Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Artificial Division Between Secular and Sacred

Santa at Emmanuel Enid
Like most 501 C-3 religious organizations that identify as "Christian churches," Emmanuel Enid does some things that are not necessarily proscribed by the Bible, but neither are they prohibited by the Bible.

For example, this past Sunday we had a photo opportunity for families with one of our pastors (David Camp) posing as Santa Claus. There were a few who wondered about the appropriateness of having Santa on the premises.

It's only a problem if people consider Santa Claus "sinful" (as did the Puritans). I'm ambivalent about Saint Nicholas. Being familiar with the original St. Nick, the modern version is a little silly to me, but cute if you have young children or grandchildren in the family.

As another example, we will occasionally play what Christians call "secular" songs for our announcement slides during the pre-service.

Some followers of Jesus might be "shocked" to think that a "church" would play "secular" music.

Most of those who are shocked have created an artificial separation between "the sacred" and "the secular."

Since Christians are the church, whenever a follower of Jesus enters any building, the presence of God is there.

There are some unique advantages for not seeing any division between secular and sacred.

Several months ago we noticed very few people were paying attention to the pre-service announcement videos.

So one Sunday, we experimented a little and played the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen to underscore the announcements.

An amazing thing happened. The instant Let It Go began playing, every child under 14 looked up at the screen and began paying attention to the announcement of a new AWANA children's program we were launching.

Maybe the artificial division between "church" (the sacred) and life ("the secular") put the kids to sleep while at church. 

Since then, we've been known to occasionally play Pharrell Williams' song "Happy" from the movie Despicable Me, or the Imagine Dragons song "I'm on Top of the World," or CeeLo and the Muppets song "All I Need Is Love." For the adults, we'll even throw in some Christmas music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I received a letter from a church member who asked some excellent questions about playing "secular" music in "church." Another person who watches our services online also wrote and asked similar things.

A summary of their queries include:
 (1). What about character of the artist that is singing?
(2). What about other songs that the artist may sing? 
(3). Though 'secular' music is enjoyed by all, should a 'secular' song be played in a sacred church service?
I responded with the following email.
Thanks for your kind email. I agree with you that the lives of some of the artists (including Pharrell Williams) don't always reflect Christian character. In addition, OTHER songs that the artist sings don't always reflect Christian values. We agree.
However, we think you'll find that many Christian artists have the same issues. Not always do Christian artists' lives reflect Christian character. In addition, there are SOME songs that are sung by Christian artists that we would not agree with theologically.
Nevertheless, our disagreement with the artist's OTHER songs doesn't necessarily mean we can't express agreement in the message of some of their songs.
Finally, it's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)."
Personally, we believe  in life and all life is spiritual - even when a Christian is listening to country music. We want people to feel that what you do in a church building is no different than what you do in a truck or car.
So if it's fine to listen to some country music in your car, it would be fine to listen to that same country music in a church building.
With that said, I'd suggest you offer us a country song that we can choose to play in the pre-service portion of our worship service for December or January.
We do go over the words of songs very carefully and discuss what is being said before the song is approved. If we feel there is something in the song that does not reflect our 'values' or mission statement, then the song will not be played.
I hope that answers your question!
I'd like to focus one phrase I used in the above email: - "It's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)."

The word 'sacred' comes from the Latin "to make holy." It is the root word for 'sacrament' which is something that 'is made holy' by a priest's blessing. To the religious crowd of the Middle Ages, the sacred was segmented from the profane (Latin: "before the fence"). Contrary to the New Testament teaching that the ekklesia is the body of Christ, and wherever we go, Christ is, Christians in the Middle Ages began to compartmentalize their lives.

The 'sacred' things they did occurred 'inside the fence' of the church (building) and everything else they did (outside the fence - i.e. 'profane') was NOT sacred. So, in the mind of a Christian during the Middle Ages, he could do things outside of 'church' that he would never consider doing 'inside' a church (building).

We think that divide between secular and sacred is artificial. Our belief, which we believe is biblical and inspired of the Spirit, is that if it is okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to music outside a church building, then its okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to the same music inside the church building.

