Monday, April 14, 2008

Solomon Had Singers and Concubines, We Have iPods and Porn

One of my favorite books of the Old Testament is Ecclesiastes. Solomon laments in his first chapter that (vv. 9-10):

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
Of course, many might say, "but Solomon was a wealthy king in ancient Israel. His life is nothing like mine. Look at all the progress we've made, our technology, our advancements in learning and culture."

Actually, I'd argue the lives of the average American is quite like Solomon's.

Perhaps one of the more striking similarities comes from the second chapter in which Solomon describes how he tried to find pleasure and purpose in entertainment, to no avail (vv. 8-11):

I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, [1] the delight of the children of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Okay, so we use greenbacks and credit cards, not silver and gold, and we don't have singers on demand, or concubines. Or do we?

Today's "silver and gold" and the "treasure of kings and provinces" take many forms, all widely accessible to your average middle or working-class American. Computers, art, clothing, jewelry, status, education. All these sort of things we have today that in centuries past would have been available only to the wealthy elite.

And singers and concubines? Don't we have both on demand with our vast wealth of music and in the sexual idols we fashion for ourselves in models, actresses, athletes and porn stars? Aren't these the gods and manmade idols of modern American society?

They take slightly different forms than they did millennia ago, but truly nothing is new under the sun, the human heart is the same in every age: an idol factory.

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