Thursday, August 5, 2010

Silversmiths of Artemis

Artemis or Diana was the chief goddess in Ephesus in the first century. She, of course, is mentioned in Acts. Chapter 19 describes how the Apostle Paul was run out of town because his proseletyzing was based for the business of the silversmiths who made little carved idols of Artemis:

21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.
23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed,whom all Asia and the world worship.”
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions. 30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.

Acts 19:21-31(New King James)

This story in particular caused me to pause and ask, "Who are today's silversmiths of Artemis?" We always hear about some person promoting this or that belief, system, self-help technique, diet, or even religion. Often, at least secondarily, they enjoy considerable monetary gain as a result. What I don't hear asked much is, "Who stands to gain (materially) by ridding this country (or even the world) of the Gospel?" Materialiasts -- which, I think include hardcore socialists and well as dedicated money-minded capitalists -- have to acknowledge much of human action (good and bad) is done for some sort of material gain.

Who stands to gain in the United States if the Christians withdraw from society as was demanded of Paul in Acts 19? I have a list:

  • Pornographers. Forget all this nonsense about freedom of expression. Sex is a drug and pornographers peddle it to make money. Lots of money. They don't provide people with pleasurable experiences in the name of charity. I've checked various sources and seen a wide range of numbers. I don't think being accurate about the dollar amount of the porn industry is especially important since we are talking about billions of dollars. Consider that something like $10 to $15 Billion moves through the American economy per year for "adult entertainment." Do you think the purveyors of "adult entertainment" like Focus on the Family calling for social change in this area? As certain as I'm sitting here typing this, I know that they don't want mental health experts convincing the public at large that sex addiction is real and destructive, a view that many secular health professionals seem to hold these days.

  • Public colleges and universities. I've seen first-hand how the social agendas of the members of various departments -- bureaucracies really -- are anti-Christian, anti-traditionalism. Those in academe don't want to hear opposing views, really. They want to ensure that tuition and tax dollars continue to roll in to fund them promoting their own worldviews. For such a small minority of people, those that run our public colleges and universities really act as oligarchists. A Christian society, meaning some sort of plurality of practicing Christians, is a threat to them. So they silence Christians or, worse yet, demand that their views conform to the new standards. Perhaps I am turning this around, putting the cart before the horse so to speak. Maybe they are motivated not by the money the schools rake in but by their social and political agendas; the funding just ensures they can continue to promote those agendas. But we see that they have created a society in which the need for their services ensures their continued funding and, therefore, continued existence. They've convinced us that the only way to "get ahead" or to "be successful" in life is to get a college degree. Indeed, college grads do considerably better (in many social categories, not just income) than people without degrees. I'd not quibble with that. While I would not go so far as to say that this is some sort of purposeful conspiracy or grand scheme, I do believe those in academia recognize a sea change in society's moral outlook would be bad for (their) business.

  • Hollywood. An entire book could be written on this subject and I won't try to tackle it at length. I feel comfortable declaring, though, that an orthodox Christian worldview is bad for the movie-making and television industries (and the modern entertainment industry more broadly.) Remember the furor created over The Last Temptation of Christ? Who could forget all the hub-bub over The Da Vinci Code? Surely those controversies drove people -- tens, maybe hundreds of thousands -- to the theaters in those instances. But imagine if people actually decided they were not going to fill their heads with some of the stuff that Hollywood produces. Imagine millions of people refusing to set foot in theaters because the movies had objectionable themes. What would happen if hundreds of thousands of Christians stopped going to or renting movies produced by studio A or starring actors B, C and D. That was the kind of effect Paul was having in Asia by proclaiming the gospel.

Jesus said, "And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:22. Will we be hated because we, as Christians, are bad for business? Do they already hate us because they perceive a threat to their lucrative livelihoods?

Surely the 18 year old skeptic about ready to start college, who doesn't have two nickels to rub together, can afford to be philosophical about Christianity. He can dislike it because it doesn't jibe with what he has been told in school about "tolerance" or "acceptance" or "open-mindedness." But not everyone is that kid. He'll see things differently at 40 than he does now.

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