Our kids listen to the music from Frozen.  Our members work out at the YMCA with Happy playing loudly as they lift weights. Our radio stations will play constantly All I Need Is Love this Christmas season, sung by Ceelo and the Muppets. If we aren't offended with the songs outside the church building, then there's no reason to be offended with them inside the church building.

We are the church.

We live life, and the presence of Christ in us makes this life very special.

As Michael Stewart eloquently writes:
Many people (wrongly) view their lives as divided into separate, unrelated parts. There are the parts that some view as secular, such as work, hobbies and recreation. These parts occur outside a sacred place, such as a church, and therefore are not related, in their minds, to faith. Then there are parts that are usually identified with a sacred place. A subtle dualism has developed among many people that divorces the sacred from anything that is considered secular.
Living out one's faith should be a natural overflow of the soul-stream within. Faith is interwoven into life, not reduced to a mere Sunday ritual. The principles of the Bible guide decisions, plans and actions.
This understanding of the unity of the sacred and the secular means, for the believer, nothing is secular. Everything one does, thinks or feels has something to do with God. The Bible presents a challenge: "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
The challenge is to live in the fullness of this unity. The marketplace and the church hold opportunities to fight the dualism of thought and live as a whole person for God.


Christiane said...

I think you might enjoy reading a post that was on Imonk a while back, this:

"Review of “Love and Quasars: An Astrophysicist Reconciles Faith and Science” by Paul Wallace, Part 7.
by Mike the Geologist"

It has some interesting quotes that are wonderfully written and when I read your post, I thought about this author, Paul Wallace, who writes about the whole universe and about its Creator Who sustains all in being:

"The point is that nothing is evidence for God or everything is.
The world is a miracle, as are we in it." (Paul Wallace, an astrophysicist and author)

AND, this:

"the Creator has not abandoned us on this beautiful but bloody planet. God knows firsthand the worst our violent universe can dish out. God weeps, God suffers, God dies, and God lives. Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection reveal a truth of the universe as fundamental as relativity and quantum mechanics…

Jesus, no less than you and me and T. rex, was born into the flow of evolution and is therefore intimately bound up not only with human beings but with every single creature that has ever lived and will ever live, no matter how strange or insignificant…

When we accept evolution, we see that God is woven into the very fabric of all material reality, not just the human or even the conscious part of it. In taking on the violence and suffering inherent in physical reality, Jesus transforms it, revealing the great love of God for all creatures and all things everywhere, here and throughout the cosmos.”
(Paul Wallace)

I hope you and your family and the good people of Enid Emmanuel Church have a blessed Christmas.

Gary said...

What is the real reason that most Christians believe?


Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Christiane!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Gary - interesting article!

Merry Christmas!

RB Kuter said...

One of those issues that each pastor has to deal with as he/she feels best. I can see valid arguments on both sides.

Sure pray that you and your family have an amazing, blessed, wondrous Christmas. Thank you for all the work you do throughout the year on providing such a quality, beneficial blog site.

Gary said...

Happy Holidays, Wade.

Anonymous said...



Rex Ray said...


Maybe I’m old fashion, but how does, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy” apply in church?

Last Sunday night the church singing displeased me so much, I left to sit in the car until it was over. (I wasn’t the first to leave.)

Tonight, Judy suggested we go in two cars. It starts in six minutes, but we can see the church from where we live.

Rex Ray said...

Wonderful, wonderful Christmas Eve song service. Everyone knew songs by heart. Our last song was Silent Night. Lights out with everyone holding candles.) It’s hard to fathom what God endured because he loves us.

The song service last Sunday night are nicknamed after the Seven Eleven Grocery Store. It’s seven words you’ve never heard before repeated eleven times. (Our song director likes to write songs and try them on us.)

Victorious said...

Wade, I love this post and agree wholeheartedly with what you've said. But if I remember correctly you objected to the song "Days of Elijah" being sung by the military in their uniforms.

I'm also a fan of the Trans Siberian Orchestra and their rendition of Old City Bar....

Merry Christmas to all!

RB Kuter said...

So, Rex Ray, what happened in last Sunday's service to disappoint you?

Christiane said...

What Child Is This?


Rex Ray said...

RB Kuter,

Did you read what I wrote about Last Sunday night and the Seven Eleven songs?

