The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let Not My Love Be Called Idolatry


Sonnet 105 "Let not my love be called idolatry"

Let not my love be called idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
Which three till now, never kept seat in one.

William Shakespeare   
(1564 - 1616)



Idolatry is a sin.  That is true whether the idol is fashioned by the hands or the heart. Our greatest threat to fidelity is not in statues or beads but to the more subtle idols that we erect within.

Idolatry crouches at the door of the lover's heart calling him to the worship of love.

The Puritans wrote much about this.  They held marriage in honor.

Edmund Morgan in the book, The Puritan Family, wrote of marital love as ...a duty imposed by God on all married couples. It was a solemn obligation that resulted directly from the marriage contract. If husband and wife failed to love each other above all the world, they not only wronged each other, they disobeyed God.

To the Puritans marital love was:

1.  A duty that husband and wife must be faithful to follow.
2.  A duty that required the husband and wife love one another above all others.
3.  To fail to do one's duty was to sin.

The Puritans did not view love as a mere duty.  They often spoke of the delights and joys of such love. For them duty and delight were wedded together in the Christian's heart. Edward Taylor described his love for his wife as a golden ball of pure fire. Yet even with his romantic excitement he recognized that the ball of fire had to be kept in bounds and subordinated to God's glory.

Yet they also saw the possibility of improperly delighting in one's spouse.

Thomas Shepherd's wife suffered greatly. Shepherd saw her suffering as instruction from God.  He wrote, I began to grow secretly proud and full of sensuality delighting my soule in my deare wife more than in my God whom I had promised better unto.

John Winthrop's wife Margaret, while ill, wrote to him during a time of extended absence; Thus it pleaseth the Lord to exercise us with one affliction after another in love; lest we should forget ourselves and love this world too much, and not set our affections on heaven where all true happiness is forever.

(Puritan quotes above from Edmund Morgan's book, The Puritan Family).

C.S. Lewis wrote of the possibility of turning being in love into a sort of religion.

He writes, Theologians have often feared, in this love, a danger of idolatry. I think they meant by this that the lovers might idolize one another.  That does not seem to me to be the real danger; certainly not in marriage...The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolize each other but that they will idolize Eros himself.

This sort of worship of Eros or being in love leads one to boast unashamedly that what they do is because they were driven by love.  Lewis wrote, The pair can say to one another in an almost sacrificial spirit, 'It is for love's sake that I have neglected my parents-left my children-cheated my partner-failed my friend at his greatest need.' The votaries may even come to feel a particular merit in such sacrifices; what costlier offering can be laid on love's altar than one's conscience?

If being in love is allowed to become a god then that sort of god will be destructive.  The god dies or becomes a demon unless he obeys God. If being in love does not die as a god the he will, according to Lewis, ...,live on, mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors, each raw all over with the poison of hate-in-love, each ravenous to receive and implacably refusing to give, jealous, suspicious, resentful, struggling for the upper hand, determined to be free and to allow no freedom...

There is only on God.  Worship Him.

Lewis quotes from The Four Loves.