Rediscovering the Sacred in Secular Spaces | Acton Institute
From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the three social theorists attempted to examine the relationship between religion and to pursue his father's vocation and was given a good religious and secular education. Max Weber (–) believed it was a precipitator of social change. Learn the definition of Secular vs sacred & other commonly used words, phrases, an opportunity to change the cultural and economic landscape of cities. categories of the “sacred” and the “secular” are and have always been in flux, and border between the spheres of the sacred and secular was always shifting; .
Yes, we loathe and fear the fanaticism that leads to a man strapping a bomb to his body and blowing up other human beings. But we should also fear a world in which the predominant values are materialism and consumerism, and the greatest aspiration of too many children is to become a "celebrity".
That is the heart of the matter.
The conflict is not between religion and the secular but between the searchers for deeper meaning and those who believe that human life has no meaning beyond what can be measured, analysed and scientifically proved. It is a conflict ultimately between faith and the ideology of secularism. The secular reality is the world in which we live, the world which God loved so much. Secularism is the ideology which believes that there is no answer to the fundamental questions about the meaning and destiny of human life.
The Fullness of its Meaning Contemporary Ireland is not noted for abstract discussion about the meaning of life, except perhaps, towards the end of the evening in the pub. But these questions are not simply abstract; they are about who we are. As we track the tiger we see that a process that had begun even before the tiger was a cub, has accelerated as he grew in strength.
It was a process in which we developed in many ways as a country. We know - often only in theory I'm afraid - how, a few hundred yards from comfortable affluence, decent people live surrounded by burnt out houses, burnt out cars, intimidation, poverty, unemployment, violence and drugs: Yet their plight remains largely invisible.
There are many kinds of forgetfulness in our society - ways in which people feel excluded, lonely and neglected, in which the provision for health care and education remains inadequate. In being forgetful in these ways, we diminish ourselves and the way we relate to one another. By failing to answer the question 'who are we? If we do not ask those questions we no longer see ourselves and one another as we truly are, but simply in various roles - a citizen, or an employee, or an example of a social problem - with no 'bigger picture'.
But there is more to us than that. Flannery O'Connor once pointed out that, in a world which has lost the sense of the divine power 'that could produce the Incarnation and the Resurrection', people become "so busy One of its main themes was how the role of human reason has become reduced. The advance of science has brought extraordinary benefits, but it has tempted us to think that only what can be scientifically proven can be regarded as true.
That in turn has led us to view ourselves through this restricted and reductive lens.
He describes the situation that has resulted: Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. It is the human being himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective".
When that happens, 'the big questions' get lost - the questions to which faith speaks, to which Christian faith offers a response which "marvellously fulfils all the heart's expectations while infinitely surpassing them". Pope John Paul brings the issue more clearly into focus; the secular dimension is "not simply an external and environmental framework, but Not a conflict but a mutual enrichment Contemporary culture does not give proper weight to questions of meaning.
The result is a false conflict between religion and the secular. In Ireland today the question, 'Are we forgetting something? On the one hand we enjoy new freedoms and possibilities, but on the other we feel like a person skating on a frozen lake who is beginning to suspect that the ice is not strong enough to bear his weight.
There are signs all around us of a world on thin ice, in denial about its fragility and in confusion about its values. For years we have been using energy and resources at a rate which is in the process of irrevocably damaging the planet. For years we have lived in a world full of weapons of terrifying power, desperately hoping that for first time in history weapons have been developed that will never used.
For years we have lived with increasing affluence against the background of what Pope John Paul called "the gigantic remorse" that comes from knowing that our human family also contains appalling deprivation.
For years we have lived with increasing pressure on the basic social reality - the family; we have watched the crumbling credibility of many institutions that have held our society together; we have seen discord, wars and atrocities. Our moral compass fluctuates wildly: We all see the contradictions. A few weeks ago, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin gave a striking example: The fragility is evident but we continue to skate as though the ice was solid!
The attitude of religion to the secular is not that it is evil or that it is false, but that on its own it cannot bear the weight that we are placing on it. Ice formed without reference to the big questions and the deep convictions which for most citizens are grounded in faith is simply too thin. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke of the fallacy that: On the contrary, faith is about the meaning of life, including the secular dimension of life.
Faith can challenge and enrich the secular Religious belief is important to the health of secular reality. But the relationship must be right.
In some parts of the world faith and politics are seen as virtually the same, but in Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict sets out a different approach: She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.
She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper".
All Christians, lay and ordained, are entitled, like everyone else, to engage in the life of society through rational argument. Whatever is said by the Church or Church bodies in the area of politics, economics and social policy is addressed to rational minds and consciences. It has no coercive force; the only power it can have is through being accepted as true by those who hear it. Political discussion cannot be conducted with theological arguments, nor theological discussion with political arguments.
