On Tuesday (Dec. 17), the state of Missouri installed a false god on top of the Capitol building. Or, at least that’s what a state representative claimed. But I wonder if the case should remind us of the difference between influence and worship.
Ceres, originally a Roman goddess, had turned into a symbol of agriculture by 1924 when she was first installed on the Capitol. Then last year, she was removed for cleaning and refinishing amid a years-long Capitol renovation that currently has the building wrapped up like a mummy and looking from a distance like a rotting grain silo.
Then this month — after we had paid $400,000 for the most expensive bronze treatment ever — Rep. Mike Moon released a public request that the governor not allow “the false god” to return to the dome. Moon urged the governor to be like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego “by refusing to honor a pagan god.” The governor ignored the request.
Moon’s observation made me ponder: What would our society be like if we stripped away the Roman and Greek mythology?
Perhaps it was a slip on the ice, drinking too much (non-alcoholic) eggnog, or just watching It’s a Wonderful Life one too many times, but I wondered what would happen if I woke up and the world was like the Roman and Greek gods and goddess had never even been born.
That morning I’m still groggy as I find my son in the kitchen and ask what kind of cereal he wanted for breakfast. But he doesn’t understand me. What do I call those boxed grain foods since the word “cereal” comes from the name of that agriculture goddess?
I couldn’t help my son review for his science test, either; despite my herculean effort, I couldn’t think of names of any of the planets. Gone now were the names like Mercury, Saturn, and Pluto (which is a real planet, by the way — not a dwarf planet like that little Ceres hanging out in the asteroid belt between what used to be Mars and Jupiter).
Is something wrong with me? I called my doctor to make an appointment. But how? I couldn’t name the day of the week or the first month of the year, now that there wasn’t a god of beginnings to name it after. And that particularly made me sad since it’s my birth month. When was I even born, I now wondered? (The 12th day of that month, by the way, in case you want to send a gift.)
Still reeling, I went over to Walmart to buy a few supplies for the house. The worker gave me a blanker-than-normal stare when I asked for help. Ajax cleaner? A U.S. Atlas? Mars candy? Nike shoes? A Venus razor (for my wife)? Frustrated, I stormed off in a fit without buying anything, since my Achilles’ heel is a lack of patience. And even if I had found that U.S. map, I would have had trouble understanding it — where were the cities of Athens, Apollo, Atlanta, and Aurora? (And those were just in the As!)
Music! That would soothe my spirit! But instead it opened a new box of problems as my music app was gone! Where was my Pandora? I tried pulling up Christmas music on YouTube instead, but, by Jove, I couldn’t find any of my favorites with the word “night” in them (since Nyx, the Greek god of night, was no more).
I raced home, arriving just as snowflakes starting to fall. As I threw open the door, I shouted to my son, “Is Pluto a planet?” When he simply answered, “Yes,” I rushed over to hug and kiss my little angel. Then the door bell rang and suddenly the entire neighborhood showed up and started singing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Our world bears the influence of the Roman and Greek mythology. But that doesn’t mean we worship them. Perhaps our faith is not lived out by posting religious symbols. Maybe we’re called to live out our faith more seriously, be it in the statehouse or on Mars Hill.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way.