Monday, March 19, 2012

Living in a Dualistic Existence


One more observation from Sunday. I have kept this a separate observation because it's implications are so far reaching. Our speaker Sunday made the observation, I think, or maybe he just recalled this to mind for me, that there is no secular existence. We Christians often get bogged down in church doctrinal discussions because we want to make a distinction between our "regular lives," and our "church lives."

This is a problem because it belies the realization that we don't really buy into this Christian faith as fully as we say we do. You've heard this before, but we seem to forget it when we leave the church property. We live as though there is a difference between our church existence and our weekly existence. We run the risk in making the same mistake that the People of God have made repetitively through history. We forget that we are his people in his creation for his purposes.

We are his people every moment of our lives whether we are at church, at work, or fishing on the pier. There is not a sacred me, and a secular me. A me who does all the right stuff, and a me who can get away with not so nice stuff. There is only a sacred me. All the time.

The world is his world every moment of its existence, whether or not its aligned with Christian values. The world is touched by his hand not only in creation but in his care. If God is there; if God is concerned about it, it is sacred space. There is not a secular world and a sacred world. 

Our work, behaviors, expectations are supposed to be aligned with his purpose every moment and in every manifestion. We must know his purposes and we must be given over to them completely. There are not sacred purposes for the church, and secular allowances for whatever we find to do during the week. We are 
always working sacred purposes, even while digging a trench or being dressed down at work.

The implications of this realization are instructive for church business, and informs our understanding of Scripture and our place in it. Let me use the latest broohaha in my faith community as an example. Some say that women cannot lead or instruct men. And yet they limit that restriction to church because well, that's church. Unfortunately, this approach is guilty of a couple logical fallacies.

The first is that it seeks to establish what we do "in church" as the definition of the People of God as though Sunday morning is the sum total or at least the measure of living the Christian life. It simply isn't. What we know as church is simply a convenience for disciples to meet together, support one another, and worship our God. But it isn't the only time those practices are accomplished and it has no other rules than how we practice during the week as the People of God. Ther is no sacred practice and a looser secular practice.

The second is that it divides our natural lives into two spheres, one church related and the other secular. We miss of course that we argue that God is the God of all people; that his desires are universal, not limited to church life. We argue that women cannot lead or teach men and yet work at jobs where men and women routinely share leadership and instructional roles. If we actually believed there are no secular existences, we could not live with that clear violation at work and in our lives. If it is true that God, from the beginning has decided that women cannot lead or teach men, then we violate our own moral and ethical beliefs by taking a job as a woman where we exercise those prerogatives, or as a man where we would have a woman boss, mentor, or teacher.

We can understand that women in the "secular" world do all sorts of things with our acceptance if not encouragement, but we don't carry that into the "sacred" parts of life, believing that there is a distinction. The problem is that there isn't a distinction, and our speaker was correct in his thrust that there is no secular world.

It would do the church well to realize this simple, sublime, and critical reality about our world, our neighbors, and our religious practice. We really aren't all that Christian as long as we live in a dual world.

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