They are two distinct languages.
We need to be bilingual, speaking the language of the beliefs that give energy to our convictions, but speaking also the language of citizenship when we join with our fellow citizens to discuss what is best for society. Pope Benedict stresses the believer's role of reawakening spiritual energy and fostering the 'constant purification' of our reason.
The Secular Vs. Religion?
He speaks about "the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests". We can look back at slave-owners in the Southern US, kind to their aged relatives, considerate of their white neighbours and utterly blind to the horror of what they were doing to their slaves. And we might ask about the blind spots of our civilisation, which will cause future generations to look at us and say: It tells us that we will be judged by Jesus speaking in the name of people, whether in Ireland, in Africa, in refugee camps or war zones.
Faith warns us we may find ourselves asking: Karl Rahner expresses this disconcerting thought: That is the opposite of the truth.
There may well be a need to regulate migration. But are we willing to face that issue with the realisation that we are dealing with people in whose name Jesus will say: The second purification and awakening is found in something that the secular dimension cannot give, namely a belief that there is a meaning big enough to bring hope where we cannot do so.
Even if we loved with all our heart and soul, even if every possible effort was made, millions of our brothers and sisters have already died, their lives blighted by abject poverty, and violence.
Even with the most heroic efforts, that sort of poverty will continue to exist for many decades. Do we then live on the basis that, "I'm all right, Jack"? If life is meaningless for any of our brothers and sisters, it is not meaningless for all of us? A "meaning of life" that applied only to some of us, would make no sense.
A society that ignores 'the big questions' is always on the point of plunging through the breaking ice into absurdity.
The believer works for justice and the common good, not in a despairing effort to do the impossible, but with the enthusiasm of a faith which knows that God's love is bringing justice to the living and the dead of all times and places.
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The question is not whether God's purpose will be achieved, but whether we will be part of that transformation: When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and enterprise - human dignity, sisterly and brotherly communion, and freedom - according to the law of God and in his Spirit - we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured In a world of constant change and ravenous demands, we need a commitment built on our deepest convictions, on serious reflection about what it is all for and on the hope that comes from faith.
We cannot live on the baseless optimism expressed by the person who said, "I don't know where we are going, but we sure are getting there! I believe this energy is communicable also to those of faith traditions and non-religious approaches to life. It springs from belief in a God who is love, and from a vision of the dignity of human beings, what Pope John Paul called a "deep amazement at human worth and dignity, which is the Gospel. But that Good News, he says elsewhere, "has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of very person - believer and non-believer alike".
The Good News does not lead to answers to moral and social questions that would be incomprehensible to others - but to a motivation, a "freshness, vigour and strength" that comes from looking the big questions in the face with determined hope. That motivation and commitment can be communicated, but not always in words: The secular can challenge and enrich faith We also need to look at the other side of the picture, namely how the secular dimension challenges and enriches faith.
He says in the same context: Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians".
The transformation of Irish society from one where faith was seen as relevant everywhere to one where it seems not very relevant at all is an enormous threat to faith. This is not because the role of faith in society is being challenged or ignored; that has happened in many places and at many times. But the present transformation risks persuading Christians and other believers that faith can be put away into a private compartment and can be lived 'part-time', that is less than wholeheartedly.
The secular is the world in which faith is lived. If believers do not reflect and pray and understand what the Gospel has to say to all the complex dimensions of that world, and act on that reflection, they cooperate in confining God and silencing the big questions.
A being limited in that way, is not God! Acquiescing in the separation of faith from life destroys faith. Religious people may be irritated when someone says: They think, rightly, that one cannot in the long run be spiritual without others, and when one is spiritual with others that is the beginning of religion.
She could no longer afford to pay the taxes. It turns out that in France, to be a member of a church means to pay tribute to the state, which, in turn, supports various religious institutions.
This lady simply decided to give herself a tax cut by ceasing to identify herself as a Catholic, in the same way someone might decide to save money by forgoing a night on the town.
It seems to me that what she has lost sight of—and this is true with Western culture in general—is the meaning and mystery of the sacred.
This is a widespread problem in our day, when large institutions in society seem to deliver only secular messages. In response, religious leaders shift between two extremes: Seeds of the sacred are scattered throughout the secular cultural landscape, waiting to be discovered.
One outstanding mark of our times is the dramatic economic change the world has undergone in the last ten years, change that has grown more conspicuous as the nightmare of communism recedes into memory. Today, there is no longer any serious dispute that markets, prices, and private property—not government control—are the foundation of economic development.
It is one thing to remind of the traditional teaching that wealth is not an inherent good; it is quite another to say that wealth is capable of no good at all. The material world cannot offer us salvation, to be sure, but it does not then follow that it is inherently corrupt.
Christians make a grave error when they hold that commercial culture has no redeeming value.