The Sacred and the Profane

As many of you know, I am involved in a new Master’s program through Claremont Lincoln University. My focus is on Interfaith action, and I am working with wonderful and interesting people to pursue this. I am telling you about this, because two weeks ago when I did my continuing ed, I had a pretty remarkable experience.

It was the Saturday morning of our conference, and we were sitting down to breakfast before the day’s events began. Of course, this was in the immediate wake of what happened in Nigeria and France. There we were, my cohort group (plus a few), having breakfast and watching CNN report on these tragedies from around the globe. At first glance, this might not seem so remarkable. I imagine many of you may have had similar experiences up until that point. Here’s where it get interesting though: the people sitting at that table were people who might not ordinarily sit down together. As I looked around the table amidst these news stories, I was reflecting on the fact that I was sitting with a Muslim, a Jew, a Pentecostal, an Atheist, a Christian Scientist, a Zoroastrian Priest and a Buddhist—and oh by the way, I was the token White Male Protestant. What a collection of people! In those moments with tragedy in the air, I experienced an inkling of hope. There are plenty of people in this world who would much rather be sitting to eat together with those whom they don’t know or don’t understand, instead of shooting them—I know that seems like a simplistic statement, but given world events we have to start somewhere.

This fascinating group of scholars joined together in reflecting, mourning and discussing these events, drawing upon vastly different backgrounds and perspectives. The one thing that became abundantly clear to us, is that all of our traditions could stand to have greater reverence for the creation of which we are but a part.

This is a pretty powerful learning that comes straight out of our Corinthians passage this week. If you read it on the surface, you might be convinced this is simply about sexual morality. However, Paul is doing something much deeper with this writing—Paul is pointing us at the sacred nature of ALL of God’s creation. Everything was created by the hand of God, and that means that everything and everyone deserves to be treated with reverence and respect. In a very real way, all of us share in the divine, all of us are sacred, all of us are Holy. When we forget that, it is easy to let our differences and, our hatreds, our small doctrines and dogmas rule over us and convince us to do atrocious things!

As I looked around that table and we talked I came to the realization that I do indeed have very different views of the world, but nonetheless, God sacred divinity is being presented to me through these people sitting around me.

Of course, this becomes a lot harder to grasp when it isn’t just friends and colleagues we speak of as a part of God’s sacred creation, but also the militants of Boko Haram, and the Jihadists bent on death and destruction. This is why being a person of faith isn’t easy. There is a difficult cognitive dissonance to simultaneously condemning the evil and horrendous actions of these extremists and still understanding them as a sacred part of God’s creation (broken though they may be!). There is a great tension of the Sacred and Profane that confronts us in realizing that the people who did these awful things are also, dare I say it, beloved children of God—even though they have gone terribly awry! If we look at these events and only see evil, and cannot contemplate where the sacred fell apart, then we ourselves are on our way to the kind of hardened dogmas that can fester and become violent and evil as well.

This is what is at the heart of Paul’s writing this week—everything is sacred! We must treat everything as sacred! Or else we risk falling into the same kind of corruption that has played out as violence and evil on the world stage in the last few weeks.

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