People with no sense of the sacred have no inhibitions. Nothing is closed for them. They are only stopped by incapacitation, temporary satiation of appetites, and others who outwit them. The sacred sense articulates what is evil and what is good and explains how choices have consequences.
The sacred sense becomes a fence that shields people from evil within and without. This sense of the sacred can be from organized religion or be naturally rooted in the human conscience. Sacredness pervades all aspects of life - even scientists in the grandest of secular laboratories have ethical cautions not “to play God.”
To people with no sense of the sacred nothing is profane. There is no evil – only unique preferences. The sense of right and wrong is melted into a pot of blurry mix. In this mix moral codes –if they exist - are fluid, and personal with no communal accountability. Without the sacred sense, chaos is neither good nor bad – it is only a form of expression.
A total rejection of the sacred follows through with a total disregard for places of worship. But what we see often is not the total rejection but a discriminative kind. Selective destruction of sacred spaces is a form of spiritual pride that arranges various spiritualities hierarchically. Those destroying a church will have not only a low but a hateful view of the Christian sense of the sacred. Those attacking a mosque would be against the Muslim sense of the sacred. Those happy to see both the church and the mosque destroyed because they see both as offensive.
When the Temple of Jerusalem was invaded, robbed, and destroyed, it was the ultimate violation for the Israelites. But to the invaders, it was a show of the power of their gods and the weakness of the God of Israel. With their most holy place destroyed, Israelites felt defenseless and in a way disillusioned. How could God allow his place to be attacked? Why did God not fight back?
While holy spaces are critical reminders of the presence of God in the community, it serves well to remember that God does not dwell only in the sanctuaries. When a mosque and a church are destroyed, God is not homeless! This said, the honor due to Him is marred. Honoring God is often demonstrated by according reverence for symbols associated with Him.
Respect for houses of worship translates into respect for God. Destruction of the same houses equates to chasing out God and branding Him unwanted. But such is the blend in communities – some endear God others mock Him. Some will burn a house of prayer while others will burn for it.
When dedicated spaces are not respected, God still meets people in other spaces – like on the road to Damascus! The priest may be helpless but the High Priest is always the ground of all power. The silence of the priest should not be confused with the taming of God’s voice. The cluelessness of the priest should not be interpreted as God having a knowledge gap. God is free and has a clock all His own. Attackers can torch a church and mosque and disappear under the cover of darkness and think they have gotten away with it. But you can never flee from the presence of God – He is even in hell! You can flee from the hand of the law but not from the grip of the Lord. At His time He will act and do so in His fashion.
But apart from burning sanctuaries, there are other ways that still ruin the sense of the sacred.
When the altar is a billboard for violence and hatred, the sacred is profaned. Priests stand on the holy place, and tweak their order of service to invite politicians to speak in worship services knowing sure well they are often bad news. Though politicians know of the voice that instructs “Take off your shoes – the ground on which you stand is holy,” they defy this guidance and proceed to the holy place with their muddy shoes and loose tongues to match.
Many priests are not able to receive politicians as worshipers – even when some politicians hope to be treated as so. But also, most politicians come as worshippers but want to be recognized as somehow elevated worshippers. The priests who do not elevate them and fail to give them a chance to speak are branded as disrespectful to authority. Priests will often feel threatened – and therefore choose to cooperate.
That is how the pulpit turns into a “spill it.” Both the priest and the politician are partners in desecration, with the priest as gatekeeper bearing a greater responsibility. But the compromise of the priest should not be misconstrued to mean God has lowered His standards.
When leaders take an oath and then work as they loathe the oath, the sacred is soiled. To most politicians and appointees to various government responsibilities, taking the oath of office is just another step towards power and its package.
It seems that though the holy book is lifted, heaven and earth are on different frequencies. But though many take the oath for granted, heaven registers it as serious. They take the thoughtlessly and hastily. They can’t wait to have the oath behind them for the perks before them!
The oath communicates the sacredness of duty. It takes accountability beyond the earthly bosses to the watchful eye of God in heaven. But sadly, the leadership we experience in practice is far from sacred. Abuse of office is the norm with the few who work as unto God being a rare and threatened breed.
Many who take an oath to serve the people end up feeding on the sheep instead of feeding them. The swearing is not an occasion you merely dress up too. It should be a spiritual experience to immerse oneself into. If all who take an oath to serve actually lived it, corruption would be a loathed practice. If those in the office truly feared the God of their oath, citizens would be served with a sacred sense.