It being Sunday and all I thought I’d post this. Ordinarily I would put a post like this on my personal blog, the Missal. But I haven’t imported it to WordPress yet.
My friend Edie Melson put up a very interesting post on the Line between the Secular and the Sacred. I responded but I think my response was too long for her blog to eat. But because I too find this subject so fascinating I’m posting my response here. You’ll find her post link at the end of my post.
“I thought many of the responses were quite excellent. And this is a topic that interests me intensely Edie so I appreciate you discussing it.
This is my opinion on the matter:
There shouldn’t be such an imaginary line between the Sacred and the Secular. In my studies for the priesthood I learned that the early church did not use the term secular in the way it later came to be adopted (what in Latin and English would be to us the term: profanus). Rather they used the term as a type of classification of the laity and the secular clergy, meaning clergy of the people rather than the Ecclesiastical hierarchy (administration) of the church itself.
Therefore the early church did not classify the world as Sacred and Secular but rather of Godly and of the People, or put another way, as we would say, the Laity.
That’s a totally different view of Sacred and Secular than the current modern one and modern set of definitions and a far more accurate way of looking at Sacred and Secular to me than the one normally assumed by modern people. For rather than meaning it is an uncrossable line (pun intended) it is rather a People moving along a pathway towards becoming ever more holy and Godlike.
As for shaming Christ I don’t think you can. I do not disagree at all that certain behaviors are Christ-like in nature and certain other kinds of behaviors are not Christ-like in nature and that Christ will always choose his followers to pursue the Christ-like behaviors. That is not my point and I so I don’t want people thinking I’m disputing that fact. I am not.
On the other hand it is simply a huge mistake to assume (and if you read the New Testament carefully it is impossible to assume) that Christ went unexposed to or was naïve and ignorant of the very worst forms of human behavior. They were all around him, he saw them constantly and spoke of all of them. Murderers, thieves, cheats, rapists, Zealots (so called because to the Romans they were what we would call terrorists and to many Jews they were guerillas), adulterers, drunks, brawlers, sinners of all kinds. Jesus saw and heard and lived in and around things that most sheltered, comfortable, protected, mild-mannered, middle-class, Western “Christians of today” would not long endure and could not long endure. Many modern Western Christians are simply too pansyish and fragile and intentionally self-sheltered to have long endured the currents in which Christ swam. Christ’s world tended to be far more brutal than many of our modern ones, especially most of modern American society. You could immediately and easily shame many modern Christians by simply uttering the word “Damn!” in a fit of anger, you could not do that with Christ. He constantly and easily saw and heard much, much worse. It did not shame him at all.
(And in that sense I mean you could not shame him. Now real evil did anger him, and often easily so, and that’s an entirely different story, but you could not shame Jesus with either petty vices or great evil as he was entirely unafraid of either. You could not shame Jesus with wrong because he understood human nature far too well and was far too used to being daily exposed to all facets of human nature. Unlike many modern Christians who go out of their way to avoid any exposure to sin or vice and certainly many seek to avoid evil at all costs – because it so easily frightens them and makes them so uncomfortable. Jesus on the other hand was a daily hand to hand combatant with both minor vices and with great human evils. And his share of supernatural ones. You could not shame or embarrass him away from such things. He sought them out.)
Believe me, read the Bible carefully, especially in Greek and you will know that many of the Apostles and Disciples were far more “profane” than the vast majority of modern Christians. (At least in public.) Yet many of those ancient and early Christians also tended to be far more Christ-like (and self-sacrificial, and unafraid of evil, and willing to hang around and befriend other sinners) in the really important senses of the term than many modern Christians.
And I get that and even understand the dichotomy and fully understand why so many modern Christians prefer seeking to become holy (far more like Ekklesiastical Clergymen) rather than be more like Secular Clergymen or laity (and to some degree I think it is entirely justified). They do not wish to imitate or become the very thing they eschew. On the other hand if you look at Christ and the Apostles then you just have to accept the true and real facts of the matter: they all spent the vast majority of their time at secular ministries rather than seeking self-holiness or to separate themselves from the world or its sins.
