One of the heresies of modern times is that we live in a two-story universe. Here below is the “natural” the material, the physical, and the “supernatural” belongs to the upper story, the heavens, the spiritual, that world we can’t touch or see. Of course, if one is an atheist, then it’s all a one-story universe, pure material/physical, pure matter-in-motion, whether up or down.
Christian orthodoxy however believes the entire universe, existence, is, like the Incarnation, both. Like the atheist, we agree, there is only a one-story universe. However, Christians believe it is a created space, both physical and spirit. It’s rather simple: The physical creation is spiritual, is supernatural, which is to say, it is natural, it is material. To the either/or question, we respond: Yes.
This means there isn’t a “secular” space or some neutral non-spiritual habitat, whether material, social, political, cultural, scientific, or any other category one cares to name. You don’t have to agree with me. I’m simply stating what Christians have traditionally believed, or believed anyway, before modernity and its bifurcation of everything.
One of the greatest capitulations to modernity, to the secular, as manifested in a supposed invisible hand and neutral market, is the idea we need to create Christian versions of everything. Christians consider themselves just one more sub-group living in a two-story universe, wherein we now compete in the marketplace for influence here “below,” while we wait for heaven, up there, “above.”
The dominant aspect of modernity, which is the rule of mammon, capital, looks at all these competitive imitations of each other and thinks, “How cute.”
Thus, we get manufactured “Christian” music, movies, art, writing, comedy, science, diet plans, vacations, health care, dating sites, politics, etc. We look for Christian plumbers and electricians. We look for the fish symbol to guide our choices. In conceding every area of life, thought, and endeavor to a heretical vision, we play along in a never-ending fantasy of supposed influence or market gain. This is not “out-narrating” the other stories. This is a capitulation to the dominant narrative of market capitalism in a supposed God-less space.
I’m not speaking to the issue of Christian kitsch, which is another matter. I’m speaking to the idea all these areas of life are compartmentalized and seen as the neutral material we can fashion into something that now acts as propaganda or a conduit to get our “message” out. The idea is to baptize everything, make it “Christian,” and then try and re-market it.More than a capitulation, it is completely backwards. The entire cosmos, being created, is already infused with the Wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit, or as the Orthodox put it: “…the Spirit of truth, who is in all places and fills all things…” All cultural endeavor, work, and creativity already has within it the stamp of God’s imprint as creator, no matter to what use it may be put or if such is even recognized or believed.
It’s true as well that creation, because of rebellion, is also broken. Thus, it can certainly be put to bad ends, or be ugly and false. However, that doesn’t change the matter of its being created, declared “good,” and now redeemed, even if that redemption is both now and not yet, or eschatological.
As Sergius Bulgakov has noted, the earth is the holy grail, as it was the chalice into which Christ’s blood fell. So too, we could add, has the earth been baptized as it also drank in the water from his pierced side. To discover the grail is to look around. To wonder if something can be made “Christian,” or baptized, is to wonder about something already accomplished. The earth is the Lord’s.
Thus, we don’t need to make Christian versions of everything or to baptize every cultural work. Baptism is only for people as we follow the rest of creation. We need only produce what is good, beautiful, and honest, regardless of whether it mentions God, the divine, or carries a fish symbol. Take that which is already baptized and simply make it what it already is when fashioned out of love and spun into something good, true, and beautiful.
Even if a work is meant specifically for Christians, such is more a matter of worship and formation than a specific version of something. After all, non-Christians, atheists, and people of other faiths can also produce that which is good, beautiful, and true simply as it relates to being human and sharing this existence.
Let the other narratives mimic and compete as the market and capital wink and count their money. Christians though should rather live in the Real (As opposed to the simulacrum world created by the market) and by their work and endeavors produce that which transcends themselves, the market, place or time, and becomes a treasure for everyone.
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