The Spiritual and the Secular

I find it rather interesting that the church in it’s effort to avoid “worldliness” rails against anything secular merely because it is not affiliated or associated with the church.  I recall as a young Christian in a rather conservative, charismatic church being told that I had to rid my life of all things secular.  Near the top of the list was my entire record collection.  For those of you who don’t know what a record is…google it.  I remember a pastor once telling me how dangerous it was to allow anything secular, especially “rock music” into my life.  I would most certainly be corrupted.  Not wanting to be corrupted, I took my entire collection and threw it into a dumpster.  Now I will be the first to say that within popular music are many themes that are completely inappropriate for a person intent on living a life of godliness.  It’s important for followers of Christ to learn to be discerning regarding what’s appropriate for them.  But for many well-meaning Christians, it’s not discernment they’re after, it’s the ridding of all things secular.

I recently encountered a similar attitude.  Our church hosts a monthly Open Mic Coffee House.  Actually we don’t technically “host” it, we provide the venue and equipment.  This event is mainly a secular event.  While it’s ok for Christian artists to come and perform, it’s not a “Christian coffee house”.  So at times, in order to foster diversity, we have asked Christian artists to refrain from being too preachy or using the venue to have a mini church service.  The backlash has been quite interesting.  Some have decided to boycott the open mic nights because they feel it is a violation to not have the event be a “Christian Coffee House” since it’s at a church.  We have even been accused of selling out.  Some have said that if this isn’t a Christian open mic, they can’t in good conscience participate.  Good conscience?  So let me get this straight, if it’s secular it’s automatically bad?

I think I understand the mentality because I was there once…in my spiritual infancy.  It’s easier isn’t it to just avoid all things secular rather than having to use one’s faculties to discern?  Of course it is.  Rather than doing the difficult work of learning to live in a secular culture (which we do live in) it’s much easier to simply be so scared of anything secular that we just cut it all out of our lives for fear of contamination.  However that philosophy doesn’t work for very long.  Eventually we all come to realize that we live in a secular society.  And while we are called by God to be separate (consecrated people of faith), we still have to live in this culture.  Some take the command to be consecrated to mean we must become so paranoid of being contaminated by anything secular, we need to live in a spiritual bubble.  The problem with the bubble is that we end up isolating ourselves from the secular world we’re so afraid of contaminating us and we stop contaminating IT with the love of God!

Rather than that sort of immature thinking, It seems clear from scripture that God desires us to become discerning, which is more difficult work to be sure.  It takes examination and thought to navigate our way through this secular world and remain faithful followers of Jesus.  We are also called to be wise as serpents while being innocent as doves.  I think that’s what the idea of consecration really means.  We cannot be wise as serpents if we deny that we live in a secular world and that we too are part of that culture in many ways.  Yet as we live in this world, we can maintain our innocence, but it’s not easy.

As a musician, I often ponder my musical choices.  For instance, I am a fan of many of the world’s great guitarists…secular guitarists.  I can’t imagine a world without the greats like David Gilmour, Eddie Van Halen, Neil Schon, and Jimi Hendrix.  So no, I won’t erase my Mp3’s.  (I live in the 21st century now)  I will, however be discerning about what songs I choose to listen to.  For example, to resist temptation, I avoid songs about sex or violence.  I choose to decide what’s appropriate for my mind rather than blindly run away from all things secular.  I also realize that a guitar solo has no power over my eternal soul…it is powerless to send me to hell.  I say that tongue and cheek but sadly many seem to operate with that sort of fatalistic philosophy.  The same can be applied to TV, Radio, and Movies.  One last funny story:  I once let on to someone that I was a Star Trek geek.  The person I told this to immediately went on a tirade about how Gene Roddenberry was a humanist and how the Star Trek series was a humanistic, anti-God show.  Strangely enough after 40 years of watching Start Trek shows and movies…and even dressing up for a few conventions in my younger years, I still love the Lord with all my heart.  Funny how that works huh?

I choose to live in this world and bring the light of Jesus Christ into it without burying my head in the proverbial sand hoping it doesn’t infect me.