recreational purposes was Palfium. In fact it's probably the hardest drug I've ever taken for any reason, including legitimate medical use. It was an oral painkiller that's now banned in nearly every country (even with a script) due to its addictive potential. Wikipedia describes Palfium as "a powerful opioid analgesic approximately three times more potent than morphine", which was "singled out along with several other synthetics by the United Nations and European Union as being 'extra-dangerous' in the early 1960s — being alleged to be three times more euphoric than heroin at equianalgesic doses". It also says that it was "was much favoured by drug users in Australia in the 1970s and the United Kingdom", and that "The main advantage of this drug is that it has a fast onset of action when taken orally, and has a high bioavailability which means that oral dosing produces almost as much effect as injection".
I was 18 years old, and I took it several times over a few weeks. I used to wash down the pills with overproof rum. Just ordinary overproof rum, which is about 55-58% alcohol, not Inner Circle Black Dot which was too strong for me to drink straight from the bottle. I knew from the start that I only had a limited supply of Palfium. My logic was that if I combined it with the strongest drink I could tolerate drinking straight, I'd get the the best "hit" and also the greatest amount of effect overall from rationing the total number of pills that I had available.
I'd be lying if I said anything which contradicted the fact that it felt pretty damn nice. (I'm using the word 'damn' here intentionally, since I'm fairly sure the experience wasn't, like, blessing me.) Nice... until the effects wore off. After that, I felt even more empty, strung out, and anxious than I usually did (which was a lot at that time of my life). And after each time I tried it, I was ever-increasingly keen to take some more Palfium.
I'm really very fortunate that my supply ran out eventually, and I didn't know where to get any more of anything like that at that time of my life. I had some idea of what it would be like to be a junkie from reading "Run Baby Run" several times, beginning from early-primary-school age — and I knew that I sure as hell didn't want to end up one of those. A lot of people have been in the same place I was in during my late teens, and they weren't all as lucky as I was to escape that kind of future.
In the long-term, the one good thing about having tried Palfium is that now I can look back and write about it from my own first-hand, real-life experience. And explain how I know for a fact — and can personally verify — that Christianity brings far more (and deeper, and longer-lasting) pleasure than a drug three times stronger than morphine, supposedly three times as euphoric as heroin, almost as effective taken orally as shooting it up, and washed down with long swigs of overproof rum.
Like the noose in the photo above (and like the initial deception of whole lifestyle) it was also a long time before I noticed that the "Pal" in "Palfium" not only didn't officially mean that the drug was my "pal" — like I used to joke — but is most likely an abbreviation of "palliative". Since the drug was commonly used for palliative care. Meaning that you're not expected to survive. When that dawned on me it felt kind of creepy, really.
For most of my childhood I was well behaved in terms of the law, though I did go though a phase of shoplifting which lasted for several months of year ten. One time ever, I went housebreaking. I distinctly remember having this song in my head, while thinking how cool I was to be doing something so wild and "real":
In far away places, you got to be patient
You can't eat cake when you're house breaking...
And then of course there was the romantic/sexual side. Romantic love and sex are obviously very prominently featured in rock, pop, and all other modern styles of music. I don't think I need to quote any lyrics to convince anyone of that. I can remember, very, very clearly, how the lyrics — combined with the emotional effect of the melody, and the chords, and the beat — powerfully injected into the deepest parts of my being the message that This Was My God.
This theme is of course reflected in other aspects of culture too — like movies and TV shows — but I'm sure music had the most powerful influence over me personally. Romantic love and sex were supposedly the highest, most enjoyable, most perfect and most sacred experience of life. And if it wasn't like that at any given time, I'd just better keep waiting, and trying harder, and hoping to be with someone else other than whoever I may have been with at that time.
Sometimes religious themes (but inverted, i.e. anti-religious) and "romance" were combined within the one song:
All right, you sinners, swing!
Danger in the rear view mirror
There's trouble in the wind
Badness bringing up the rear [so-subtle sexual reference]
The menace's loose again
She looks so f-ing good [the f-word is loud and proud, not so subtle]
So sexy and so frail
Something got the bite on me
I'm goin' straight to hell.
Another way that music influenced me was that I wanted to be a musician so much that I really did give up a lot for it. Like a uni qualification, or a real career (or even a job at all a lot of the time) for the first few years after leaving school. Like looking after my health, eating properly, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
I also remember very well how behind and inadequate I felt. I remember comparing myself to successful musicians at certain ages (e.g. Jimmy Page was recording number one singles from age 19) and feeling very, very behind. And that I desperately needed to catch up, or I would have no hope at all in life whatsoever. Wherever I was, I was never really there — I was always living in the future. Many people do this, and for many reasons — but for me that reason was music.