Rex Ray said...


I looked up your link but my computer doesn’t get sound. I thought one of the songs our church sang last night was one of the best: “Mary did you know?”


Christiane said...

REX RAY, I love that song! (brings tears sometimes)

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Day

(now back to arranging my Christmas table . . . I love all the prep and the cooking, but it's nice to sit down and wish people well)

Christiane said...

REX RAY . . . get your computer fixed to receive sound . . . all these wonderful songs and hymns are on youtube . . . you're missing out . . . make it a New Year's resolution to get sound hooked up

Wade Burleson said...


"But if I remember correctly you objected to the song "Days of Elijah" being sung by the military in their uniforms."

Great memory! I believe, like our forefathers, that the best government is built on what they call God's Natural Law, in other words, the laws that human beings have "by nature" and not "by revelation."

Over time, Americans stopped reading the Founding Documents, not to mention the Classics, and came to the false conclusion that to be "a good American, you must be a good Christian." Our Founding Fathers believed to be a good American citizen you must adhere to Natural Law and live a life of doing good to your fellow citizens by protecting their lives, guarding their liberties and respecting their pursuit of happiness . The Founding Fathers considered "the pursuit of happiness" as the inalienable right to private ownership of land and assets.

That's why I do not deem America a "Christian" country. Nor should we ever be a Muslim, Buddhist, Atheistic, or any other kind of "religious" country. We should follow Natural Law and pursue liberty and freedom for everyone.

Of course, I am a Christian, and I strongly believe every where I go, Jesus is, but until we get to the place He personally reigns over HIs World, I lead people to Jesus through example, not force.

Anonymous said...

"'For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.'"

RB Kuter said...

May not be correct, Wade, but my impression was that those military guys were singing in a worship service setting. Maybe that unit had a great revival outbreak and moving of God's Spirit among them. We wouldn't want to squelch something like that!

Wade Burleson said...

RB Kuter,

If so, then I stand corrected. I have ZERO problem with military men in uniform singing in a corporate worship service (not sponsored by the U.S. military). The struggle I have is an official military function with men singing Christian anthems.

Wade Burleson said...


I agree with Cicero.

Anonymous said...


RB Kuter said...

Checking some internet sites regarding the occasion where these Marines were singing explained that the venue was at Camp Pendleton during one of the regular Sunday night worship services billed as "Faith Warriors" that are held there.

A volunteer visiting from another local church apparently took the video and posted it on FB, hence, it going viral.

Guessing that is an accurate account.

Christiane said...

The military of our country RESPECT that there are different religions that are meaningful to our people, and that some of our citizens are not believers in the same ways as others. I don't see a cold rejection of anything 'religious' in the way the military responds to the things eternal, no. If anything, the self-sacrificing act of love for one another at the cost of one's own life is a deeply respected tradition among those who sign on for military service, and in any case, many of our young men and women have returned home from duty terribly wounded . . . so they know that the greatest gift is one of self-giving out of love.
Believe me, they KNOW.

As to how they handle this, I'd say that there is a history in our military of the service of priests, chaplains, and rabbis who have even gone on the battle field to render aid and comfort to the wounded, and there are SO MANY stories of this in our history, so many. Even one of our own, REX RAY, will sometimes speak of his family and their service which is remarkable and a blessing to those that were comforted in their last moments on the Earth.

The time I know that things went wrong were at a service academy for the Air Force, where some high ranking official attempted to institute some fairly mean-spirited and aggressive proselytizing of non-Christian cadets. . . . and this was discovered and the offending officer(s) were disciplined. No doubt they did some damage to the witness of the Church with their actions, but it was stopped, thank God.

My father, of blessed memory, was buried under the flag of his country with full honors. It would have meant something to him, I know. And my husband, who retired from the US Navy will some day be buried at sea, as is his wish, and the Navy will care for him with dignity and I know that this is my husband's wish and I will honor it, should I survive him. The sea will give up its dead, we are told in the Book of Revelation. Credo. I trust this. I am at peace with my husband's decision, yes.

The service academies and bands and choirs are not 'irreligious' as such but they are servants of our country and in our country, right now, we have a tradition of religious freedom and of choice to believe or not to believe and the military reflect our values as a country.

