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Christian Compartments, or Why We “Spiritualize” Things

'Mail slots' photo (c) 2009, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Since writing my post on bouquets and garters I have been thinking a lot on the idea of the sacred/secular split. Basically this is the idea that certain aspects of life are “sacred”–attending church, reading the Bible, prayer, evangelism–while other things are “secular”–sports, movies, non-Christian music, etc. This dichotomy presents itself in weddings as well. As Christians we easily say, “I want the ceremony to be sacred,” but assume the reception falls into the category of “secular.”

One of the things for which I am most grateful in life is my liberal arts education. At my college I was taught that all truth is God’s Truth, therefore we can apply a Christian worldview to all areas of life. It was something I began to take for granted, with “worldview” being the Sunday School answer to every college test question. But when I graduated and was no longer surrounded by believers who had been taught in the same way, I realized how rarely this line of thinking is taught in the Church.

It is so easy to see life as a series of compartments: the church compartment, the entertainment compartment, the exercise compartment, the friend compartment, the work compartment, etc. 

Francis Schaeffer wrote a good deal on this subject and in his writing he questioned how we as Christians view the Lordship of Christ. In essence, is He only Lord over our souls and the religious aspects of our life? Or is He Lord over all–our bodies, our minds and our souls? This kind of submission requires thought and prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, though, which is really much harder than just making a list of “secular” activities that are, or are not, permissible for Christians.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a film guy. He loves movies, particularly redemptive dramas, including classic and foreign films. In the past several months he has begun hosting occasional “Manly Movie Nights,” in which he invites a few guys over, they watch a movie and then discuss it. At first this was a somewhat awkward thing, I think, as we are not really taught to think of movies as more than just entertainment. Yet as Erik began pointing out Christ-figures and redemptive elements in the movies, they became obvious to the guys viewing them as well.

At the same time I often hear people give Erik a hard time for “spiritualizing everything.” 

At the beginning of January my pastor preached a sermon in which he called us to look at our identity as Christians. He said we should be thinking every moment in every action that we belong to Christ and should therefore be living for Him. I was extremely convicted, knowing I could not look at 2012 and say, “This year belonged to Christ.”

The problem is we take this and say, “I am Christ’s so I shouldn’t watch R-rated movies or listen to non-Christian music.” But instead of taking every thought captive, we’re choosing not to think at all. Rather than watching Schindler’s List and examining it for truth and fallacy, we watch a “safe” Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that espouses “family values” with some watered-down picture of perfection for us to idolize. Rather than listening to and examining the lyrics and musicality of a Mumford and Sons album, we choose a romanticized, watered-down gospel in contemporary “Christian music.”

Or we feel free to watch and listen to whatever we want, but neglect to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. We don’t examine what we take in, but turn a movie on, turn off our brains and take it in without thinking.

I guess what I’m saying in this rant, which is more for me to get my thoughts out than for anyone else to read, is that we’ve been bought with a price. I don’t think I was bought by Christ’s precious blood so I could turn off my brain and choose to not think about art and culture and society. I wasn’t bought by Christ to look like the world, but I also wasn’t bought to sit at home and avoid the world.

I was bought to participate in the Kingdom work of redeeming culture through motherhood, writing, neighboring, reading, listening, examining. I was bought to worship God with every part of me. 

And you, you were bought for Kingdom work also. Therefore glorify God in your body, and heart, and mind and soul.

So in weddings, there really shouldn’t be this secular/sacred divide, as if somethings are “spiritual” and others are not. A wedding itself is a picture of a future reality–it is a hopeful portrait of our marriage with Christ. You are a spiritual being, you have been bought with a price, you are not your own. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

Your worship is your whole self, presented to God through His mercy and the work of His Son. You are an ambassador for Him, the aroma of Christ.

And when it comes to choosing whether or not to throw the bouquet or the garter or dance or drink or whatever, know you’re free. You’re free to do it, and you’re free not to. I shouldn’t tell you, because much depends on your particular circumstances. But know this–you have a new identity. You aren’t a slave to tradition or to other people’s expectations or opinions of you. You are a slave to Christ. And that is true freedom, leading to true JOY.

What do you think? Am I off-base? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I think through how to write about the big picture of weddings.

3 responses »

  1. Great article here. I struggle with the selectiveness within over spiritualization that Christians often utilize. For example. A movie with violence and cursing will be seen as “less Christian” than a chick flick that in its lack of violence tatters women’s hearts by misleading their biblical thinking upon what romance and being pursued (but mostly pursuable) looks like.

    Reply
    • Catherine Parks

      And this is why my husband loves you :). Seriously, though, it’s hard to work and think through these things, and even more so now that we are thinking through media choices for our kids. I definitely agree with you on this and am excited to see how God uses you to show truth in your writing in the future.

      Reply
  2. Amen to this. Our pastor preached a similar sermon a few years ago about “Christian liberties” that was very convicting to me. I agree that it becomes a cop out sometimes to watch or listen to something “Christian” rather than think deeply about something “secular.” I appreciate that the reformers worked to remove the vocational sacred/secular divide and I agree we should apply it across the board whether it be weddings, funerals, or otherwise. Great post!

    Reply

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