We Know the Shrine is Void: Sacralizing the Status Quo

I had a friend that once was going in a different direction -- a radical one.  The life they were pursuing was selfless and Kingdom-oriented and hard and unpopular.  Their family and many normal people opposed them.  Then, something happened and they changed course.  Recently, I was talking with this friend and listening to their description of their job and life.  They felt happy, content.  The job was easy and they had friends.  Their family life was good.  They had just bought things like a car and a house.  They had cute little children running around.  We didn't talk about the past -- about what they once said they wanted to be and do.  As I listened I felt discouraged as I realized that I had nothing at all to say that could "tempt" them back to the radical path.  If comfort and contentment are what you want and the Kingdom is no longer interesting to you, I simply don't know how to compete.

And then I think about how the Church basically celebrates this kind of life anyway -- sacralizes it through media and books and bad movies and ridiculous Christian book stores and endless pats on the back and retweets of all the right things.

Years ago I stood in a field in Memphis and heard preacher-types tell a bunch of young people (I was one of them) to go and be martyrs for the sake of the Lord Jesus.  They didn't tell us not to take them too seriously -- which, I think, in retrospect is what they might have meant.  I did take them seriously and its a bit too late to turn back now.  I have often felt like Peter in John 6 after the Jesus had alienated thousands of people with a really weird sermon that seemed to be about canabalism -- "Where are we going to go, Jesus?" 

I read somewhere recently the phrase "sacralizers of the status quo".  I don't recall from where I read it, but it stuck.  I've been mulling it over and find it almost haunting me.  Then, I turned to Kipling (which I do sometimes when I can't sleep) and read this:

L'Envoi (Departmental Ditties)

The smoke upon your Altar dies,
    The flowers decay,
The Goddess of your sacrifice
     Has flown away.
What profit then to sing or slay
The sacrifice from day to day.

"We know the Shrine is void," they said,
     "The Goddess flown --
"Yet wreaths are on the altar laid --
     "The Altar-Stone
"Is black with fumes of sacrifice,
"Albeit She has fled our eyes.

"For it may be, if still we sing
     "And tend the Shrine,
"Some Deity on wandering wing
     "May there incline;
"And, finding all in order meet,
"Stay while we worship at Her feet."

I know the scene of Kipling's poem both in the literal and metaphorical sense -- as did he.  There is little difference between the two in terms of their danger and appeal.  Keeping up the cult of an absconded deity is much easier than going after the Living One.  Keeping up the vanity of the status quo is much easier than trying to change the world -- and nearly everyone else knows it!  And once someone or many people have decided upon the status quo as the preferred thing -- and then developed a means for sacralizing it through innoculizing spurts of activism, religious sentiment, and first world theologizing -- well, it is very difficult to drag someone away from that Altar.  Very difficult indeed.

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