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Hobby Or Idol? You Decide
By Michael S. Bauml

For a large portion of my life, I collected comic books, hence my email name: collector2630. As a young boy, each week I would take my allowance, walk a couple of blocks to the drug store, and select my treasures. I was enamored with Spiderman, Daredevil, and the X-men decades before they were made household names by the current set of movies.

As time went by my collection became increasingly complex. Instead of reading my comics and throwing them into a box, now it was acid-free storage boxes, archive quality backing boards, sorting, inventory, collector's price guides, etc. I needed an entire room for my collection, which had approached 20,000 comics. What had began over 40 years ago as a childhood fascination had taken on a life of its own.

In part due to the space taken up and the costs involved, my wife began urging me to get rid of some of my books. After repeated attempts on her part, I reluctantly started to sell some of the books I really didn't want on EBay: the online auction.

As is often the case if you hang around at St. Luke's long enough you will learn something about your faith that makes you re-evaluate your life. This time my attention was turned to my comic collection. I began to think about my collection and what it represented in terms of being a Christian. I was possessing "things" and giving them added importance and consequently they were in turn "possessing" me. Resources and time that could be put to better use by helping the poor and the church were being used to sort and store and accumulate more. Also I was hoarding these comics so I could take pride in the fact that I owned them and allowed no one else to enjoy them. More importantly, they were separating me from Our Lord.

I committed myself to sell some of the better books in my collection instead of just my castoffs but I had not yet realized the extent to which my collection had control over me. The turning point in my mind came when I decided to sell one of my most prized books, Daredevil #1. It took me several attempts to actually list this 30-year-old book for sale and I had to force myself to do it. It was then that it came to me that in many ways I had made an idol out of my collection. At this point I decided to sell my entire collection.

According to Webster's Dictionary, an idol is a representation or symbol of an object of worship or an object of extreme devotion. Yet in a broader sense an idol can be viewed as someone or something in which we place more importance than we do in Our Lord. If something in our life takes us away from our attending church services, helping the poor, contemplating God, doing Christian works, or from our prayer it could be considered an idol.

Scripture is very clear on what our position on idols should be; "and they served idols, whereof Jehovah had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing." (2Kings 17:12) "And served their idols, Which became a snare unto them."(Psalm 106: 36) "`My' little children, guard yourselves from idols."(1 John 5:21)

Idols come in many shapes and forms. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and money are obvious ones, but many are much more subtle. Our jobs, our homes, our health, sports, television, movies, and food are some examples of things that we obsess about to the point that they become idols. The list goes on and on.

Children's sporting and craft activities can be double trouble. We get so wrapped up in their games and concerts that we allow them to miss church services and in addition to our own obsessions with their success incorrectly teach them that their activities come before God. I know, as I have been guilty of this as well.

The title of a very popular TV show in particular bothers me, namely "American Idol". While I have no problem with musical performers, this show's title implies we should idolize them. I propose that we should have Christ as our "American idol."

Am I saying that we can have no activities, hobbies, or interests other than God and the church? No, although I believe that many of the saints might have felt exactly that. After all it is hard to Love your God with all your mind and body and soul when your interests are elsewhere. What I am saying is that we must evaluate our priorities and strive to keep our focus on God above all else.

As I write this article, my collection has gone from 20,000 books to 100 books, which I have yet to sell. I learned that the "things" that I placed so high a value on turned out not to be worth as much to others as I thought. They became less and less important to me and as time went on I developed a sense of freedom as if a burden had been lifted.

During this Lenten season as we approach Pascha, we are called to repentance and self-inspection so that we may draw nearer to God. Let us examine our lives and the things, which are important to us and decide if they are simply passing interests or if they might be considered idols and strive to remove all idols from our lives.

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