11 June 2008

"Christian" or "Secular"

I found myself in a mini-discussion with someone last night wherein they were making a judgmental statement about another woman who listened to secular music. It led me to dust off my copy of Addicted to Mediocrity where Franky Schaeffer writes:
In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, something happened within the church which constitutes the first theological point I mentioned. A strange truncated unscriptural view of spirituality grew up. First spirituality was seen as something separate from the rest of real life. It was above ordinary things; it was cut off and not part of the eerday working out of our lives. Spirituality became something religious and had a great deal less to do with truth, daily life, applying Christian principles through that life. It became something in itself, both the means to an end and the end in itself. Spirituality became a thing separated from the rest of life. Thus, certain things increasingly were regarded as spiritual and other things as secular.
The true division in the Christian life between one group of activities in life and another is that line we call sin. Those things which are specifically sinful are indeed cut off and separate from the rest of life for Christians and to be avoided, but everything else comes under the heading of our Christian life, if it is to be a true and full Christian life in the real sense. Either Christ has redeemed the whole man, including every part of him (except those things that are sinful), or he has redeemed none of them. Either our whole life comes under the Lordship of Christ or no part can effectively come under it.

The obvious question that follows is - what is sin? Likely some have already decided what that is, compartmentalize all of their lives in these categories of Christian and secular and condemn at least in their hearts anyone coloring outside the lines on these issues. Moral relativism aside, what is sin for me may not be for someone else, and each of these things are discovered in the inner workings of a relationship with Father. If you're scratching your head wondering what I'm getting at, think of meat sacrificed to idols and how some could eat it with a clean conscience and others because of exposure, could not. I also think of my children and how other children have "rules" that their parents have set for them that we do not - let's use a curfew for example. If one child is out at 1 am but his curfew was midnight - this could be a sin of disobedience to his parents, but for my child who does not have a specific curfew, and stays out as late as we discuss and feel comfortable with in any given situation, it is not. (Feel free to blow holes all through this example but it is the best one I have at present.)
The author goes on:
Either God is the Creator of the whole man, the whole universe, and all of reality and existence or he is the Creator of none of it. If God is only the Creator of some divided platonic existence which leads to a tension between the body and soul, the real world and the spiritual world, if God is only the Creator of some spiritual little experiential "praise-the-Lord" reality, the he is not much of a God. Indeed, he is not I AM at all. If our Christian lives are allowed to become something spiritual, and religious as opposed to something real, daily, applicable, understandable, beautiful, verifiable, balanced, sensible, and above all united, whole if indeed our Christianity is allowed to become this waffling spiritual goo that nineteenth-century platonic Christianity became, then Christianity as truth disappears and instead we only have a system of vague experiential religious platitudes in its place. This indeed is what happened.
Thus people's lives became compartmentalized. This thing was spiritual, but that was not. And unfortunately in terms of this book, we see that the arts, creativity, enjoyment of beauty, even enjoyment of God's beauty, even an enjoyment of God's Word in the Bible for itself, were set aside. The arts were regarded as unspiritual, unfit and secondary to those high and spiritual goals now set forth for Christians to achieve.

