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Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Household Gods" (Ted and Kristin Kluck)

TITLE: Household Gods
AUTHOR: Ted and Kristin Kluck
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014, (176 pages).

It is culturally accepted. It is a familiar refrain. It is what most hardworking adults would say, "I love my family" or "I loved to spend time with my family." Yet, is it possible that we can love our family too much? Can we turn them into an idol? Are we keeping "household gods" in our cherished homes? For the authors, they assert that "family is a prominent household god." Whether we want to use Tim Keller's definition that idolatry is that something we deem more important than God; or the authors' friend Pat who sees idolatry as what we feel we have a "right to have," or things we cannot be happy without, the crux of the matter is that if we find shelter, security, safety, and all manner of significance only in our family, we have a "household god" in the making. Ted and Kristin notes:

"In the midst of a Christian subculture that idolizes the family, an evangelical history that overcelebrated it, and a secular culture that overprograms it, it is easy for well-meaning Christians to cross over the line into family idolatry."

They list nine different forms of household gods.
  1. Romance: idolizing our spouses so much that it clouds our worship of God
  2. Children: idolizing our children so much that they become an extension of our highest dreams and significance
  3. Sports: idolizing the sports so much that we would desperately give our all
  4. Vocation: idolizing our work and professional success
  5. Winning: the idol of perfectionism
  6. One of the "Haves": idolizing the things that create our comfort zones
  7. Cynicism and Irony: doubt and the absence of hope; perennial discontent for not providing enough for family
  8. Impressing Others: "temptation to create a successful persona"
  9. Getting Published: desiring fame and popularity in having your book published

I have long been aware of the idolatry of family and I am always keen to see how others approach this topic. For the Klucks, it begins with the family circle of spouses and children, gradually leading toward achievements and various vocational pursuits. I would have preferred the authors to spend more time discussing on the idolatry of family and less on the idolatry of work. In other words, the first half of the book ought to be expanded while the second half of the book can be cut back. Ted does a good job in describing the problem, providing some biblical references, as well as his perception of what idolatry is doing in them. He leaves the "solution" pretty much at the end of the book, which is essentially about the essence of family as a platform of learning what it means to lose ourselves. The difference is subtle: Who are we losing our lives for? This is the key difference between worshiping God and idolizing family.

That said, this book is a good start to address a real problem among many "regular" Church people. We have taken the love of family for granted without knowing that we can make idols out of them. Having said that, I think we need more guidance on how to navigate between love and idolatry. For that, I think the last chapter of the book is most beneficial. Maybe, learning to lose ourselves in the family is one means to an end of loving God, and not the end in itself. If the authors can expand on the first part of the book, cut back on the second, and add more guidance in chapter 11, this book will be a must have for anyone keen to learn about idolatry of family and how to avoid it becoming real in our own family circles.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of NavPress, Tyndale House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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