Even if my own experience was more intense than that of most people, I can see how worldly music does massively influence people's lives. Many Christians spend many hours a week listening to it:
When the Russians occupied Rumania, two armed Russian soldiers entered a church with their guns in their hands. They said, "We don't believe in your faith. Those who do not abandon it immediately will be shot at once! Those who abandon your faith move to the right!" Some moved to the right. These were ordered to leave the church and go home. They fled for their lives. When the Russians were alone with the remaining Christians, they embraced them and told them, "We too are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the truth worth dying for."
Such men fight for the Gospel in our countries. And they fight not only for the Gospel. They are also the fighters for liberty.
In the homes of many western Christians, hours are sometimes spent listening to worldly music. In our houses loud music can also be heard, but it is only to cover the talk about the Gospel and the underground work so that neighbors may not overhear it and inform the secret police.
How underground Christians rejoice on those rare occasions when they meet a serious Christian from the West!
The one who writes these lines is only an insignificant man. But I am the voice of those who are voiceless; of those who are muzzled and never represented in the West.
The Kids Aren't Alright
If you have children, how much time are they online? How much idea do you have about what they're doing when their door is closed? And what they watch, and listen to? If you thought Black Sabbath and AC/DC lyrics were dark, they've got nothing on the music that's out there now.
If you're a young person, just read this whole page and ask yourself the same question — how many hours a week do you spend worshipping a golden calf?
I used to teach guitar — but I stopped because most of the kids want to learn things like "Highway to Hell" and "Shoot to Thrill". (Both of those are by AC/DC, you can read the lyrics here and here if you're interested.) After I was a Christian for several years, it just didn't seem right anymore.
A few years after I became a Christian, I had a new guitar student who was a sweet, normal looking girl in year nine or ten. She was a good student at school, dressed conservatively, spoke nicely, was polite and well mannered, and didn't seem wild or extreme in any sense whatsoever. I asked what she wanted to learn to play and she said Avenged Sevenfold. I hadn't really heard their songs before, since I haven't been into that kind of music for many years. As usual I said something like "Sure, no problem, I can teach you to play that".
After she had gone, I checked them out on YouTube. The first song title that caught my eye was "A Little Piece of Heaven". Sounds a little bit religious, right? So that was the first Avenged Sevenfold song I heard (and watched).
It's about a guy who stabs his girlfriend "fifty f-ing times" (except the f-word is spoken properly), rips her heart out, eats her heart and/or her eyes (it's not 100% clear which), copulates with her dead body (that part of the song is very clear), and warms her body up with a heater so he can continue doing that after it gets cold. Eventually she comes back from the dead to repossess her corpse, and does exactly the same thing to him. (Which presumably means the song is considered inoffensive, because it contains the one essential moral requirement of the modern world — gender equality.) Eventually they get married in the afterlife, and continue in such behaviour happily ever after, "for the rest of their unnatural lives". I'm not making this up.
Fortunately my new student was also very interested in learning Green Day songs, so we spent nearly all of the lessons doing those. Incidentally, the title of this section of the page is a song by the band The Offspring:
How can one
Swallow so many lives?
Which Wolf Do You Feed?
Many people have heard the old story about the two wolves. (Sometimes it's told as two dogs. I've never heard it told as two cats, though.)
Casey: "There are two wolves" … You told me this story my entire life, and now I'm telling you: There are two wolves [inside us] and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair, the other is light and hope. Which wolf wins?
Eddie: C'mon, Casey.
Casey: Okay, fine, don’t answer.
Eddie: Whichever one you feed.
It's exactly like this with Christianity too. How many hours a week are you immersed in non-Christian culture, doing exactly what non-Christians do — and how many hours do you spend living as a disciple of Jesus Christ?
How many worldly song lyrics (or lines from movies) could you quote word for word from memory, compared to how many Bible verses you could quote word for word?
This kind of thing is sometimes mentioned (or implied) as if the "Jesus" part of your life is a massive sacrifice, and the worldly part is the fun part that you're missing out on when you do the "Jesus stuff". But it's not like that at all. Sure, sometimes it appears to be like that, but that's the whole deception that goes along with the worship of a false god. It's a trick. Meaning that it's something that can sneak up on you, and fool you, without you realising. And then gradually start to destroy you, from the inside.
Living for Jesus makes your life so much better on the inside — and that's where it counts.