Last weekend my family and I sat down to watch the latest Muppets movie “Muppets: Most Wanted”. For both my wife and I, Kermit and the gang played a large part in our childhood and so we relish being able to share these characters with our son. Each of us thoroughly enjoyed the recent addition to the franchise.
The plot centers on Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog and number one villain. He also happens to look exactly like Kermit, barring one tiny mole. As seen in the movie trailers (thus no spoilers here), Constantine manages to switch places with Kermit thus ensuring his freedom. Kermit is left to imprisonment in a Siberian gulag; Constantine assumes Kermit’s place as head of the Muppets. You can imagine the type of hilarity that can ensue in such a situation. The stage is set; Constantine vs. Kermit. The Real vs. The Fake.
What is most intriguing in this scenario is how the Muppets react to faux Kermit. Constantine is not a very good Kermit, and his true identity leaks out in many different areas. A thick foreign accent, mastery at Karate, a vengeful spirit and a complete lack of care for the Muppets themselves all threaten to uncover Constantine’s true identity. That is, except for Constantine’s mantra spoken whenever someone questions his identity or intentions.
“I can give you what you want.”
This got me thinking about the Biblical notion of Idolatry. Idolatry most commonly understood is the usurpation of God’s identity by a rival god. The prime example is Israel’s creation of the Golden calf. Not only do they create this calf, but they issue it the divine name and declare it to be the identity of the saviour. “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 32:4) Biblically, idolatry is not merely the act of worshiping something else, but involves act of declaring the attributes and actions rightly belonging to Yahweh alone as belonging to some other being. It is no wonder, then why the first commandment is “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, you shall have no other gods besides me.” (Ex.20:1)
Where does this leave us, and how does a popular movie of puppetry and celebrity cameos speak about idolatry? The answer lies in the Muppets’ inability to see past Constantine’s villainy because of their desire to receive what they want. It is this line, and this line alone that masks the Muppets’ ability to see through Constantine’s rouse The desire to each make their own choices when it comes to acts in a show, the desire for fame and fortune creates in them a willingness to accept Constantine as their leader – even though Constantine rarely displays care or concern for the gang. Constantine’s interest are purely his own and while it may appear as if the Muppets are receiving what they want, the truth is much worse.
We may not ever find ourselves threatened by look-a-likes or rival deities but the movie does prompt us to reflect on how the pursuit of vain desires can blind us to the God’s truth and presence. 2nd Corinthians 4:4 speaks about how the God of this age blinds people to the light of the gospel. Could it be that this is done through the mantra of ‘giving us what we want.’ Obviously the big one is money – which Jesus refers to as a rival god which threatens our faithfulness. The quest for ever-increasing riches takes the place of God. Like Constantine to the Muppets, it becomes the ruler and guide for all of life and in kind we respond in ignorance. We rehearse equally pleasant but destructive mantras: “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad”, “Whatever you do, make sure it makes you happy”, and “Your purpose is to follow your passions.” These self-motivational sound bites may appear thought provoking and even inspirations until we realize that we are stating that the source of happiness, blessing, and salvation no longer reside in the presence of God incarnate, but in the grasping of all our wants and wishes.
I could go on with other examples. I could speak about the pursuit of fame, or beauty, or adoration, or belonging. There are millions of different permeations of the same thing, yet it all boils down to one thing. We are continually in search for that which is real. We want that one presence that will define our existence, our identity and our future. We want that presence that will not only tell us who we are in the inner most chambers of our soul, but will also disclose the way in which we are to live, and move and have our being in this life of ours.
For the Muppets, the only one who can do that for them is Kermit. Look-a-likes will never do. For us, the real place of satisfaction, identity, love and grace is only in the loving arms of Christ our saviour. The fake may promise to give us what we want, and for a moment it may appear as if they are doing just that; but it is all a lie. It is misdirection that only serves to ensnare us into self-glorifying services of the false. Yet Christ alone leads us into freedom; a freedom that can only be obtained within his company. Only Christ is able to play the music, light the lights, and lead us into the life to which we are truly called.