~ The Language of the Goats and Sheep ~
In AD 1014, Basil II of Constantinople ended the Forty Years War against the Bulgarian ruler, Samuel. He sent a message to Samuel telling him to get ready to receive his army of 15,000 that Basil had been holding as prisoners. Before releasing them, Basil had 150 of the prisoners of war blinded in one eye. The rest of the 15,000 had both eyes gouged out. The 150 of one-eyed soldiers each led 100 of their blind compatriots to their homeland. Samuel rejoiced to welcome home his army, only to incur a stroke, dying two days later, upon beholding the horrific sight of thousands of his warriors blind, helpless and despairing.
Today we grow disheartened by the half-blind world leadership leading totally blind, in mind and spirit, agents of their will and power. The Founding Fathers of the United States were brilliant statesmen, and fearful of democracy. Jefferson wrote much about the need for “informed discretion” in a literate, thinking, educated populace. Jefferson and colleagues knew government is a treacherous master which had to be owned by an informed, fully-sighted people who could protect themselves against what could easily become a one-eyed beast.
Consequently the founders designed a republic with “checks and balances” through three distinct branches, and even the third, legislative, was divided into 2 branches. The President would not be chosen by the people, but by an “Electoral College” of trusted and informed representatives chosen by the people. The American experiment was to be a collective of united and distinct, self-governing states, each with its own militia and autonomy. The federal government's main purpose was to maintain state unity by the election of citizen representatives and to secure the states from threats and attacks by other nations.
When the founders spoke of the necessity of a free press, they were talking about the thoughtful discourse in their gazettes, pamphlets and news journals (like our now very tiny “editorial pages”), not pornography or swim suit sports magazines. What they did not talk about was “separation of church and state.” They did constitutionally mandate that the government will not dictate the people's religious choice; there would be no national religion; the government will not interfere with the people's establishment of their religious practices. And that is a good thing.
However, there never has been “separation of church [spiritual practice] and state.” The Senate and House has official paid chaplains as does the military. Prayers are said on Capitol Hill and in the White House and the divine is referenced on our money, pledges, swearing-ins, and in our national music. The state approves church and temple buildings and agree on tax exemptions. The “church” relieves the government of a great deal of burdens through its social ministries. And church and state are always in litigation over power over something. There is a tremendous amount of partnership between church and state.
But we must speak the church's language. For example, instead of music as a subject, state schools teach “music appreciation.” Instead of arithmetic (a word you don't hear in classrooms much anymore,) “Consumer Education” now attempts to teach how to balance your check book. Instead of anthropology, history, literature, we teach “Cultural Appreciation,” using folk songs and tasty snacks. An “A” grade is not what you get for performing superior work, but for just getting your worksheet done and in on time. Uninformed opinions and fleeting feelings are sacred because they are “self-expressions” while the wisdom (and authoritative at that) of the great individual thinkers of the past 3000 years are not taught. (Remember how the people “were amazed” at the words of Jesus “that were taught with authority, not like the Scribes and Pharisees.”)
“Appreciation” and “awareness” cannot be measured, which is an advantage to schools. So students get a “A” for participating enthusiastically or a “D” for being disinterested or critical of the “subject.” Eyes that see well may see “ideology” replacing education or “informed discernment.” Schools are increasingly grading conformity to ideology instead of subject knowledge achievement. Teach the religion, language, history and literature of a culture and the students will tell you how much they appreciate it.
Language can create beautiful, feel-good images. The brain, however, thinks in language. The brain also fires images, many of which are random, disconnected and even distracting or disconcerting. Thinking is the brain's way to discern the worth and utility of waking and sleeping imagery. We then must teach thinking as a way of discernment.
Schools have indeed “clarified” the “values” of its students. Disrespect of life, property and personhood must be a value since it has increased over the last few decades. As a value, “non-violence” must not have been “clarified” enough since it certainly isn't the practice of students or schooled world leaders. Many oppressive regimes and laws have been crushed by the calculated practice of non-violent strategies. Maybe we forgot how to do it because instead of history we teach “social studies.” Our country didn't start falling into moral decay because “we took prayer and God out of schools.” Prayer and God will always be present in our schools and anywhere His children walk. Our churches must not concede defeat. Let's watch our language.
I just read a description of a “spiritual seminar” that promises to “explore the fundamental tenants of diverse religions which will lead participants to a heightened consciousness of inclusivity and mutual embracement of hearts.” Never mind whether you would be interested or attracted to this seminar. Just examine the language with wise discernment. How does one “explore” tenants and who will lead this exploration? More importantly, the goal is not an understanding of diverse religions (which I personally value) but rather it is “a heightened consciousness.” Who can promise to deliver that? That's not, however, the intended outcome in itself, for this consciousness must be one of “inclusivity and mutual embracement of hearts,” whatever that means. And who decided this to be a valued outcome? If I dissent, am I then a low consciousness elitist who is against the outcome of embracing hearts and for the propagation of hate and intolerance? Be assured I am not.
This description was written by a Christian mainstream denomination, by the way. It sounds good, feels good, and creates a wonderful image. But it's the same language of secular college course descriptions. If our churches keep talking like that, Lady Wisdom will be trampled underfoot, the narrow gate will be blasted wide open, martyrdom and self-forsakenness will be unenlightened behavior, the authoritative words of Christ will no longer be a marvel, and His sacred body and blood just a heroic image and nothing more than that.
Like the tares (weeds) and the wheat, the goats and sheep fill the fields. Jesus said He'll wait to separate them. Until then, there really should not be any confusion. Just listen with thoughtful, informed discernment. They speak very different languages. The world and the church have different masters. The church is the Bride of Christ. They speak the language of love to one another. This language is not deceptive and does not call what is good, evil, nor what is evil, good. Like a beautiful and fragrant flower, this language lovingly beckons the world to come into the Bride of Christ.
Christ never told the world to come and respect and appreciate Him. And He, or we, are not flattered by those that do, He tells the world to come and rest in Him, to dwell in Him, to join His marriage feast to His bride.
We must not let the language of our Lord become a dead one that even His children don't use or remember anymore.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © January 11, 2003
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