The Shiny God of Education

My church is doing a 4-week sermon series called “shiny gods,” based on Mike Slaughter’s Shiny Gods and First devotional studies. The series revolves around idolatry – what it is, why it’s not left in the past with gold calves, and how we can destroy our idols and put God first.

goldencalfAs I sat in church today, with the pastor talking about our 21st century idols, a thought popped into my head. If our idols are things we are “worshipping” or counting on for “salvation” – money, alcohol/drugs, sex, sports, food, work – is education an idol? When we put so much money into education we go into debt, are we being idolatrous? When we tell our kids they need to go to school to make anything of themselves, and when we advocate for quality education, are we worshipping golden calves made of notebooks and pencils?

I love learning. I love school (yes, I know this makes meeducationfirst at least a little crazy). Yet I could construct an argument equating spending thousands of dollars on a 4-year college education to spending thousands of dollars on a fancy car. In both cases, there are cheaper models out there that will get you the basics without paying for the works. A car is just a car, right? A college education is just a college education…right?

What do you think? In our idolatrous culture – and we are, in many ways, idolatrous – is education a dangerous idol? If it’s not an idol, what makes it different than our jobs, our money, or our cars? If it is an idol, what do we do about it? How do we value education in such a way that, if we are a religious person, it glorifies, not replaces, our divine?


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