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I just watched a movie called Bobby about the assassination of Robert Kennedy.  I was in eighth grade when this tragedy occurred.  I remember that awful era in our nation’s history – the Viet Nam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of drug use, campus unrest, the Cold War.  Hatred was being flung in all directions while free love was the mantra of flower children and hippies.  Authority was questioned.  Materialism was rejected.  Altered reality was embraced.

I especially remember the racial bigotry.  I lived in an all-white neighborhood.  It was in the County of Los Angeles, but our little burg was sheltered from those “others.”  I didn’t see a lot of the hatred in my town because there was really no one to hate.  We were all the same.  You gotta love that.  But we could see the Watts Riots on our local TV stations, and we knew they were just a few miles away.  Fear set in.  They were close.  Too close.

I take comfort in knowing that our nation has come a long way in our racial sophistication.  We embrace multi-culturalism, and if we don’t, we know enough to act the part.  At least in polite company.  Am I right?  We are not driven by that fear anymore, no sir-ee.  We know better.  We are an evolved society.  Bravo!

That was 40 years ago.  But I wonder:  what will characterize our present age?  40 years from now, how will folks remember us?  Are we tolerant and peaceful?  Do we love our neighbor?  Here’s what I think, and I’d welcome your thoughts:  We’re still a nation motivated by fear and disgust, only now we play in the arena of ideals.  We don’t hate because of race but because of creed, be it political, religious, or moral.  At best, we are suspicious of other religions (or no religion) , intolerant of Democrats (and Republicans), and are well-equipped for name-calling when it comes to social issues like abortion, homosexuality, or welfare recipients.

I’m not advocating that we set aside our beliefs and settle for an anything-goes society.  I hope that we can be passionate in our convictions and express them freely.  What I’m calling for is respect.  I want to listen and be listened to.  I don’t want to hear haughtiness or ridicule.  We’re better than that.  We who lived through the 60’s never thought it would get any better, and it did.  But we’re not done.  There’s still work to do.

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We like to put things into categories, don’t we?  It makes us feel safe and comfortable.  It makes us feel like we are in control if we can identify where something belongs or where things come from.  We don’t like to think of anything as random.  That’s awkward and poses too many unanswerable questions.

We have a category for friends and another for family.  We have one for work and one for play.  Some things are important while others are trivial.  Some movies are dramatic and others comedic. We have free time and we have schedules.

So I pose the question:  Is there also room for a distinction between sacred and secular?  Some things are a matter of faith while others are scientific, right?   The manger is religious and Santa is fun.  Praying is sacred and playing is secular. Sunday morning belongs to God and Monday ushers us back into the real world.  Or so we think.  But how do we categorize kindness or beauty or celebration?  Are they done by reason or by inspiration?  How does work fit into these lists?  Or money?  Or our homes?  Where are we to draw the line?

Let’s imagine for a moment that the categories have different names.  Or better yet, let’s imagine there is no line at all.  The first thing we have to do is take a careful look at our columns and then – erase the line between them.  There is no secular.  There is no sacred.  It’s all one category.  It’s called life.

Now admittedly, not all things in life are good, and much of it is downright evil.  There is regret and there is slander, there is injustice and arrogance, hatred and greed.  What do we do with these?  Are we to call these life as well?  Certainly they are within the experience of each one of us, but there is a very important distinction which must be made:  there is a category called sin and it is not to be minimized.  But here’s the liberating thing – if it’s not sin, it’s life, and life is OK!

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