So, I’m reading along in Moby-Dick, Chapter 10, when one paragraph catches me by surprise. It seems I’ve head this same argument before somewhere. It sounded very familiar, very modern. Ishmael has just become “bosom friends” with Queequeg, and when they retire for the night, Queequeg wants his new best buddy to join in his bedtime routine, which just happens to include a little worship of Yojo, Queeequeg’s personal idol. Here’s the paragraph:
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth – pagans and all included – can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship? – to do the will of God – that is worship. And what is the will of God? – to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man do to me – that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.
After which, Ishmael does join in the idol worship, kissing its nose and such before turning in at peace with his conscience.
I’m sure there could be a whole theological treatise in this passage. It sounds so logical, so straight-forward. What a way to rationalize many behaviors that at first may have been thought to be against our conscience. I’ll take issue with Ishmael here only on two points. Number One: Worship is NOT to do the will of God. Worship IS God coming to us with mercy, forgiveness and strengthening. Number Two: I don’t believe that the way to “convert” others or get them to jump into your boat is to abandon your own vessel. Conversion isn’t our job anyway!
I could go on and on…anyone else want to join the rant?