Magazine article Tikkun

Spirituality or Sanctity?

Magazine article Tikkun

Spirituality or Sanctity?

Article excerpt

Is there anything, at the moment, that spirituality does not or could not mean as long as it supports spirit over flesh and individual needs or desires over social systems or structures? But how, exactly, in such a situation, do you distinguish between spirituality and sentimentality or, indeed, between spirituality and Prozac?

I propose here to bracket the very term "spirituality" and to use another one with a more precise definition. That alternative term is "sanctity," that state in which the human will is in union with its God. I have no presumption that spirituality is bad and sanctity is good. But spirituality is now over-extended into meaninglessness and it might be helpful to start again with a new word. (Actually, I would define spirituality in exactly the same way as I did sanctity, but let that go for the moment.) By using the term sanctity, the focus is shifted immediately and initially to one's God. The question is this: What is the character of your God? Our sanctity, after all, could make us but the killer children of a Killer God.

There are constitutive events or documents that make us who we are and there are even core moments or phrases within them that become normative criteria for all the rest. Such moments or phrases may, whether we like it or not, come home to haunt us. And it seems quite fair to privilege them so that attendant elements are interpreted and judged by them rather than the reverse. "All men are created equal" is one such permanent challenge. And if, on a more personal level, you tell me that you never lie, I will judge you and all else you ever say by that admission. As I read the Bible of both Judaism and Christianity, such a privileged text is Psalm Eighty-two.

This psalm presents us with a magnificently and serenely mythological scene as God sits down in heavenly council to judge the gods ruling the nations here below. The divine CEO meets with upper management to discuss downsizing. But, in this case, downsizing means that they are all fired for malpractice in office, for mismanagement of earth. "You are," God concedes, "gods, children of the Most High, all of you," but you will now be allowed to die just like mortal princes. The indictment is as clear as the judgment. You have "judged unjustly and shown partiality to the wicked" or, more precisely, you have failed to "give justice to the weak and the orphan, to maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute, to rescue the weak and the needy, and to deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Therefore, God has taken personal charge to insure justice for the nations of the earth. …

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