A few days ago I read about a Hollywood celebration in which a well known television personality who – while accepting a coveted award for her talent – made fun of Jesus Christ by stating he had nothing to do with her success. Presumably, she was mimicking previous recipients of the award who customarily express their gratitude to the Deity for their accomplishments. More joltingly, this famous individual cast her comments in what she, no doubt, considered an amusingly vulgar context.
As an old song puts it: “She is more to be pitied than censured.” To ignore, let alone lampoon, the sacred is foolish. Isn’t it Proverbs that tells us the fool says in his heart that there is no God? Foolishness here isn’t lack of intelligence; rather it’s moral lassitude or, worse, a philosophy of meaninglessness. What satisfaction or fulfillment can there be in a life without purpose?
Respect for the sacred and its myriad manifestations are universal. To deny its reality is to be duped by seductive nihilism, to succumb to the cowardly belief that because there are no standards of Truth, Beauty and Goodness no such standards apply. It is the first step on the downward spiral to perdition. Indeed, to ignore the sacred is unnatural and abnormal. Created in the image of God each of us has within a divine spark which shines more brightly with each sacred encounter. We become more fully alive.
Perhaps the reference here to perdition is not inappropriate. Hell is self-imposed. It is self-imposed exile from relationship and the willful separation from community governed by shared and revered standards. We who go there condemn ourselves.
One wonders how a nation such as ours would survive were we to abandon our sense of the sacred – a sense so firmly enshrined in our founding documents.
The television personality mentioned above may think her sacrilegious mockery is nouvelle. It isn’t. Roman soldiers indulged in it two millennia ago with a purple robe and a crown of thorns.
The sacred has endured.
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.