Thursday, March 02, 2006

Integrating the Sacred and the Secular

When I was a child, my mother ordered us to turn the channel when Donnie Osmond sang "And I'm a little bit rock'n'roll!" For rock and roll music was sin. So was dancing, even square-dancing, drinking alcohol, swearing, smoking, mini-skirts, hip-huggers and shopping on Sundays.

As I grew up and attended Bible College, life seemed to be neatly divided into two categories: Sacred and Secular. Christian music? Good. Secular music? Bad. Christian books? Good. Secular books? Bad. Dancing in the Spirit? Good. Dancing at a bar? Bad.

My four years at Bible College (where women were required to wear dresses to class, even on snowy days) brought out the cynic in me. I heard enough rambling sermons to last me a lifetime and I saw enough hypocrisy to turn my heart to stone. I'm lucky I escaped with my faith intact, because I definitely needed it later when I traveled the rocky paths of infertility, cancer, death, loss, heartbreak--in other words, Real Life.

The idea that life should be lined up in separate categories crumbled, bit by bit, until finally, I came to understand that I would live my life without a division between the sacred and the secular. Good music is good music, whether or not it includes the lyrics "Jesus died on the cross," or not. Fantastic art is simply fantastic art. A walk through a still forest, glimpsing trilliums in bloom is as sacred as a moment in a stained-glass church.

Just tonight, I came across a book by Steve Turner called Imagine: A Vision For Christians in the Arts, which discusses this very idea. I can't wait to read it, if the sample first page on Amazon and the comments are good indications of the quality of the rest of the book.

So, when I see a particular well-known blogger announcing that she is partitioning her blog into two separate blogs, one for Christians and one for non-Christians, I just shake my head. Maybe that's because I don't write for Christians. I don't even write for non-Christians. I just write for people. I'm not a Christian blogger and this isn't a Christian blog. I'm a blogger who is a Christian. I don't divide my life--or my blog--into partitions. (I even avoided associating myself with Christian bloggers when I began this blog for fear that I would be boxed in by other people's expectations. I just wanted to write. I didn't want to write a Pastor's Wife's Blog.)

Hey, I'm no apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, but I do know this: Taking care of my kids is my spiritual worship. Writing well is my spiritual worship. Singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" in church is my spiritual worship. So is washing the laundry and walking on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Whatever I do, if I do it well and with acknowledgement of the Creator, that is worship.

My integration of the sacred and secular is incomplete, because I am in progress, learning as I go. Each believer certainly has to find his or her own way, embracing some things and rejecting others. But building walls around our lives, pulling up the drawbridges and digging moats can't be what Jesus intended for us to do. He came to bring us life, not fear and judgment. (And furthermore, when anyone assumes I'm not bright enough to be able to distinguish the differences between sects, cults and even different denominations, that annoys me. I wonder if it annoys Jesus, too?)

Well, while I'm at it, writing this atypical post which has nothing to do with grocery shopping (I purchased twenty bags full of groceries at 10:45 p.m. tonight!) or laundry (currently backed up), I will also comment on this post at Internet Monk. He talks about another blogger, this guy who announced he would no longer call himself a "Christian, an idea he bandied about here.

I just have one word for that guy: SEMANTICS! Quit fussing about how the label "Christian" might taint your testimony or make you look and go feed the hungry, visit a prisoner, share with the poor, listen to a lonely widow, serve someone who doesn't deserve it and then get back to me. I'm guessing that by then you might be too tired and too peaceful to worry about what someone might think if you accept the descriptive label "Christian."

(If I continue to roll my eyes that far back in my head, they might stay that way, so if you see a 41-year old woman at Albertsons with only the bloodshot whites of her eyes showing, say hello. That would be me.)


Blogger portuguesa nova said...

"Taking care of my kids is my spiritual worship. Writing well is my spiritual worship. Singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" in church is my spiritual worship. So is washing the laundry and walking on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Whatever I do, if I do it well and with acknowledgement of the Creator, that is worship."

Amen, sister.

Would you have gone to the same college if you could do it all over again? In a backhanded sort of way, it seemed to have offered you some real perspective and you came out with your beliefs still in tact.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Amie said...

