I’ve been mulling over the words sacred and secular lately. Just yesterday a member of my congregation described themselves as “a pretty secular person.” I’m sure I blinked, eyes wide because I have zero poker face skills. How could this person – no matter what theology or philosophy – who I have experienced as chock-full of passion and integrity, be secular? And now that I think about it, how could a person whose faith compels them to act in ways contrary to justice, compassion, and peace be sacred?
What do these words even mean? Is the distinction helpful any longer, if it ever was?
In high school choir, we sang sacred music. Just a side note, because surely you were wondering, my favorite piece was John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth.
We also sang secular music. Here’s one I remember that you probably recall as well.
Why is a song about connection and longing and common humanity labeled secular just because God isn’t mentioned? And surely, if we thought about it, we could think of religious songs that are so soaked in nationalism, exclusivism, and fear that the word God sours in our mouths as we sing.
I’m always suspicious about either/or choices, and the sacred or secular choice is no different. Questions worth asking always have more than two potential answers!
In this holiday season, we so often get pulled into irrelevant discussions about what is appropriate as part of our Christmas celebration and what isn’t. Mistletoe and holly, yule logs, decorated trees, candles… these treasured traditions all originated in pagan winter celebrations. Contemporary questions abound as well… Santa during church events? Starbucks cups? Church on Christmas day? How do we choose what to affirm and what to discard? What goes and what stays?
It all stays. It all belongs. If incarnation means anything at all, it means that the false dichotomy of sacred and secular is revealed as illusion, forever broken down, shattered completely, and re-formed as part of a blessed whole.
You belong too! Merry Christmas and peace in 2017!