I use them term not in a perjorative sense, as to ridicule those who actually do have sacred cows such as in the Hindu tradtion. This is simply a figure of speech, which with all due respect to our fellow human beings who are Hindu, or some other tradition which may do the same, is simply a way of signifying the worship of anything less than God. Of course I refer to God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I do think of the calf Aaron and the people of Israel made for worship when Moses was up on the mountain. Which Moses promptly destroyed when he came down.
What keeps us from obeying and following Christ? One major factor: sacred cows. We all can have them. They’re all over the land.
We know we’ve hit a nerve concerning a sacred cow when another follower in Jesus won’t interact with us, or won’t discuss a certain issue, because it is their sacred cow that is at stake. Or when something can’t be challenged. It is right, period. End of story. No room for questions, or discussion.
I find this part of the problem this political season in the United States. I don’t know so much how it plays out among politicians, though American politics is a lot about strategy which in the best case scenario is a part of wisdom in helping others see and be persuaded by their position. Too often though it seems to mean digging in one’s heels and seeing one’s view as nonnegotiable, because it is right on a level which equals the Bible.
In theology we can do the same. I hold to a Christian pacifist view, and am persuaded by it. However I don’t do well if I refuse to take seriously a Christian just war position, or other positions which have been held, as well. Especially when the majority have held such views. Of course majority doesn’t mean it’s right, but it should give one pause enough to know that good people will have differences, and to hear out just how such differences are held.
When we spot a sacred cow, it must come down. But that doesn’t mean what good we held to when we had that idol needs to be given up. There likely is something of truth somewhere to be found in all such traditions. We then do well to find it, hold on to it, and let the rest go, certainly the sacred cow itself.
And we do well to live well with our differences when that’s done. Because even though those particular sacred cows may be gone, what is left may put us in different positions. For example my brother in Christ may enter the military with good conscience, while I would not do so with good conscience. And yet we can love each other and accept each other fully as brothers in Christ, because our faith is intact and our worship full and free, as to what we are doing. And we both do so with the utmost humility that somehow our brother may be right in some way, even while we hold to the understanding we have.
Could I make an idol out of Christian pacifism, or my understanding of that? Of course I could. So that those who don’t follow it are in my view doing something less than following God. This is tricky, because I still will want to persuade my just war Christian friends, even as they would like to persuade me. We have to acknowledge that Christians have followed Christ with good conscience on both sides, and in a sense, let it go at that. Same is true with whatever political stand one takes.
But the main point of this post is that we need to ask ourselves just what sacred cow we are holding on to. What idol, what thing which we think is indispensable for being right, good, the best. And let it go, realizing that there is only one who is good, and that he will help us put first things first, worship him, doing so together in Jesus for the world.
This is a kind of open ended post, dealing with a most challenging subject. This is always true on this blog, but I especially invite response here, to help us think through this better.