Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat



I had intended to write about the classic secularism demonstrated by Senator Kerry in last night's debate. Instead, I would like to address a secularist that ranks right with, and quite likely above, Senator Kerry, namely, the author of this blog. First, what is secularism? It is, as I practise it, the separation of my Christian faith from the rest of life. I will have my religion, Jesus, forgiveness, a cool spirituality, and all that, but only in their proper compartments. Not only will my faith not influence my legislation, it won't really influence anything else. I am purposed, not only to not impose it on other people: I try earnestly not to impose it on myself, most of the time. This is secularism: the idea that there is a secular realm, a realm in which faith and religion need not bear influence, or at least not much. Certainly, there is a religious realm, and it can exist with the secular one, so long as it knows its place.

So I practise. It is a wonderful system, in fact. I can call myself pro-life, and even have the licence plate. But as far as actually doing anything, I just as much a secularist as John Kerry. I have the license plate; he doesn't. That's really about it. Oh, sure, I'll vote more-or-less pro-life, and I even went to a pro-life demonstration the other day (I held a sign and prayed for a whole hour!). Never mind it was the first pro-life thing I'd done since I was five years old (and I didn't have much to do with it back then). Never mind I've never volunteered at a crisis pregancy center. Never mind that I almost never pray about abortion, much less make it a habit to speak out publicly against it. But hey, I'm "personally against" abortion.

Likewise, I believe that Christians have an obligation to the poor and oppressed of the earth. I believe all that stuff about "the least of these." Sure, I have piles of clothing I rarely ever wear (see Huw's excellent post on this topic), and yes, I spend money on frivilous entertainment for myself. I find the persecution against Christians in other nations to be terrible, along with all the oppression perpetrated every day, whether it be to Dalits in India or Black Africans in Darfur. Of course, I haven't really done anything about it, but personally, I feel awful about it and think it wrong.

On a closer, day-to-day basis, I am careful not to let my religion colour my speech too much. Sometimes I talk about God, to be sure, but lets face it, that sort of thing is quite innapropiate in some places. And so on with any number of Christian actions. They're good and all, but I simply shouldn't go about doing them in most places. Loving the poor and out-cast is great, and I'm glad Jesus did it, especially for me, but quite frankly, sometimes it's socially expedient for me to avoid certain sorts of people.

From these examples, it should be obvious that another name for my brand of secularism might also be called "hypocrisy." St. James called it "worthless religion." Secularism has an idealogical base, of course. I reject it entirely, but in practise. . . The opposition to secularism, or worthless religion as I am wont to practise, is the life of Christ. His life is not one divided into "God-time" and the rest of time; of "religious practise" and other kinds; or "faith-based" morality and action and everything else. In Christ we see a life of love, faith, action, reliance on His Father: all manifested, done in the flesh for our sake. As Ft. Schemann writes so wonderfully in the excerpt below, Christ gives us His faith, love, and desire: all of which extend to all of life, that fill every corner, shape every word, decide every action. The vision of Christ is entirely one of faith and love; there is no secular realm for Him, only that of God, and His actions are entirely those of faith and love.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Good post! Even if it is a few years old. :) I was looking for writings by Schmemann on secularism and came across your blog.

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