Humanity has created a great duality between the sacred and the secular (or profane, if you prefer). Even though we say that God is everywhere, many, many people perceive there to be a huge gulf between that which is of God and that which is not of God. Don’t believe me? Just think about it for a minute. Here are a few examples of typical dualistic thinking on the sacred vs. the secular:
- Religious people and non-religious people
- Members of churches and non-members (oh, and for many you have to be a member of the “right” church)
- A church building and everywhere else
- The Bible and every other book
- Church music and all other music
- Communion and all other meals
- The spirit (or soul) and body
(To listen to the audio version of the sermon, click here).
I’m sure I could go on. Now, as I see it, this dualistic understanding of God and the world is not only false, but detrimental. I firmly believe there is no distinction between sacred and secular because I believe that there is nothing that God is not in. And, I believe that this dualistic understanding of the world hinders our spiritual growth as individuals and communities. Why? There are a number of reasons.
First of all, the more one grows spiritual, the bigger ones’ box for God becomes. You find God more and more in the most unlikely places. It no longer works for you to say that God is only in church, or only in peace, or only in protest marches or only in classical music. We can’t limit God that way.
Second, this duality has perpetuated the idea that some people are better than, or more important than, other people. It purports that God loves some people and not others. Clearly Jesus didn’t buy this. He treated all people with love and compassion. We can’t say that God is everywhere and then act as if God is in religious people and not other people, or God is in beautiful people and not in ugly people, or that God is in sober people, but not in addicts, or that God is in healthy people, but not in unhealthy people, or that God is in straight people, but not in gay people… the list goes on and it doesn’t work. There is no person God is not in.
The more we think about it, the more we realize that this duality has had many negative consequences. It has continued the oppression of different groups of people throughout the ages. It has convinced us that our sexuality is something only to be used for procreation and any pleasure derived otherwise is sinful. It has convinced women to be submissive and subordinate even when abused by their spouses. And it has compartmentalized God into the spaces of Sunday mornings at church, or the few minutes that one takes to pray during the week.
It’s time to be done with this dualistic thinking so that we remember that every place, every moment is an opportunity to experience the divine. Joan Chittester has written,
“[God] is here – right here – all the while. The clear conscious recognition that God is with us – whoever we are, whatever we are, wherever we are – makes God, God. It is not our virtue that captures God, like salt on the tail of a bird. It is simply of the nature of God to be in and with creation. In and with all of us. All the time… We don’t have to merit God… We have God. It is not God we’re missing. It is the awareness of God in the commonness of life that we fail to cultivate.”
Experiencing the sacred is not ramming your beliefs down someone else’s throat. It’s stopping to see God in another person. It’s recognizing that the Spirit is always in the room. It’s giving thanks for the ability to breathe, to give a hug, to offer a hand, to enjoy a sunset. It’s joy shared with friends, and tears shared with friends.
Experiencing the sacred is also being able to yell at God when you’re angry. It’s knowing that even when times are rough, God is still there to offer strength and love, and to help make a new way. It’s knowing that even in the worst places in the world… even in the concentration camps, the refuge camps, the prisons, the streets of Calcutta, the aftermath of Boston and 911 and the tsunamis, there was compassion and help.
God is BEYOND the secular and the sacred. It is time to let go of the duality, time to stop seeing anything as outside of God’s realm, and time to become more aware of the movement of the spirit in, through and around everything.