Tuesday, March 08, 2005

ONE

I am reading a work of fiction about an artist who comes from a devout Jewish background, and though he practices his faith and observes all the traditions with the utmost sincerity, his choice of art subjects (like the crucifixion or nudes) has caused the Jewish community and his very own family to disown and speak against and at times shun him. It seems that the sacred, or what we have come to acknowledge as such i.e. having to do with religion, is threatened or afraid of being tainted when it comes in contact with the unsacred, or secular. While there are hints of this separation in the Bible, especially in the history of the nation of Israel, it manifests itself in a completely different form in the life of Jesus. In fact, the 'sacred' traditions, offices, and places seem to be threatened by Him!

Pitting the sacred and the secular against each other seems to me to constitute a rather inadequate and two-dimensional worldview. Perhaps one of the reasons is that as an artist I have experienced the blatant utilitarianism and lack of understanding that runs through much of Christendom when it comes to dealing with creative folk. Which is sad, because if anyone should appreciate and truly understand the process and nature of creation, it is those who profess to love the Creator.

If you were to draw a line down a piece of paper and list all the items you treat with honour, those things sacred to you on one side and on the other half, write down the secular or earthy entries, it might appear obvious to you that a church meeting would be sacred and let's say, a drinking party would fall on the secular side of things. But hold on...don't forget Jesus clearing the temple with a whip and in another instance turning water into wine so that the imbibing could continue. Kind of messes with one's list, doesn't it?

Personally, I try to keep my list rather simple. God is sacred and everything that God touches carries in it some sanctity. There is no secular except that which God has not yet touched, or where he has not been invited. In a similar way, I try not to separate my life into compartments for I do not see that as a characteristic of God. He made humankind as whole beings, not an amalgamation of arms, legs, eyes, skin, bones, some emotions, a mind, a will, and then threw in a breath of life to keep it all intact. I am one. I am made in the image of God who is One. With apologies to the Greeks, this tendency to separate intellect from emotion from physiology has not really aided anyone in living a full and rich life nor assisted health and healing in any way.

So often I hear people talk about how they must "witness" (now there's a nice Christian term for you) to their co-workers, speak up for God, say something to the unbelieving stranger or wayward family member. They seem to carry some misplaced guilt that is only placated when they bring up religion in a somewhat confrontational way with those who are "lost". Now I have no problem with biblical terminology, but it is lost (pardon the pun) on most everyone I encounter on a day to day basis, so I generally avoid it. Anyway, this "us" and "them" mentality that has been fostered in much of today's Christian circles is totally unhealthy when you are trying to build friendships or any meaningful relationship. The person becomes an object I must convert, or convince of my beliefs, or at the very least, convict of their horrible sins, and most people can smell this dehumanisation a mile away. True, words are important, but my life as a whole is what will really make a difference. Can I be a friend to someone who is bitter against God? Can I give a drunk person a hug? Can I listen to someone tell me why they are a Buddhist without feeling the need to challenge every sentence, but instead, really hear what is important to them? The way I treat a stranger or acquaintance will in most cases speak much louder than any Bible verse I can spout off.

My life is a sacred gift, as is every other life I come across. Every place I put my foot is sacred because I have asked God to walk with me. Everything I eat or drink is sacred when it is taken with thanksgiving and faith. Every word I utter is sacred when it issues from a heart of love. Every work of my hands is sacred when I do it as a service to the Creator. When I meet someone, I do not try to find out if they are a Christian or not - my first thought is to see the beauty in their unique creation, and where I see pain, I try to bring healing; where I see weakness, I offer to help, where I see longing, I ask God to come close. For that is the very essence of sacred...to nudge right up against and be touched by Pure Love so that it rubs off on you.

1 comment:

Doug Floyd said...

The last paragraph is simply stunning! Thanks!