The need of a Golden Calf
By Azhar Khan
““The need of a golden calf” is a chapter 5 from a book entitled, “One is a crowd” written by
Frank Chodorov. The book was published in 1952 when he was 65 years old.
Please keep the following in mind.
The writer has written the account of the golden calf based on the Bible. The Bible’s story is slightly different from the Quran. But since the
Quran supersedes the Bible, I have modified some of the story as written by the writer to reflect the narration in the Quran. The essential point here is to keep the essence of story of the golden calf and the lessons associated with it.
There is a distinction between the word nation which refers to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, ancestry or history; and the word state which is defined as an organized political community, living under a government.
Dr. Khalifa entitled appendix 36 as, “What price a great nation” and there is no conflict with what Dr. Khalifa advocated in the appendix.
Frank Chodorov refers to God’s laws as Natural laws. A nation or society will be prosperous and happy if it were to uphold God’s laws like freedom of religion, travel and economy. God’s law dictates respect of human rights and charity provided on an individual volunteer basis. Such charity might be an organized undertaking but it remains a private effort. Natural law or God’s law provides a recognition and protection of rights of property ownership, free flowing commerce and mutually acceptable transactions.
In the second half of the chapter Frank Chodorov is referring to the
principle of idolatry
when laws are made by humans which are contrary to God’s laws or Natural laws.
Here it is …
THE NEED OF A GOLDEN CALF
WE HAVE it on the authority of the Lord, as recorded in Genesis, that
idolatry is a corruption far more reprehensible than even the sins of the flesh. Why is the deep-rooted habit of humans to worship idols put so low in the scale of values? For answer, let's look to the story of the golden calf.
It will be recalled that Moses had gone up to Sinai and because he had been gone so long, the Children of Israel gave up on him. So, they turned to Aaron, the second in command, and demanded that he provide them with gods "which shall go before us." That is, they wanted something tangible, sensual and pragmatic to worship, the kind of gods they had seen in Egypt.
Moses had given them God or Yahweh, maintaining that He was the one and only. But this God, despite the fact that they had witnessed so many miracles, and who facilitated their escape from bondage, turned out to be only an idea (to them). To them, God was intangible, unapproachable, completely out of this world and therefore difficult to comprehend. When you get right down to it, to them, God was an abstraction, and an abstraction is elusive. A graven image, like the dome on the capitol in Washington DC, can be seen and appreciated, and the worship of it is satisfying.
To the Children of Israel, the most irritating thing about God was His insistence on principles. God would not allow compromise, was constantly bringing up long-run consequences, and scolded unmercifully when a fellow gave way to some momentary inclination of the flesh. God enjoined you to keep your eyes off the neighbor's wife and property, gave you no peace when you indulged your appetite for homicide, perjury or adultery.
To them, this was most annoying. Other people had gods quite amenable to amendment; one could not only see and talk to them, one could do business with them. If only their palms were properly greased with sacrifices, they could be depended upon to produce anything you wanted, even social security, with no questions asked. God, on the other hand, was uncompromising. He laid down His inflexible principles, and you are on your own. The best He could offer you was an opportunity – The Hereafter - and if you didn’t have sense enough to make use of that opportunity you took the consequences. To them, there was no way of getting around this intractable God.
Like all the people who came before or after them, the Jews found these not so obvious absolutes rather confining. They resented having their aspirations and appetites restricted by the natural order of things. They wanted a handout, and on a golden platter. That's what gods are for, and if God could not or would not deliver on demand, they would set up reasonable gods. Hence, when Moses took an unconscionable time in getting back from Sinai, and they thought they were finished with Moses and God, for once and all, and they went pragmatic. They put in an order for gods capable of producing laws they wanted or “inexhaustible supply of bread and circuses.”
Aaron had argued with them, but eventually gave in as he did not want to divide the Children of Israel. One might conclude that Aaron acted as a politician. For one thing, the Lord assigned him to Moses as an assistant (20:29), or partner, when Moses pleaded his lack of eloquence as a disqualification for leadership. Aaron was selected because he was not "of a slow tongue" and more “eloquent.” Better proof of his political gift is the way he handled the clamor for the golden calf: he heeded to the will of the mob as a good leader should. With the Samarian leading the way, they were taxed so that they could give them what they wanted. And it was a stiff tax, in those days: "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, and of your sons and daughters, and bring them to me."
Having produced, out of their substance, the idol of their hearts, the Samarian followed the political pattern by linking the golden calf to God. [20:96] He said, "I saw what they could not see. I grabbed a fistful (of dust) from the place where the messenger stood, and used it (to mix into the golden calf). This is what my mind inspired me to do." (Notice, he wasn't breaking with tradition by denying the Lord, but was insinuating divine sanction for the molten image; just as latter day Samarians equate democracy with planning.) And the people had bread and circuses, even as in the days of the Caesars and the New Deal. Everything was on a practical and immediate basis, with no thought of consequences. Principles were abolished.
But, were they? Moses had insisted that God’s laws and principles were supreme and would apply irrespective of man-made laws. If people conducted their affairs without regard to principles, they would suffer the consequences. And so, the principles that the Samarian and the Children of Israel arrogantly disregarded continued to plague the Jews.
