Monday, June 25, 2007

[THO] What is Sacred?

I've heard the critique of the sacred/secular split like this, "how dare we call our shit holy?" I understand that this sacred/secular notion has been used to entrench and justify a lot of liturgical insanity. We sometimes call this playing the God card, "well God gave it to me, so it has to be holy." I think this is a valid critique but it is far from sufficient. There is a deeper issue with maintaining a sacred/secular split.

The way we interact with the world, our elements and each other reveals a disturbing feature of the sacred/secular split. That of devaluation. We have devalued the earth and raped the planet. We have devalued humanity and sold our daughters into prostitution. Some might jump up at this point to protest their complicity. Before you do, I am not pointing fingers at any one of us - it is a problem of how we see things. And until we remove this false notion of sacred/secular we will always have the capacity to take our children, families, neighbours and world for granted. As long as we relegate those interactions to the realm of the secular we will have this problem, and we will be part of the problem.

For God there is no sacred/secular split in creation. Creation is at its most basic moment - very good. In fact the project of humanity is also part of that which is very good. There is an incredible potential locked within our species, it is so sad that we so rarely see it in full blossom.

Potential is always a double edged sword, and we demonstrate our understanding of this truth through the Adamic story. Sin is originary with humanity. Seen positively it shows the incredible capacity of humanity. In fact the curse turns this around and says that salvation will come out of humanity, or do we think that the incarnation of Christ was insignificant?

What we have done with the story of Adam's fall is to take all of creation down with him. Instead of seeing creation as full of potential, we have vilified creation. The more we submitted to this paradigm, the more we envisioned salvation as an escape from this "fallen" world. No longer were we able to recognize that all of creation declares the glory of God. We literally ripped heaven out of the earth and with it we sacrificed our souls on the altar of fear.

This leads us to an intense devaluation of creation. We see our world and humanity as something to struggle against as we reach for some celestial pie in the sky. We are desperate for something holy and so we fill that void with our ability to symbolically name our own constructs, created from our wants, desires and likes, as holy. And like good humans, we differentiate. Differentiation is a safetly reflex, we use it to determine good and bad, right and wrong. We use it to protect our own interests. So we lose our ability to see in creation many wonderful modes of divine mediation. We are empoverished. We are lost.

How can we turn this around? Well we need to change the way we tell the story. Instead of a flight from this world, we need to understand creation as God sees it. Living, holy, suffuced with God's presence, in God, held together by God's very Word, alive and full of life, good and full of potential. We need to recognize that we are home and our prayer is always to bring heaven to Earth, not the other way around (check out the Lord's Prayer).

Here are a few things worth meditating on:
1) God thought we were worth redemption - so why don't we see anything good in humanity?
2) God sees creation as very good, this is the first thing we learn from our Bible.
3) Jesus sent us to the world, just as he was sent to the world - God isn't joking about so loving the world.
4) Why do we live like God is something we claw our way to when Jesus promised to always be with us no matter where we are?


knsheppard said... know what Taylor's next book is called? A Secular Age. ;-)

byron said...

Great post. Thanks!

One of Freedom said...

Thanks Byron.

Kenny, there are two sides to this problem. One is the factuality of a split in contemporary culture. Philosophers often deal with the fallout of this type of thinking. The second side is the utopian edge I want to bring here. I don't know how far from Taylor this takes me, but I'm not about to let that stop me. ;-) The edge is a vision of what should be held up against what is. I often think this is one of the primary tasks of the theologian. We bring as a gift to the Church a clear vision of what should be so that the Church can give herself to the project of proclaimming this reality in word and deed.

So I would bemoaningly agree that we live in a secular age, but also that this is a state that humanity has called into existance - not God.

knsheppard said...

Taylor's book is about understanding what it means to be where we are in our culture, not an endorsement of it, per se. The book includes a shortened version of the James book, so it should be of interest/relevance.

Steve Hayes said...

I don't know about Taylor's book but Kundera's book notes that kitsch is the ultimate denioal of shit.