Compartmentalized. We can't even see that all music, art, writing has its root in the Creator that created each of us in His image - to create. Not all that we create glorifies Him, but much does that would not pass through the "Christian" filter. The front cover of this book exemplifies this so well - we have a man in painter's overalls with a Christian fish symbol on his back pocket. He is using a paint roller to paint over the Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam masterpiece.
I won't quote the whole book here, but let me wrap up with this:
The second occurrence, which I called secular, took place during the same historical period. Something happened in the secular world which then deeply affected and infiltrated the Christian church. Following the Darwinian theory of evolution (which led to the concept of the survival of the fittest and the onward, inexorable and merciless march of society, and to nineteenth century industrial utilitarianism), people began to look at themselves and the world around them in purely utilitarian terms. So the tree which once had value, not least of which was its beauty, its shimmering leaves, the dappled shades it cast upon the mossy ground beneath, now only had value because of how many cubic feet of paper could be produced from it. So even man was measured by what he could achieve, produce, earn, contribute and so on. Not only that, all man's attributes, talents and endeavors had to be justified in some utilitarian way. No longer was it good enough to say that some human attribute was a God-given gift which should be freely enjoyed and given. now those gifts had to translate themselves into utilitarian usefulness. Either they had to contribute monetarily or in some other way to the society. They had to become propaganda tools, advertising tools or monetary earning tools, to be considered useful and therefore tolerated by the church.
The idea that individuals are worth something in themselves, because they were created in the image of God, whatever they could contribute or not contribute was abandoned. The same is true with regard to individual talents.
Unfortunately, the church itself was infiltrated by that view. The view was translated into religious terms. Now everything anyone did had to measure up somehow in utilitarian terms in the church. It had to be useful to the onward march of the church. It had to help in its efforts, in its programs, its church growth emphasis week or whatever.
This would be bad enough by itself. To make it worse, what everything had to measure up to as being useful toward was this false view of spirituality, this shriveled, truncated, narrow view which selected a few things arbitrarily and called them the Christian life, the walk with the Lord, my Christian growth, witnessing or whatever. That this was all that remained of the full Christian life we were redeemed to and that these sad standards were used to measure all Christian endeavor for its utilitarian usefulness to the church left many things in very deep water.
The arts were particularly and bitterly affected, first relegated to the basement of the church as unspiritual and now, whenever they were allowed to see the light of day, demanded to make some useful contribution to that church.

I don't have to tell you that I love this book. It is likely pretty obvious. I am ready to reread it. If you want the cliffnotes - it is all God's world. There are no compartments. Some of what we do glorifies Him and some of it doesn't. It doesn't make any of it any less spiritual. But I don't think we have to be afraid that we are always sinning or always disappointing him if we don't have an evangelistic message to all that we read, if we don't throw His name into every song, or if we paint a picture that isn't of the cross. All of our lives are stories, songs and paintings that are all about Him.


  1. I'm getting it. Sounds like a man I can respond to. Most religious books either bore me, worry me or anger me. :)

  2. I think the Bible is pretty clear about right and wrong, but there are things that are not mentioned in the Bible. For those grey areas, I think you have to judge how you feel about what you're doing.

    Secular music has never been seen as wrong to me EXCEPT where it's all about sex, drugs or violence and such! Music that sounds good that has a positive message is probably fine. It is for me anyway. I think God will convict you on such issues if it's a problem.

    I'm a creative person and I like others' creativity. That means music, movies, books..everything creative! Not everything I like falls under "religious", but God made me so He knew that would be the case!LOL

  3. Ooooo! That does sound like an awesome book. It basically supports my feelings about spiritually, so of course I like it. ;) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great!
    I may need to reread it when I'm more coherent, still have sleepy eyes :)

    You know how I feel bout the whole christian, secular thing anyway.

    Long live rock and roll :)

  5. Some of my biggest smiles come across my face when I hear a few bars of longtime favorite rock music- brings back great memories of times gone by. I know that your post was deeper than this comment, but that is the best I can do at 3:15 pm- this is my less than alert time of day.

  6. I just want to encourage you to continue to go to the Word of God before anything else, and hold everything you do up to what it's standard is. All secular music, books etc. may not be "bad", butit is so important to compare what we listen to, watch or read up to the truth of God's Word, and see if...even though it might be a "grey area"...it is helping us become more like Jesus and encouraging us to think like, talk like, and be like Him. I like to ask the question, "Is this helpful?" We are told to strive to have the "mind of Christ". So, even though there doesn't necessarily have to be "a message" in everything we listen to or read, it is so important to make sure we are not getting a message that might not be helpful to our growth. The author you quoted has some good things to say, but be careful not to base so much on what a man has written. No one is perfect...he may have some error in His teaching. Always go back to the scriptures. It's the only thing we can trust!

  7. I guess because I'm no longer a slave to the brick and mortar church and it's teachings, that I don't compartmentalize anymore. Maybe it's also because of our unschooling AP lifestyle.

    I don't get this "let's be afraid of sin" attitude that is displayed by most Christians. Do they not believe God's promises to us? Do they not believe in their own salvation?

