The passage in the holy gospel about giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God establishes the distinction between the sacred and the secular.
We owe God our religion. We owe Him worship and honor, our acknowledgement of how immeasurably greater He is than we are. God transcends all time and space; His wisdom excels the intelligence of any human mind. We use our little minds to try to govern as wisely as we can the things that we can control. Meanwhile, we recognize with faith that God alone governs all things.
Some people distinguish sacred and secular as idealistic vs. practical. But, actually, religion involves the utmost practicality. The sphere of the sacred is the most immediate and real sphere. God is always closer to us even than we are to ourselves.
But religion isn’t everything. We also have to serve God by exercising practicality in the short-term matters of day-to-day life. Developing and exercising skills, communicating honestly, confronting the practical problems that we human beings have, living together here on earth.
Later this week I will head north to attend my 25th college reunion. They call us Generation X.
How have we done, we Gen-Xers, when it comes to solving secular problems practically?
Well: During the 1980’s, the US worked on solving the problem of black-white racism. And we find ourselves working on it now. In the 1980’s we debated abortion, and we debate it now. In the 1980’s we debated immigration and naturalization policy. And we debate it now.
The 1992 election involved the question of North-American free trade. So did the 2016 election. In the 1980’s, scientists developed a solution to the problems posed by greenhouse-gas emissions. And it remains a highly disputed point. Our national health-care system needed fixing in 1993. And in 2017.
We had riots because of police brutality in 1992. And in 2014. Muslim terrorists left the world speechless in 1972. And in 2001. And in 2015.
My point is: we have gone in circles, like Frodo and Sam lost in the rocky wilderness. The verdict on Generation X, after a quarter century of influencing the course of world events: impractical.
We lose our practicality in secular matters when we get confused about the sacred sphere. Mankind will worship someone or something. If it’s someone or something other than God, then we expect something secular to have divine power. That leads to consummate impracticality.
In my opinion, my generation has gone in circles because we have worshiped…computers. We have imagined that the internet, good programming, and laptops for everyone could solve the problems of the world, by some mystical power which Steve Jobs wielded as high priest.
But computers do not have the power to bless the earth. Only God has the power to bless the earth.