John Livingston

Reverence My Sanctuary

My family and I belonged for many years to St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth Virginia. Founded in 1804. The Gothic structure survived fires, battles from two wars (1812 and our Civil War), provided sanctuary for slaves seeking their freedom, and served as a hospital in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

I was disappointed to find out from a friend that a large sign over the back of the front door had been replaced. It read REVERENCE MY SANCTUARY. The words I believe come from Leviticus 19. Sanctuary is a holy place. In the Old Testament the word “miqda” implies a physical space distinctly different from the secular and profane. It is a place for prayer, worship and in the Old Testament Sacrifice.

In the New Testament, the word is interpreted as a refuge. It doesn’t have to be a physical place. There are places in the New Testament where Jesus refers to Himself metaphorically as a sanctuary. For me, my sanctuary is any place where I can put my heart at rest, where the sanctuary of my spirit can be connected to God. I believe my sanctuary is within me and each of us has our own sanctuary.

I thought about this today when I listened to Mr. Bundy talk on the radio. He is obviously a devout God-fearing courageous man, who I am sure has found in his heart his own Sacred place and sanctuary, but what Christian Conservatives fail to understand is that the reverence we give to the sanctuaries in our hearts, are a different place than where secular humanists pay homage.

Their sanctuaries are in material things. Money, fame, prestige, power, celebrity, a Federal Building, or a school or a football field. We can approach what people have called the Great Cultural Divide by watching what, how, and who people worship, and by what kind of a moral standard they hold themselves accountable to. Where is their sanctuary? In the US Capital, a law book, a financial transaction, or a trip to Las Vegas?

To the humanist, the bar is set low because they make their own rules, and the rules can be changed often. The moral standard is transactional and diaphanous. They often hold those of a different moral persuasion in contempt. The spiritual sanctuaries that many Christians seek are in places that secular humanists don’t understand or respect. This is what underlies the great cultural divide between believers and non-believers.

Both Aquinas and C. S. Lewis have called these two places “The Two Kingdoms”. Calvin and Luther also wrote about “The Two Kingdom Theory”. The order of the world must be respected. To be sure the ruler of the world is Jesus and one day earthly institutions will pass. In the meantime, we Christians must remember to “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” Luke 20:25.

When Mr. Bundy confronted civil authorities in a nonphysical but disrespectful way, he should have understood the rules of the game. A legal system that was founded on a Biblical and Natural Law foundation has evolved—depending on the players, into a process that is used for political leverage. For secular humanist lawyers their sanctuary is in power and not so much in justice and mercy. Virtues of justice, prudence, mercy, and courage are replaced with revenge and political retribution.

Going forward a rule for everyone—especially Christian Conservatives should be “Don’t Court Favor, but don’t Poke the Bear”. When a policeman says stop—stop. Show respect even if you don’t like him. If you receive a warrant—address, it— ASAP. Show up in court and be respectful of all parties—especially the judge and especially if you think they are out to get you—maybe they are but that isn’t the point. Just because you may answer to a higher power and you believe they are disrespecting that power, doesn’t mean that you should retaliate. Respect for one’s enemies is the same as “loving your enemy” —almost. Even your enemy is made in God’s image.

“While Jesus refused to answer the Jews’ question about his authority, realizing that they knew well where his authority came from, he demonstrated that his kingdom is not in inherent conflict with the institutions of the world—whether government or the family—because it is of another age. To be sure, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Math 28:18, and one day these earthly institutions will pass away (1Cor7). In the meantime, the order of the world continues. Therefore “render unto Cesar the things that are Cesars, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).”

It has come to the point where the two “sanctuaries” stand like redoubts postured and digging in and always ready to withstand an onslaught from the opposition and waiting for the right time for themselves to attack.

Tolerance is not acceptance, Reverence is a two-way street, Respect begets respect, Hate begets hate. Please—”Reverence my Sanctuary.”

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