"Taking care of my kids is my spiritual worship. Writing well is my spiritual worship. Singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" in church is my spiritual worship. So is washing the laundry and walking on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Whatever I do, if I do it well and with acknowledgement of the Creator, that is worship."

I know it is redundant, but it is worth saying again. I am just learning this and I have been a Christian for a while. Ofcourse I went to Bible College too with the "good" "bad" divisions. It is complicated til you get it, then it seems so simple.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Judy said...


I was trying to find a way to say this.

Now I don't have to.

Thank you.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

You're smokin' Mel. In more ways than one.
(Now try to figure out that one.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Regarding the sacred and secular: Hear, hear. I don't notice that Jesus ever partitioned out his life. Then when I read, "Let this mind be in you, which is in Christ Jesus...," well, there we go.

It will sound mean, and it's not meant that way: I believe that partitioners are "playing house" house and need to Get Real with Christianity.

5:12 AM  
Blogger barbara curtis said...

Mel -
You took the words right out of my mouth - I mean, mind!

This is why you are such a terrific writer with appeal across the board. C. S. Lewis said "The world doesn't need more Christian writers. It needs more writers who are Christians."

You are too authentic to hide your worldview - it permeates every nook and cranny - even down to your piles of laundry and trips to the grocery store :)

But you have no agenda. And you're obviously emotionally healthy and free of narcissism and that is very appealing. Readers can't help but be drawn to this.

I know I always have been. Yours was the second blog I ever read and the first that touched my heart. Today I am grateful we are friends.

Linking now!

5:54 AM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...

right on, mel.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

Quite possibly your best entry yet! And there are many good ones to choose from :)

Well said. You put my beliefs into much better words than I even thought.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Darla said...

Semantics, maybe. They do have a point though. The only issue I have with the label of "Christian" are some of the fools on tv who go around calling themselves a "Christian" then saying or doing something completely un-christ like on television for the whole world to see. No wonder some people steer clear of church and/or christians. Just my opinion

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

I couldn't agree more. Too many Christians wall themselves off from anything and everyone "non" Christian. It's kinda hard to teach someone about the heart of God if you don't hang out with them.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Kingery Family Blog said...

Amen. Good post! Also a comment about your stomach virus fiasco with your son. When my youngest was a 2nd grader, she complained one morning of a tummy ache. I sent her on the bus. Twenty minutes later the school calls for me to come get her. She puked on the bus. I felt like a heel.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Goslyn said...

Good post, Mel. Thanks for putting this out there.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

So your mother was ok with a little bit Country? You mean the music where people talk about drinking and fornication outside marriage and, of course, the poor dog that died? That was ok. But the little bit R&R? Not so much. It's probably because of all the praisin' to the Lord all those Country music folks do in between getting hooked on heroin and drinking 'till they barf and screwin' anything that moves.

You see, this is why there is the man who doesn't want to call himself a Christian. It's because of all the Bozos who have hijacked Christianity (all due respect to your mother but have you checked her shoes? Are they really big? Oh and, my apologies to Bozo). It may be semantics but I think it's understandable to want to distance yourself from a group of people who don't really follow the leader.

8:25 AM  
Blogger meredith said...

What you've said is so good and so true. I have had some of my most spiritual moments just living real life, feeling at one with God and the universe while doing something as simple as walking my girls to school and listening to the sweet things they have to say along the way.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Marisa said...

Mel, thank you for writing this. I think you've nailed the core of Christianity, which (for me at least) is non-judgemental, absolute, no excuses love and acceptance.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Sometimes I think people just take themselves too seriously. I mean, really. My eyes are rolling out of my head. I need to go pick them up now.

Can Christians not just have a little fun? There is moderation in all things! I'm glad my relationship with the Lord is secure enough that I can jam to the oldies in fun and not think I'm damaging my eternal salvation. Even with the background we shared that we emailed about! :)

9:17 AM  
Anonymous mopsy said...

Oh, good golly. That's my phrase du jour because I am more and more astonished by what I am reading today.

Two blogs---one for Christians, one for non? I don't get it...

9:30 AM  
Anonymous grace said...

I love you. My words and thoughts exactly

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Shelly said...

All I can say Mel is BRAVO....

10:05 AM  
Blogger The Princess said...

