top of page
  • Writer's pictureJM Zabick

Mimicking (in the Hopes of Manufacturing) the Sacred

Cutting the Anchor Line on True Religion and the Loss of Meaning, Beauty, Awe, and Wonder

The depth, beauty, and meaning of the sacred is located in the ontological reality of what it means to BE sacred. That is to say the substance of what is sacred is also substantively meaningful and beautiful.

Why? Precisely because the sacred is also something authentically divine. And that substantive connection, in turn, informs us as to why something is sacred to begin with—and why the sacred is truly hallowed.

The sacred is something gifted to us from God … already ripe with meaning and beauty at a depth that is beyond our human ability to adequately define intellectually or spiritually.

In this regard, sacredness is metaphysical. That means it is beyond (meta) the realm of what is physically, naturally, materially possible. Therefore, sacredness cannot be manufactured by secular means, any more than we can manufacture divinity.

This is where awe and wonder naturally exist in the Christian Religion. Or, I am compelled to say, at least where awe and wonder should exist.

I say “should” because so much of Christianity has virtually forfeit the sacred. In an effort to demonize “religion” the sacredness of true religion itself has been demeaned. And there is, as a result, hardly any meaning or beauty to be found where the so-called “religion-free” religious have nothing sacred drawing them into awe and wonder.

This has left sizable portions of the Christian community (especially in the modern West) trying to manufacture what it simply cannot—the beauty and deep meaning of the sacred.

Still, they try, however, by secular means, to construct a substantive connection with the Divine, by way of imitation.

This effort is destined to yield little, but a mimic … a mimic that passes attraction off for deep, beautiful meaning … and mistakes energy and excitement for awe and wonder.

Several weeks ago, I saw a piece on a contemporary “mega” Christian community on the West Coast. It was not about the “worship” team per se, but at one point they briefly cut into the pre-service warm-up and sound check happening on the arena size concert stage. The highly polished “worship” leader was instructing the team, saying “And this is where we need to start building the energy up, over the last two repetitions of the chorus. Then we're gonna bust into the chorus of [some song] at full force … it'll be hype."

From there, the documentary moved on with the topic it was aimed at, but a few minutes later, they cut back to the performance, and “they” (the audience) were indeed going crazy. It was truly "hype." And it was truly scripted.

Engineered hype, passed over as worship.

Circle around to this past week, when my son was confronted with a similar experience, and I am confident moving on in this piece under the claim that this approach to praise and worship is not anomaly.

It makes me (at first blush) rather angry and disgusted. But getting passed that, I believe it is mostly (more than anything) sad. Tragic, in fact. For it forcefully punctuates just how far this sort of religion has drifted, since it cut anchor with the sacred.

That sadness has lingered too, plaguing me with a question: “Do I really want people I love and value (like of course my son) exposed to that?”

Maybe I’m naïve, but I faithfully doubt these sorts of strategies emerge from a sinister place. On the contrary, I believe they come from an honest sense of wanting God desperately. Yet, at the same time, I cannot help but believing the execution (unwittingly) pushes Him away.

Can the secular ever pave us an avenue to the sacred?

Thus, to rephrase the question: “Is this more likely to draw folks to, or distance them from, God?”

I guess it depends, in an individual sense, on which side the irony coin lands. But when a 16-year-old boy has the discernment to see it as nothing more than contrivance, then ... well ... yeah.

What is clear, in this moment, is that we simply are not observing the sacred being manufactured by way of such means. And I don’t think we’re going to.

No matter how exceptional the sound system is, how many tens of thousands are dropped on state-of-the-art concert lighting and effects, how polished and performative the worship is …

… or even if they literally (seriously happened) manufacture rain, during “Let it Rain" …

... meaning and beauty will never be arrived at, via such tactics. Creating a spectacle will not render something awe inspiring.

To the point then, enthusiasm does not mean that substance is close. No matter how attractive something may be, it does not mean beauty is behind it. No matter how fine the props may be, sacredness will remain elusive.

The church cannot polish and perform its way to living in the wondrousness of the Divine. Read God's indictment of his people in the opening chapters of Isaiah if you'd like it from the voice of authority.

My concern, and reason for writing, is the danger present in insisting that if the church continues such commercial strategies, it somehow can relocate the sacred. No matter how sincere the heart may be, this is a sense grounded in a condition of inherited misguidedness.

And despite the ontological sacredness of its true religion, this mimic projects the image, outward, that Christianity is desperately trite. Sadly, for many Christians it is.

While it is tempting (and common) to blame the great "falling away," that has resulted, on the siren song of "the world," the more likely culprit is that adherents (especially of the younger generations) are simply wisening up to the façade. When they pull back the curtain, to see what is behind the projection, they cannot help but feel duped and disenfranchised. Is it any wonder they walk? Hence, my question above.

So, is there a fix?

Yes, there is. But it involves a process that is not so easily spelled out, much less lived out. Still, it is a process that can only begin with a single realization.

Drawing from my own experiences, the only way to come to that realization, is to accept that using how “charged up” we are left feeling as the barometer for the proximity of the sacred in worship is what’s truly impairing us, spiritually speaking.

That's step one.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page