The actual Truth of the matter is that they delved and penetrated deeply into the Secular world in order to overcome sin and reform the world, thereby erasing or eliminating the line between the Sacred and the Secular. They did not seem interested in overthrowing the secular world, or of ignoring and condemning it, certainly not of hiding or sheltering themselves from it, as much as they were in reforming and rebuilding it. Keeping what was worth saving and replacing what needed to be replaced with far better things. In other words a great deal of the whole idea concerning the Kingdom of God is to make the Secular World Sacred by bringing it into complete harmony with what is truly holy in the most important ways. Small and fleeting was the time Jesus spent in the synagogues or near the Temple compared to the times he spent in the “secular world.” That is where Jesus specifically chose to spend most of his time and with good reason, it is the patient who needs the physician. Then again the physician does not fear the disease nor does the disease embarrass or shame him. His job is to cure the disease, not be repulsed by it. If he is either repulsed by it, or afraid of it, or does not wish to be made dirty or infected by it then he cannot possibly cure the disease. Only the fearless man can fix the world. The man who fears evil is the victim of evil, not its conqueror. At the very best the man who fears fights a rear-guard action, he is simply far too afraid to take the fight to the enemy. The one who actually conquers goes straight for the throat of the enemy, for you actually win by offense, not defense.
That’s true of conquering disease, and it’s true of conquering evil. Or anything else you can name for that matter.
That is, you save the world by overcoming evil and reforming the vices of the Secular World, and by not by making the Sacred World an artificial and sterile and unobtainable otherworld. You do this by making the secular world a fully Living World in which Secular Things become Sacred.
(This is not to say that I believe there are no Otherworlds, such as Heaven. I do. I have a very firm and totally unshakeable confidence in many Otherworlds, including Heaven and Hell. What I am saying is that when this world behaves in a way so similar to Heaven that if you were in either place it would be hard to tell the difference between the two, then will the Kingdom of God be complete and real victory achieved. If the dichotomy between this secular world and Heaven is so stark than many could say of our world that is is Hell instead of Heaven – and many alive today can certainly say that now – then the Kingdom of God is at best a shadow of what it could be and we have much territory yet to take. But we do not want an artificial and fake Kingdom of God on Earth, a mere impossible pretense of holiness, but one that is naturally sacred and fully secular at the same time. Meaning they’ll be practically indistinguishable from one another.)
The point therefore to me is not to create an artificially sterile and impossible Sacredness of the Secular World but rather to transform the Secular World to such a degree that all the really important things become Sacred (again) as it was actually always meant to be.
Now all of that being said I am not taking issue with the idea that Jesus would have been ashamed to do evil or to harm others. As a matter of fact it embarrassed him so much he refused to sin and to harm others.
Then again neither did he fear or feel shamed by or embarrassed by, nor did he retire from the Secular world. Instead he penetrated deep into it and fight there. The Secular world was his battlefield. The secular world was exactly where he thought the battle for the Kingdom of God ought to be really fought, and he thought if he could win there then the Kingdom of God was bound to triumph. After all you don’t reconquering territory you already possess. You seek to conquer what you don’t yet control. So Jesus fought here, and the secular world was his battlefield.
And if you ask me he was sure as hell right.
You win here and Hell itself has no where else to retreat. In a very real way the Secular World is Hell’s last battlefield.
And how do you win here?
You infiltrate. Like Jesus did.
Jesus was a master infiltrator. And he was God-awful good at it.
To the world there are always frontlines and rearlines and battlefronts and homefronts. And this frontier and that line of demarcation and on and on it goes.
To the real infiltrator there is no such line, and there are no such divisions. And there never has been and never will be.
Jesus was the master of Godly Espionage. He knew exactly how to do it.
We could learn a helluvah lot from Jesus about how you really do this, and how you really kill Hell.
You do it from the inside out. You do it by going to the heart of Mordor and killing Sauron where he lives.
Everything else is just sit around and wait for a world that will never come.”