I stumbled onto your site and just loved this post. I have no words of wisdom on it b/c I'm not as well spoken as you, but as a Christian, I work very hard to stay away from the types you described in your post.

10:55 AM  
Blogger oshee said...

The idea of two separate blogs, one for Christians and one for non-Christians is unbelievable. Being Christian (or not) is something that is so much part of the core of your being that why would you want to try to write for only one side or the other. I am who I am and at my core I agree with all those others who quoted you. Taking care of my family is worship. Christ is the perfect example of charity, of serving and loving. I try to do that with every meal I fix, every plate of cookies I share, every phone call I make. Some often equate secular with carnal things. The two are not the same. There is a real world out here a real secular world with some wonderful things and wonderful people. Your words are inspiring Mel. You let yourself flow out through your words and I appreciate that you share yourself as you do.

2:16 PM  
Blogger dinodoc said...

Amen, sister, amen.

We may never agree on certain "hot topics da jour", but your words warmed the cockles of this liberal Lutheran's heart. :) WTG, girl.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Hi Mel.....came across your blog through Kris's said this so well. I concur. I plan to come back here!

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

Mel, You? a Christian? :)
In all sincerity, I don't know you from Eve, but what I surmise from what you put out there (here) you are true to yourself and your convictions.

You talk the talk and apparently walk the walk. Your children, others in your sphere (and theirs) reap the benefits of your compassionate, thoughtful and humorous approach to life and love.

Even when I haven't totally agreed with you, I have always enjoyed what you have to say and how you said it.

Labels compartments and categories don't fully define the human conditions.

I love what you say about learning as you go. Hopefully, we all can continue to adjust and refine the blueprint.

9:10 PM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

Mel, you rock. You are a lot bit rock and roll in my book.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Praying for your Prodigal said...

Great post!

I am a new blogger...and am thrilled to discover your blog. Love your energy!


5:55 AM  
Blogger S~K~G said...

Mel ~ Thank you for this entry - such a great encouragement to another "non-partitioner"!!!

7:05 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Mel, this is a wonderful post. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go girl! I am in agreement. I believe the greatest service to the Lord is to find the good in the world instead of placing everything into compartments. Your my hero. Lisa Marie Dueppen

7:52 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

So what I'd like to know is where all you non-judgmental Christians are when it comes time to vote?

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Shannon from Rocks In My Dryer said...

Mel, this should be required reading for every "Christian blogger". Incredibly profound, as always. Thank you so much.

9:53 PM  
Blogger ~Jennifer said...

Amen, amen, and amen!

Maybe I will blog again someday. If I'd read this maybe I never would have stopped.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Hey, you'd probably also enjoy "Addicted to Mediocrity" on the same topic - one of my favourite, paradigm-shifting books.

Great post, btw.

11:55 AM  
Blogger violet said...

Hmm I mostly agree with your post and the spirit of the comments. Yet, just to throw in another thought, could she have a point? Could this be a way of her being considerate of her readers? After all, she said in her post: I'm not going to stop blogging about my faith here (totally impossible since it's the core of who I am); it just means that posts which are written specifically to other Christians (theology et al), will be blogged at my new blog. .

So is there something wrong with her not subjecting people who read her blog for the nitty gritty of her life, to theology posts? And maybe she feels it will free her up to know she's writing those for an interested and informed audience.

I think if there was a mistake made, it was in announcing it the way she did. - just a thought.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Shalee said...


I have been struggling with this one just recently. I wrote my blog about being labeled a prude because I make decisions that are based on God's world view, not man's. It is ever so difficult to get others to accept, let alone understand, my beliefs, but I forge onward.

I went to a Christian college, was raised in the Bible belt and has every surrounding means to keep me in the faith. I am grateful for it after all this time. But one thing I had to learn is that being a Christian is not a label... it is a way of life.

As to violet's comment, my only worry is that the blogger would start accepting that keeping her belief separate from others is acceptable to God. It is not. We are to be in the world, not of the world. We are light and salt in a world of darkness and tastelessness. If she wished to write of it and others don't want to read it, they can always close the window. Then it becomes the reader's choice, not hers.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Feeble Knees said...

what Barbara Curtis said.

And thanks for your prayers for us. It means so much.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I love your blog. I'm linking to you!

1:34 PM  

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