What is a Shrine?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 1, 2017 2 comments

by Katie Erickson

I’m taking a bit of a break from going through Judges during the month of May, so that we can look at some different ideas, including some that are important for Judges 17 when we get to it in June. For our first topic of the month, I’m taking a look at what is a shrine? Why do shrines matter?

Based on the simple dictionary definition, a shrine is a type or place of worship. Our English word of “shrine” came either from the Latin “scrinium” meaning a case or chest for books or papers, or the Old French word “escrin” meaning a box or a case. A shrine is dedicated to a specific deity, hero, person, etc. They often contain idols, relics, or other objects associated with the figure being worshiped.

Shrines are often built in a building (like a temple or holy place), or they can be built in houses, yards, etc. They are often constructed at the site of a specific religious event or a holy site. People often make pilgrimages to travel to worship at a particular shrine that has significance to them, many times for religious reasons.

Many religions have shrines, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In Christianity, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox followers have many shrines. Catholic shrines are often centered on an image of Christ or Mary. They may have statues, paintings, murals, or even mosaics to depict these holy figures. Shrines are often located in alcoves of a church building to be centered on a more individual prayer time. The Eastern Orthodox religion has a strong use of icons - images of Jesus and/or the saints. These icons are often in the front of their worship spaces, depicting various scenes from the life of Jesus. Other forms of Christian shrines are nativity sets or stained glass windows depicting Biblical figures.

There are also non-religious shrines in our culture today. Remember the Alamo? It’s a shrine. War memorials are also shrines, and most towns have them. Findlay, Ohio, where I live, is a town of around 40,000 people and we have at least two war memorials. There are also Halls of Fame for various sports. I’ve been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is even closer to home in Canton, OH, though I’ve never been there. All of these places exist simply to honor people and their achievements.

Shrines definitely do exist today, in various forms. But are they a good thing, or not?

Shrines are good because they honor the memories and accomplishments of those who have gone before us. In the case of war memorials, we have these shrines to show our respect for the sacrifice of those who have fought for our freedom. For sports halls of fame, they exist so we can honor the athletic feats of various sports players. Shrines help us remember the stories of history, whether religious or not. When I attended a Christian grade school, I remember one day our class went into the church building and we studied all of the stained glass windows and matched them up to the Bible stories they represented. It was a great way to remember each of those stories as I would see the windows after that. Shrines of various sorts can be used as a teaching tool for the younger generations, so we don’t forget important stories.

But shrines can also be bad. The main negative aspect of them is the potential for idolatry. If we worship the creation more than the Creator, the shrine or the creation has become our object of worship instead of God, and we’re commanded never to do that. Putting anything before God is clearly against His commandments. Many shrines direct our worship to someone or something other than God Himself, and that is a slippery slope.

Just as with anything else in life, it’s all about our motivation. Is our motivation for a shrine a way to remember what God has done for us? Or is our motivation to worship something other than God? Think about that next time you see something that honors the creation rather than the Creator.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent post although I miss the Judges study and look forward to its return.

Katie said...

Thanks for reading, Anonymous! Judges will be back in June, so stay tuned! :)