Definition from the Free Online Dictionary
1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions.
2. One who destroys sacred religious images.
Iconoclasts can be uncomfortable to have around. They like to challenge the status quo. At times they can be downright annoying.
In my 20th Century British Literature class in college, we read Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright. You may know it better by the musical that was made some time after the book was written, My Fair Lady. Much of what Shaw wrote dealt with social problems, especially the exploitation of the working class.. He used his plays to not only address social issues, but to “illustrate his criticism of the English stage.” Shaw was the only person who received both a Nobel Prize in Literature, and an Oscar. His online biography states: “Shaw’s radical rationalism, his utter disregard of conventions, his keen dialectic interest and verbal wit often turn the stage into a forum of ideas, and nowhere more openly than in the famous discourses on the Life Force, «Don Juan in Hell», the third act of the dramatization of woman’s love chase of man, Man and Superman (1903).” Shaw was an iconoclast – he upset the potato bin. Not everyone loved him, but it was hard to ignore him.
Iconoclasts are important to any culture or community. These are the people who encourage us to evaluate the things that we do, and the things that we believe. If what we do, think, and believe cannot stand up to scrutiny by an “image breaker,” we are in danger of becoming stagnant. Some of our ideas need to be broken down, examined. The “we’ve always done it this way” need to be confirmed – or, in some cases – discarded.
I have an eclectic list of blogs I read on a regular basis. Some of them definitely come under the heading, “Iconoclastic.” Why? Why do I read things that sometimes make me flinch? Why do I look at posts that I may disagree with? There are a number of reasons why I read them. Sometimes I find they make me laugh at myself. Other times they hold up a mirror in front of me. Some of them affirm things I’ve thought but never said out loud. Always, always they make me think, examine, and they stir up the stagnant waters. These things strengthen my faith, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a faith that cannot weather an iconoclast is on shaky ground to begin with.
So, here’s to the iconoclasts: thank you. Keep up the good work!