Recently, the word "sacred" was in the news.
White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly lamented the fact that nothing is sacred anymore, especially in light of the brouhaha over the president's phone call to a soldier's widow.
"When I was a kid growing up," he said, "a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, was sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well."
The cynical reaction of the media to the general's remarks about the sacredness of a soldier's death only confirmed the truth of his observation. Indeed, nothing is sacred anymore in today's political climate. There is nothing that cannot be turned into talking points for the liberal agenda.
Reasons Why Nothing is Sacred
There are many reasons why nothing is sacred anymore. One of them is because the sacred discriminates. It excludes.
In its narrow sense, the sacred is anything dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God. In a broader sense, it can apply to anything that is entitled to reverence and respect.
The sacred has always had a note of exclusivity. In its narrow sense, the sacred is anything dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God. In a broader sense, it can apply to anything that is entitled to reverence and respect. The sacred evokes a sense of mystery and awe since it points to something above and beyond the person seeking to understand it.
Implicit in the rejection of the sacred is the idea that there should be no restraints for anything. It is unjust that there be anything set beyond the reach of others. It is wrong that anyone is recognized as being more than someone else.
Thus, in a society that has lost a notion of the sacred, no one stands out, no prizes are awarded, and disordered passions must never be held in check. Everyone must be equal, whatever the cost. There can be no sanctuary for any privileges. Nothing can be withheld from others. Rather, everything must be available to all.
Depriving Things of Their Mystery
Nothing is sacred anymore because things have been deprived of their mystery. To those who hate the sacred, the mere existence of mystery affirms an unknowable and superior truth that is not recognized by modern science.
That is why modernity has always had a problem with the sacred. The Enlightenment introduced the idea that the sacred, with its aura of mystery, should be replaced by human reason and empirical observation.
In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx observed the effects of this Enlightenment mentality when he wrote about capitalism's tendency to destroy the sacred. "All that is sacred must be profaned," he said. In a world where nothing is sacred, he believed life would and should be entirely de-sanctified. True to his militant atheism, Marx did not see this as a negative development but rather as something that would facilitate the condition of equality.
The suppression of the sacred comes from a denial of spiritual values and ideas that elevate humanity and teach that there are things that are more precious than life itself. That fact alone makes those things sacred.
The Desire to Be Ordinary
There is nothing sacred anymore because sacred things impose respect. People are expected to see the sacred as special. People should admire, honor, and serve all that is sacred.
Ironically, those who reject the sacred have no problem elevating their ordinariness to the status of something sacred. They are all too willing to turn profane pleasures into sacred entitlements.
It is a sacrifice that most today are unwilling to make. Instead, they want to be ordinary, and they want to surround themselves with the ordinary. To their minds, the comforts of being ordinary far outweigh the nobility of heroism. A sacred duty triggers no sympathetic resonance in the hearts of those that have opted for the unbridled pursuit of material happiness. An I-don't-want-to-be-a-hero mentality prevails.
Ironically, those who reject the sacred have no problem elevating their ordinariness to the status of something sacred. They are all too willing to turn profane pleasures into sacred entitlements. Thus, sports, entertainment, choices and consumption are considered sacred. Tragically, even some sins are made "sacred" and untouchable.
However, as society decays, even these ordinary things turned sacred begin to come under attack. Even the mild exclusiveness that these ordinary pleasures entail proves intolerable to those who hate the sacred.
Denial of the Kingship of Christ
Of course, the most radical reason why nothing is sacred is because the present culture does not recognize that there should be things dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God.
This implicit denial of the kingship of Christ over humanity logically leads to the suppression of the sacred in daily life. As Pius XI states in his encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio (1922), things will be sacred again when Jesus Christ "reassumes His rightful place as King of all men, of all states, and of all nations."
Until then, Gen. Kelly's lament will express the sentiments of those who grieve for the nation. Where God is not loved and adored, there can be no surprise that nothing else is sacred. When God and His Blessed Mother are blasphemed, as they are today, it should not be shocking that people mistreat others. Where God and his law are mocked and despised, it is only natural that morality too will be expelled from the public sphere and that society fall to unimaginable depths.
Nothing will be safe. Nothing will be stable. Nothing will be sacred anymore.
John Horvat II. "Why Nothing is Sacred Anymore." Crisis Magazine (October 25, 2017).
Reprinted with permission of Crisis Magazine.
John Horvat II is vice president and a member of the board of directors for the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). Additionally, Mr. Horvat is a member of the Association of Christian Economists, The Philadelphia Society, the National Association of Scholars, and the Catholic Writers Guild, as well as an Acton University participant. He enjoys jogging and fencing and is the author of Return to Order.Copyright © 2017 Crisis Magazine
back to top