Should we go 'Dominionist', all that will change. But now we are free. And in the matters of what is eternal, I can speak for my family, this:
the services are respectful and supportive of the families who grief . . . and that counts greatly, I can tell you.

You can be proud of how our military is respectful. And people of faith can most certainly be proud and grateful for the honorable service of military chaplains of all faiths, especially in those last moments of their sons and daughters lives in battle. Maybe Rex Ray will share his story again, I hope. It is very moving indeed.

and there is this:

Christiane said...

And lest we forget our soldiers who are of different faiths, this concerning the sacrifice of Army Capt. Humayun Khan:

On 8 June 2004, 120 days into his tour of duty in Iraq, Khan was inspecting a guard post near Baqubah when a suspicious taxicab began approaching quickly. Ordering his subordinates away, Khan ran toward the vehicle and was killed when the bomb in it exploded. The car detonated before it could reach the installation gates or the nearby mess hall where hundreds of soldiers were eating. The blast also killed the two occupants of the vehicle and two Iraqi bystanders.


Khan's grave at Arlington National Cemetery bears the star and crescent, one of the official United States Department of Veterans Affairs emblems for headstones and markers, representing Muslim servicemembers.
On 15 June, Khan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His grave became a frequent destination for visitors to Arlington National Cemetery, who left flowers, US flags, and letters of support.

The first University of Virginia graduate to die in combat since the Vietnam War, Khan was honored by two university ceremonies. Khan was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Khan was also honored by the Virginia General Assembly, which passed a resolution noting "with great sadness the loss of a courageous and patriotic American."

Rex Ray said...


You mentioned if I’d share about my Chaplain father.

He stayed on the front lines until the war was over in Germany. After a battle, he’d go to where wounded were being cared for. Medics said one soldier didn’t have long to live.

The young man said, “Yesterday, I thought I’d be killed, and I prayed to Jesus. When He stepped into my heart, I was so happy, I thought I’d live forever. Don’t know why I was hit today, but tell my mother I’ll meet her in heaven.”

His mother received the dreaded telegram: “…your son was killed in action.”

Days later, she wrote my father: “You’ll never know what your letter meant to us.”

Rex Ray said...


Is that the one? My son got my computer speakers to work. Glad you told me.

Christiane said...

Thanks, REX RAY


Christiane said...

Good, REX RAY. Your 'sound' is fixed.

Now you can hear. If any problem with your hearing, purchase some ear phones . . . it works wonders for my husband who has many problems from his old sonar tech service in his youth.

Now, for a story, I am writing this in response to another person before Christmas,

"Christiane Smith SKPeterson • 20 hours ago

even evangelical people find the story St. Lucia meaningful, as does this faithful family. They are a string band and live in the same area in Alaska where my son is now living. (It's a magical place with eagles, and whales, and bears !)
My son lives on the water and eagles land on his deck sometimes . . . which is beyond wonderful to me.
. . . . . my son says that when he moved in to the house on the water, there was a giant porcupine came into the backyard and boy howdy did my son feel like the place was enchanted then for sure. I told him the porcupine came down off the mountain to welcome him . . . well, it made sense to me. But then, in my old age I’m allowed to understand about these things again . . . ’cause the ‘second childhood’ has begun in earnest and I very well intend to enjoy the heck out of it, you bet. 🙂


May we find joy in all we do. And give thanks. And ask for His help when we need it, which is just about every day. :)

Anonymous said...

Sort of agree but not entirely. In liking rock music from my youth, and still liking some of it, I never understood the distinctions until reading Sire's book on world views. The distinction between lies within the worldview. Is the music Christian, merely a narrative common on cultural things or is it contrary to the Christian worldview.

Anonymous said...

What IS 'the Christian worldview'?

Rex Ray said...


Are you asking yourself a question? I know you have to sign in as “Anonymous”, but you could sign off with your name, or as X,Y, Z.

Christiane said...

'Incarnation' has left its mark on ALL Creation, even 'our dying world'

from Malcolm Guite, this reflection:

“Come to us Wisdom, come Unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and Holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O Heart of Heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny Hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made Hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands."