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on May 29, 2013
Upon opening the pages of this book it becomes evident pretty quickly that The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, just launched a cannon ball across the bow of your ship. In Strange Gods : Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life she presents the reader with an eye opening 168 pages of "oh my that's me". In our fast paced world where we can pretty much get any info we desire at the touch of an app icon on our mobile device, we can easily fall into the trap of breaking the ultimate commandment, "You shall not have other Gods besides me". Elizabeth shows the reader just how easily they may be breaking that commandment.

The book covers a wide variety of potential idols a person may be "worshipping". In ten Chapters Elizabeth covers "The Idol of I", "The Idol of Prosperity", "The Idol of Technology" and "The Idols of Coolness and Sex" just to name a few. Some may pass over the Bible story of the golden calf and say...."who melts gold into a giant animal nowadays" but they are truly missing the point. As Elizabeth so clearly states "To place anything - be it another deity or something more commonplace like romantic love, anger, ambition or fear - before the Almighty is to give it pre-eminence in our regard. To become too attached to a thought or feeling or thing is to place it between God and ourselves". This quote comes directly from Chapter One and the rest of the book builds upon that theme.

I can best describe this book as a gut check. I cannot see how anyone can read through this book without a resounding palm to the forehead, what have I been doing, moment. For myself it came while reading the chapter "The Idol of Technology" and for most of us technology power users, this is going to take some effort on our part to correct this. You probably don't even realize how many times you grab your mobile device throughout the day to "just check on something". This begs a reflection upon what is important and what is not. You may not even realize that you have placed that mobile device between you and God. Sometimes it's hard for us to see that until we are told by a complete stranger outside our inner circle.

For those you not consumed by modern day trappings of technology, you're not off the hook either. Elizabeth addresses the idol of "I" meaning you are so wrapped up in your own desires, you become the idol yourself. There's the idol of prosperity where things become your idol. Elizabeth illustrates this one masterfully with a story about her husbands hammock. She also discusses the idol of plans and the fact that we plan events so tightly, God has little room to operate in them.

Elizabeth essentially has created an easy to read book on modern day idolatry. Read it, consume it, reflect upon your own habits and come to realize...hey....I got a problem! Everything she discusses in this book is a thought or thing that in moderation is fine, but when allowed to go unchecked becomes an idol placed between us and our Creator. This is a book that I can highly recommend that will be of great use to anyone that takes an interest in their spiritual formation. I have a feeling after reading this book many people fortunate enough to have a spiritual director will have some discussion material for their next session. I know I will!

I received a copy of this book for this review from Ave Maria Press.
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VINE VOICEon May 27, 2013
It's no surprise that STRANGE GODS is well-written or thought-provoking. Anyone who's come across one of Elizabeth Scalia's columns or blog posts knows she's articulate and masterful with the written word. She writes through life as a boy pokes through the mud, examining each and every thing she finds and bringing it to the light or stashing it in her pockets to bring out later.

What surprised me was how relevant I found it to my life.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how an entire book about idolatry could speak to me or even make sense. I'm no theologian, and I don't have time for real noodling. (I fall asleep too quickly.) And yet, in under 200 pages, Scalia has defined and demonstrated the concept so well that I can't go through my life blindly any longer.

This is the kind of book that gets so marked up and dog-eared as I'm reading it that it's twice as thick when I'm finished. Not only does Scalia write colorfully and clearly, in language that even an oaf like me can understand and relate with, but she pushes the edge of the issue of idolatry with each chapter. She begins with a large idea, one that seems so distant. It takes her less than a chapter to bring it home, and with each following chapter, she circles around it and brings it in closer and closer.

I considered, after finishing this book, writing a letter to Scalia to thank her for this book. It's just what I needed...and I suspect it's what I'll continue to read. This book is equal parts conversation, reality check, and theology lesson. It's filled with personal insight, hard-earned wisdom, and Spirit-inspired prose.

I highly recommend you buy two copies: one for yourself (and don't lend that one out) and one for a friend. If we called our idols what they were, how would it change the world as we know it?
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on June 16, 2013
As captivating and as provocative as her blog posts, Elizabeth Scalia's StangeGods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, is an eye-opening account of how we, as believers, who think of idolatry as ancient practice, have made idols out of many things in our lives - technology, coolness and sex, and even our plans. Although it was a little shocking to discover these idols exist, at times, even in my own life, I was also comforted by the fact that there are ways to eliminate them.

Scalia writes in a clear, comprehensible manner, explaining lofty theological concepts in easy to understand terms. She draws the reader in with relevant and fascinating personal examples to illustrate her ideas, which heightens the reader's interest. Although StrangeGods is a quick, easy read, it leaves the reader with some big ideas to reflect on and some helpful recommendations to assist us in detaching from these idols.

I enjoyed reading StrangeGods - it was relevant, informative, enlightening, provocative, and entertaining. It is a little gem of information that will help all adults find peace and joy by turning away from their false idol(s) to the love of the one true God.
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I was amazed while reading Elizabeth's book at how, in my daily life, in my thoughts and actions, I had created idols that stood between God and me. Her book was enlightening and a guide for a deeper spirituality, one that will move me closer to a truer relationship with God. Well done!
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on August 4, 2013
I found nothing to dislike. The author's illustrations were frightening because my own idol worship was illustrated. I also could see the same tendencies in all those around me. Especially in politic and in fact both political views I passionately held. Political ideologies both on the right and the left are caught up in idol worship.
As a 71-year-old, and former prosecutor of 20 years and family lawyer for 18 years, my working history was covered by many of the examples in her book, both of myself and the subject of numerous lawsuits I was involved in. I am ready to say that the root problem of America today is idol worship.
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on July 18, 2013
"Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life" by Elizabeth Scalia is an incredibly helpful book for our polarized times. Elizabeth challenges us to ask what things and ideas have become walls between ourselves and God -- and between ourselves and our fellow human beings. Elizabeth asks her readers to take a step back and examine how perhaps our strongly-held ideals sometimes keep us from being merciful and loving in dialogue and engagement.

I think Elizabeth is at her strongest here when she illustrates her points through personal anecdotes. It was through her personal stories that I learned the most -- and was most challenged to examine how my own preferences and prejudices make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to work through me.

There are things in this book that will make very conservative readers and very progressive readers wince. And, I'd say that's one of the book's strengths. There were some passages that made me wince. But, even when I disagree with Elizabeth on a particular point, I never stop loving her beautiful writing and her unique voice. Like this book, she is truly a blessing.
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on June 30, 2013
My view of idolatry has been linked to 'graven images'. In this brief and readable book, Elizabeth Scalia shows how idolatry is an omnipresent problem in the present, just in different form. She gives me a way to view what I saw as foibles, bad habits, or peccadillos as things that rupture my relationship with God. This has given me new strength in downgrading their influence in my daily life.
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on May 28, 2013
I found this book fascinating, perhaps because I had been thinking about the First Commandment for some months, especially in connection with "celebrity culture" and its distasteful spawn: "reality TV," celebrating football players, etc.

But the God who made us warned us against idols and false gods, a warning disobeyed by the American and European masses, who seem to worship the Golden Calf of (a) money (b) fame (c) celebrity status.

This book is a simple and eloquent reminder that, if we worship idols, it is much better to give that up and worship God.
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on August 18, 2013
It wasn't very long after I finished Elizabeth Scalia's Strange Gods unmasking the Idols in Everyday life that a strange thought came over me.

Yes Elizabeth Scalia's book in a deeply Catholic and faithful story of the things that distract a person from the path of Christ. She talks about her struggles and those the struggles of others in the faith and how easy the habits of personal life or even habits in the faith can distract us from God and a lot of it is really about the sin of Pride

But for the skeptic the lessons still hold true, because Strange Gods really is dealing with obsessions, and even if one is not a believer those obsessions can take over your life and get in the way of what is important.

And nobody is more vulnerable to creating a strange god than a person who thinks they do not acknowledge one because they will not recognize behavior that a believer would instantly see as religious.

While a skeptic may scoff at the core message of Christ that is the center of the book that warning to remember what is truly important in life can do naught but help overcome they gods they don't even know they have.

And if they manage to pick up Christ along the way, so much the better.
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on October 11, 2013
Gifted Christian writer and blogger, Elizabeth Scalia has done a great work here in this concise and inspiring book. Scalia's life-application examples and friendly, person-to-person writing style might, on the surface, make this book appear like an easy reading exercise that one can blitz thorough and move on. It is not. With the precise aim of an expert marksman, Scalia hits dead center into the heart of our most cherished personal, professional, political, private, and public idols, ripping away the layers of polished gold overlay, and exposing them for what they are: barriers between us and GOD --- insidious blocks which prevent us from experiencing an authentic, life-giving, and meaningful relationship with the only Person Who truly matters.. This book will effect each person who reads it in a unique way; and it will continue to personally affect the reader throughout their life as we all change and, hopefully mature as we make our way through life to that final face-to-Face meeting. This book is an important work, and will lead the reader to new insights and freedom.
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