Friday, January 2, 2009

Finding God in all things as an art form

Before I begin with this post I have to admit that I have a kind of mistrust and distaste for dichotomies that frame issues in such a way that a polarization is created (us/them in/out win/lose...etc.). These dichotomies end up leaving people with a choice to make about which side they are on and as a result often end up impeding the progress of all of creation moving further toward equality and oneness. Within Christianity, or I should say more specifically within American Christianity since it is within this landscape I have found myself maneuvering through in my lifetime, a dichotomy has been created and accepted by the majority and it is the sacred/secular split. When we label things as secular (secular music, secular organizations, secular jobs) what do we mean? Are we saying that nothing is sacred (God being involved) about what is taking place in whatever it is we are labeling secular? Is God only working in individuals and organizations that are self-professing Christians? Is God's Kingdom activity limited to what is being done by those who actually consider themselves to be followers of Jesus?

If an organization who is in no way claiming to be a "Christian organization" is giving their lives to work for the same kind of justice we see God calling his people to work for in the scriptures, is it possible that God might actually be involved in the work they are doing? If through the work they are doing we see the reality of the Kingdom of God breaking into the world in beautiful ways, how can we claim that their organization and the work they do is secular (void of the sacred)? Is it possible that they are participating in the sacred work in God's Kingdom without even realizing it? And if so, can we still say that their work is secular? 

God possibly being involved in the work of an organization who does not consider itself a "Christian organization" is not the point of this discussion but rather functions more as a pointer to the possibility that God might be working in ways we have not allowed ourselves to see because we have been viewing His activity through the lens of this sacred/secular dichotomy. If we allow ourselves to suspend this dualistic way of viewing the activity of the Divine for a while will we be able to look with fresh eyes and begin to see God at work in ways we have yet to imagine? I am in no way arguing that God is involved in all activity in an affirming way; I am just wondering if we might be missing out in countless ways God is showing up because it does not look like the way we expect Him to.

Can we embrace the idea of finding God in all things as an art form? If the "earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1), and God's presence drenches the entirety of creation leaving it completely inundated with the Divine, maybe we will begin to discover God's fingerprints left in places we never thought we would find them. Will we allow ourselves to see the Divine in the places we would never think to find Him or maybe never even want to find Him? Will we allow ourselves to see Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the broken, those in prison, the ones begging (sounds kind of like the question Jesus was  asking His disciples in Matthew 25:34-46)? As we rediscover our imagination again I hope that we will allow ourselves to develop this art form of finding God in places we never would have expected.


  1. I just had an encounter that really made me almost sick to my stomach when I was chatting with a girl that considers herself a believer in a higher power but not a Christian. In this encounter we discussed how it breaks our hearts to see starving people, to see people being oppressed, to see people throw away their lives by getting caught up in the wrong things. Both of us agreed that we quench a thirst or satisfy a longing deep within us when we feel that we are working to better the world, to bring justice where there has only been injustice etc. Then she stopped and said that it "is weird that you are a Christian but we agree so much and have the same views on these issues." She went on to explain that she never thought that Jesus was the answer to everything when there are all these everyday issues that we/she have to deal with. I had to explain to her that the Jesus I know cared about these issues, took action to bring justice and set the oppressed free. I told her that in doing these things and caring about these issues she could be doing God's will because God cares about all of His creation. I believe this girl has a connection with God that many of us would tend to disagree with because she has never professed that she is a Christian.

  2. I've had the opportunity to work in a "Christian" retail store for several years, encountering so many different types of Christians. What never ceases to confuse me is how stuck on the word "secular" some of my customers are. The word, to them, is almost a black label; anything falling under that label is strictly forbidden and must be of Satin himself. Really?
    I've tried to explain to them that sometimes there are bands and singers who intentionally sign under "non-Christian" record labels to avoid the negative stigma that Christians are unfortunately given. Upon explaining this, I often get remarks that include "well then they aren't REAL Christians," or just a blank stare. Then I jump at the opportunity to ask them "what makes a REAL Christian?" I've gotten some interesting responses… but what I often wonder is which types of bands or singers are better furthering the Kingdom, those who sign under Christian record labels proclaiming their faith or those who choose to sign under secular labels, still having lyrics that allude to God and Christianity to appeal to a broader non-Christian audience?

  3. "is weird that you are a Christian but we agree so much and have the same views on these issues."
    Seems like she is saying, "it is weird that you are a Christian and you actually care." It is extremely weird and sad (yet understandable) that this comment would even by thought up by a person.

  4. I think people are hesitant in identifying their actions as christian or christ-like because as Kevin stated "a dichotomy has been created and accepted by the majority and it is the sacred/secular split." This split puts people in an either/or catagory rather than an "all for one or one for all" catagory. It's scary to commit to an all sacred when there is so much good in the secular; and scary to commit to an all secular cuz there just might be truth in Jesus' words

  5. Andrea makes a great point.. This false division between the "sacred" and the "secular" creates the idea that we live in two different worlds which require two different sets of rules. American Christianity.. or perhaps we can say Western Christianity has suffered from this compartmentalized form of life. Everything has its department for which we can place it in. What if we eliminated the word "secular" from our vocabulary... and maybe "sacred" too for that matter? What would the eradication of those words and polar opposites do?

  6. I believe that if we eliminate the words secular and sacred, we will tear down a huge wall. If we do this, we might actually be able to see things somewhat objectively and develop fair opinions of people, music, activities, movies etc.

  7. I do want to express that in labeling books, art, music, movies, organizations, jobs. etc. "sacred or secular" does provide parameters for someone who is new to a walk with Christ. I know for me entering a new life in Christ at the age of 13 at a camp was exhilerating and amazing, and, when the camp was done and returned to a home that did not necessarily embrace my new life, I needed the notification of separation between sacred and secular so I could make better decisions in my, young & new walk with God. However, unless continued reading God's word and hearing God's voice in one's quest of christian maturity and seeking His face among the diverse in us all, our walk becomes drudgery and bland (no one wants to be bland)instead of filled with joy and new discovery. Satan is constantly looking for our weakness to divert us from our walk, so I believe he can fool us (we are easily swayed) into embracing things beautiful but deadly to our walk in Christ. Hence the prayer life and delving into the Word to strengthen us.