    I'm not perfect and God still rains his blessings down on me. Because his reign is perfect!

    Love you, Julie!


  8. I gotta tell you Julie, this post has made a tremendous impact on me!! I am at such an incredible point of frustration over this very thing right now. I did not realize that this societal view on measuring a man's success by his accomplishments or usefulness was a utilitarian view. I am floored! Heather and I had a rather intense conversation with our neighbor last night and this is exactly what it was about, without us even realizing it. He was telling her that she needs to work on somehow getting a high school diploma and to "never underestimate the value of a good education." She and I came home pretty much feeling like garbage after that. We both felt drained. He was priding himself on showing me his resume recently, which is filled with fancy schools and accomplishments. I came away wondering how my life can ever go anywhere with "just" a high school diploma and my daughter doesn't even have that. We have no transcripts, whatsoever and she doesn't want to have to struggle for the rest of her life financially. It's those times what everything I've learned and the insights I've gained seemed to go right out the window. I hate when that happens! He said to me, "Well, your life has just taken a different direction than mine." My take on that, "You've not done anything useful with your life so your value as a person is less than mine." GRRRRR!!!! Please forgive me for venting on your blog. I suppose I should go to mine and do a post about this. Anyway, yeah. I do not believe the value of a life is based on what a person does, but simply that they are created in the image of their Creator.

    Are there any stories out there of unschoolers who go on to be wealthy people? I know that money is money but I really don't want my daughter to struggle for the rest of her life with stress and working herself into the ground, just to barely get by.

  9. P.S. - granola*girl*, I LOVED your comment!!! Perfectly said. :o)

    P.S.S. - Stephanie, I'm right there with ya!!

  10. I think I need to read that book : )

    I always feel judged by other Christians for what I listen, read or watch on tv. When I was actively going to church, I felt like I needed to hide who I really was or pretned to be something I'm not. Why can't I be a Christian and watch General Hospital and listen to Ozzy Osbourne?

  11. Rather we eat or drink...do all the glory to God...what brings Glory, to God is CHRIST IN US, not our classification of secular or spiritual. With Jesus in us, ALL is spiritual, it can't help but be. It is wonderful freedom, because we don't have to try to figure it out any more, it just IS. And personally, I don't think the Bible is so clear about right and wrong. Just look and all the denominations and their interpretations of right and wrong. So, I just stick with Jesus and his life and me and he will do the "interpretations" for me.

  12. Grace, you said... Are there any stories out there of unschoolers who go on to be wealthy people? I know that money is money but I really don't want my daughter to struggle for the rest of her life with stress and working herself into the ground, just to barely get by...

    Who says that you can't be incredibly happy and poor (by societies standards) at the same time? Maybe these books would be worth the read... "Unjobbing" by Michael Fogler and "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. There are lots of others along those same lines. Amazon.com will give you a nice list of them if you search for unjobbing. There's also tons of websites and blogs on the subject, too.

    My DH and I are not slaves to our jobs. He's a self-employed painter and I work very part-time at Kohl's department store. I also donate plasma on a pretty regular basis for extra cash. We own our own home... which we'll have paid off in about 3 years (hopefully less) and have less than $2000 in credit card debt. My DH has a student loan that we are slowly paying off, too.

    We live incredibly full lives and are happy to live on less $ if that means that we aren't slaves to a job that pays more. KWIM? I'm the queen of finding the local events and activities that cost next to nothing and get us out there to enjoy what God has given us. I wear the same few articles of clothing all of the time. Who the hell needs 20 pairs of jeans and 50 pairs of shoes? Less stuff takes less time and costs less $ to take care of.

    This world has become so materialistic. I choose not to participate in that. It's become my quest lately to rid myself and our lives of excess stuff.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is. That it's ok to fly under the radar. It's ok to not be a part of the materialism. It is possible to live extremely rich lives without money. You can't take the $ with you when you leave this life. I don't understand why this society has this need to fill their lives with stuff that has no meaning in the end.


  13. Oh, and one more thing. God has ALWAYS taken care of us. I sometimes wonder how the bills are going to get paid... and you know what, they always do. :)



Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