In modern terminology, we would say that when you substitute political
expediency for natural law (which is what idolatry amounts to), you are in for trouble: civilization becomes decadent and declines.
THE STATE AS AN IDOL
No one, and least of all those who are concerned with reform, will maintain that the human race has as yet reached the Promised Land. The evidence is all against it. Man has done a lot in accumulating a knowledge of things in general, but he seems incapable of ridding himself of the need of a golden calf. He still yearns for "gods which will go before us," gods that are uninhibited by the laws of nature, gods that are accountable only to our appetites, gods that speak not of consequences or the long run. In that respect we are like the Jews in the wilderness. Witness the pervasive religion of our times, the worship of the State.
Is not the State an idol? Is it not like any graven image into which men have placed supernatural powers and superhuman capacities? The State can feed us when we are hungry, heal us when we are ill; it can raise wages and lower prices at the same time; it can educate our children without cost; it can provide us against the contingencies of old age and amuse us when we are bored; it can give us electricity by passing laws and improve the game of baseball by regulation. What cannot the State do for us if only we have faith in it?
And we have faith. No creed in the history of the world ever captured the hearts and minds of men as has the modern creed of Statism. Men may differ in their rituals, they may call themselves Americans, THE Need of a Golden Calfishmen or Russians (New Dealers, Socialists or Communists), but in their adherence to the doctrine of the omnipotence of the State they are as one. It is the universal religion. There may be some who maintain the State is a false god, that it is powerless in the face of natural law, incapable of doing anything the individual cannot do for himself, and is in fact a hindrance to man in his effort toward self-improvement; but such dissidents from the norm are few indeed. From New York to Moscow to Beijing, and all between, men pay homage to the State. It is a universal passion equal in intensity, but much larger in scope, to the Crusades.
In the Moslem world, men turn toward Mecca at certain times of the day and pray to Allah according to prescribed rules. In America, all hands are constantly outstretched toward Washington, shamelessly demanding alms, endowment and whatever else their hearts desire, accompanying their prayers with threats of retribution if their supplications are denied. The noise of the litany of "gimme" is heard all over the land which may include school teacher and banker, war veteran and labor union aristocrat, business man and college president.
And what is Washington but the shrine of the largest golden calf in the world? Here men of all degree come to press their claims on the provider of all things good. In Washington the high priests of the church dwell in splendor, and upon whom the graven image grins favorably, while those who have not yet attracted its attention fan their hopes. There is no other occupation in Washington than to appease the god of gods. Throughout the day, in its many-tiered houses of worship, splendid in construction and air-conditioned for comfort, high-heeled cattlemen from Texas and high-hatted tycoons from Wall Street vie with one another in paying respect and deference; and in the evening, worn out by their devotions, the worshippers gather at cocktail parties to repair their energies for tomorrow's prayers.
The substance of this religion of Statism is based on the premise that political power can do anything. There is no limitation upon its scope, except for more potent political power. Its’ theologians say with certainty that there are no "natural laws" or “God’s laws” to hamstring the State; that is a well-exploded myth of the dark ages. All things are relative. There are no absolutes. There are no certainties, either in the nature of man or the nature of the world. In fact, there is no nature. Whatever men set their hearts on doing that will be done, provided only that they put their collective powers to the job. And whatever the collective powers of men accomplish, that is "good," simply because it "works." The religion of Statism is thus considered thoroughly pragmatic.
The State is the true god, its supporters maintain, because it is immortal. Men come and go, the State lives on. The priesthood who tend it may be Republicans or Democrats or what-not; the State outlasts them all. It is self-sufficient because it is sovereign, omniscient because it has an intelligence superior to the combined intelligence of all men, beyond censure because its morality transcends that by which mere man lives. It is not a social contract, not the product of a body of laws which men make and unmake. It can say, as the God of the Bible said of Himself "I Am."
Yet, the State does not say that, or anything else, for it is in fact only a golden calf. We who worship the fiction endow it with superhuman gifts and capacities by merely demanding of it actions to provide such gifts and capacities. It is good because we want it to be. Out of the fervency of our prayers comes the State.
Were we to take the trouble to examine the product of our imagination, we would find the State to be only a body of men who take advantage of our weakness. They promise because of our self-deception and because we do not question their ability to make good. Nor do we take notice of the contingent clause accompanying the promise, which is, that we give them power over our persons and our property. Because these body of men are human, they are incapable of defying or circumventing the laws of nature or the laws of God. Thus they cannot do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and their promise is never fulfilled. However, the power they have acquired is not relinquished. Thus, the State consists of a body of men who, by virtue of our need for a golden calf, acquire the power to compel us to do what we do not want to do.
Frank Chodorov ends his essay with the following:
In the present circumstances, seeing how far we have gone in the worship of the State, we are probably in for a smash-up similar to that which befell the Jews when they asked Aaron for "gods which shall go before us." We could use a Moses to put us on the track of first principles.
Some final thoughts on this essay - Mr. Chodorov did not live to witness his wish come true. God did send His messenger of the covenant to put us on track of first principles and to purify and consolidate all the messages delivered by God's prophets into one message.
The fully detailed message in the Quran endorses the natural laws Mr. Chodorov speaks off and any society which adheres to them will prosper. But if we substitute political expediency for natural law a society or nation becomes decadent and declines.
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