God of the Secular

This morning over warm cranberry-orange muffins and dark french press coffee, my friend, Mel, and I shared conversation that had a richness in common with our beverages. Seated at my small dining room table in my bohemian-esque apartment with Nancy Sinatra and Cher staring down at us through album frames on the wall, we discussed everything from our emotional lives to our mysterious futures to God and culture.

Overall I was reminded of this: all Truth is God’s Truth.

What I mean is this: whatever is Good, whatever is True, whatever is Just, is from God. It doesn’t matter if it’s claimed by another religion or a false prophet or a secular TV show- all truth is God’s truth.

Mel has endometriosis, which basically means she’s in a lot of pain a lot of the time. She recently read a book called How to be Sick, a buddhist inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers. This book gave her some helpful tips about different ways to think about her illness, new ideas for coping with its chronic nature, and practical exercises to relax her mind, body and soul. I think it would be fair to say this book helped her connect more with her soul and be more at peace with her body; her God-given soul, her God-given body. I don’t think the fact that the ideas were buddhist eliminates their usefulness or God’s hand in her healing.

All Truth is God’s Truth.

When I lead groups, I often start by playing a song to give the women a chance to decompress and clear their minds (a practice I stole from my mentors, Ben and Ann Wilson). In my most recent group, I played Katy Perry’s Firework for the first group meeting. Katy Perry is clearly a secular artist, so some Christians would choose not to listen to her. Yet, the women in my group deeply related to the lyrics about feeling like a plastic bag drifting in the wind, wanting to start again. The women were also severely challenged by the thought that there might be a spark of something good within them. As we progressed through the group each week, Firework became a sort of theme for us. Women referred to the song again and again as they reflected on how they were growing to understand more about the unique light that God created to shine within them. Perry’s lyrics “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space. You’re original, cannot be replaced,” began to sink into the hearts of these women as they healed past wounds, learned to love and receive love, and accepted God’s grace. They found the fireworks within themselves. God-given fireworks.

All Truth is God’s Truth.

I recently read the book The Color Purple. In it, two of the main characters have a compelling conversation about who God is. One of the characters says, “God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it (she refers to God as “it” because God is both male and female) inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, feeling like shit.” She goes on to say, “[God] not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Whether or not the author intended that these passages communicate Christian truths, they do. The Color Purple challenged me to worship God in how I experience the beauty of nature.

All Truth is God’s Truth.

I take issue with the idea that something not overtly “Christian” cannot hold something of God within it. Just because someone has not intended something for God’s glory does not mean that God can not be glorified through it. There have been many secular things in my life that God has used to grow my faith.

God is in everything. Secular music, secular movies, secular people- all show something of God, because God is everywhere. God is bright enough to shine even in the darkest places. God is creative enough to take what the devil intended for evil and turn it into good. God is intelligent enough to know that labels are often misnomers. And God is passionate enough about you and me that he can meet us wherever we are- not just in church and Sunday school, but at rock concerts and coffee shops and street corners.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be cautious.

Should we think critically about whatever messages we receive? Yes. Should we put everything we learn up against scripture? Of course. Should we be cautious about what we are communicating to others? Sure.

I know it’s important to think about what enters our ears and eyes.

But it’s also important to be in the world. Refusing to grapple with “non-Christian” songs, “non-Christian” values, “non-Christians” is a cop out and a cowardly way to live- not because you’re hiding from your fears about the secular community, but because you’re hiding from your fears about yourself. It’s scary to enter the world of the “other” because you might have to admit that part of you is compelled to join that world, part of you has questions about your own faith, part of you doesn’t know what to do with the truth in the people you see as living a lie.

All Truth is God’s Truth.

The fact that a Truth may come from a secular source does not make it any less true. God shows up everywhere.

I’ve tried to imagine Jesus in this debate. I’ve tried to imagine Jesus here today, and walking down Pearl Street in the heart of Boulder, CO, with a beer in his hand- a group of Christians singing praise on his right and a group of non-Christians singing their own music on his left. Which group would he be more drawn to? Which group would he stop and listen to?

I believe he’d be equally drawn to both. I believe that each melody would be a priceless beauty to his ears. I believe that he would be deeply honored by the praise of the Christian band and deeply moved by the tune coming from the musicians making use of the talents he’s blessed them with.

God isn’t just God of all that’s Christian. He’s God of all. He’s God of the secular.

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2 thoughts on “God of the Secular

  1. i love this post. i loved the shoutout to pearl st. jesus would slackline with the best of them. last week in leadership, we were discussing a few elements of christian revival and the one that resonated with me the most was theological integration. reminds me of a book by one of my favorite authors, kevin vanhoozer (now wheaton faculty), called “everyday theology”. lastly, thought you had good, choice examples.

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