August 01, 2018 | The Shepherd
It is a great heresy for Christians to assume that the secular is bad and the religious is good. I have had several encounters with this misreading of the Christian faith. A relative, having just told a sexual joke
(which was not vulgar but very funny), apologized because “you are a man of the cloth.” Another person asked for my prayers “because you have a direct pipeline.”
I remember a party I went to several years ago without wearing a clerical collar. As I approached the bar a man said “we’d better be careful what we say because there is a priest here tonight.” I responded “Oh, that’s no fun!” I remember a friend telling one of our daughters when she was in Junior High School: “You can’t lie because your father is a priest.” She responded in kind, “What does your father
do?” He replied, “He is a doctor.” Our daughter concluded, “Then you can’t get sick.”
Raising young children prevents us from becoming too spiritual. They make many comments about bodily functions, and ask embarrassing questions, often raised at the wrong moments.
Jesus majored in the secular and attacked the separation between secular and religious because he saw God as involved in all of life. The retired Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Alan Jones, says
that “spirituality is the art of making connections between what is around us and God.” The Incarnation is at the core of Christianity, i.e., that God became flesh—entered into our material, physical world in Jesus of Nazareth. In a sense, Earth becomes the womb of heaven so that God may be born in the manger of human experience. The drawings of “The Laughing Jesus” on my office wall forces the point of Jesus being thoroughly involved in the world, not hovering above it like a
There is only one unified reality, not to be separated into secular and religious. All has been claimed
and redeemed by God. As Christians we need to affirm the profound link between the street and the
Church, between Earth and Heaven. Our spirituality must be anchored in the Earth and our flesh must
acknowledge the glory of God.
There is a powerful story recorded in the book of Acts about Peter’s vision. Peter was very hungry one day and wanted to eat. While he was getting dinner together he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and a great sheet being lowered to the earth. On it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and
birds. A voice said, “Peter, kill and eat.” but Peter said, “No, Lord, I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And God said, “What I have cleansed, you must not call common.” (Acts 10:9-16)
Our job is to embrace life and the material world—to see “the secular” as holy. Archbishop Temple once said that “Christianity is the most materialistic religion in the world” because God has entered our world. The Church is not a place to hide from the world but rather a place where we gather to celebrate God in the world. “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us…” (John 1:1)
God bless you,