Since converting to Christianity when I was seventeen, it's been obvious to me that Christian faith should apply to all of life. In fact, it seems so obvious and fundamental that it has never occurred to me that it is something that needs to be stated. That may be one reason why I am suspicious of people who feel the need to state it constantly.
I became a Christian in the context of the Jesus movement in the late 1980s. By then nearly all the hippies who had been the impetus behind the movement had traded in their Volkswagen vans for BMWs and had become yuppies, but the movement still emphasized the importance of taking the Bible and its claims about Jesus seriously. The prevalent ethos reflected Protestant, charismatic/pentecostal values, including a social notion of holiness as defined by one's lack of participation in conventional no-nos. For instance, no rock music, no drinking alcohol, no bad language -- you get the idea.
I read through the entire Bible three times a year in those early days, whether at church (where the sermons went through the Bible verse-by-verse in chronological order), Bible studies on tape, or on my own. When not going to church or reading the Bible, both my peers and me felt it was our responsibility to evangelize and witness to others. Christianity wasn't something anyone was just doing on the weekends.
Although my understanding changed as I moved towards Reformed Calvinism, then a brief sojourn in Reformed Episcopalianism (the first five or six years), and finally my reception into the Eastern Orthodox Church (the last twenty years), I always took my faith seriously. The idea that one could compartmentalize one's life into the sacred and the secular never even occurred to me, nor have I really ever known any serious Christian who thinks that way, or who would make such a claim.
I have always understood that being a Christian is not akin to belonging to a club, or just something one does on Sunday, or that it is some kind of addition one adds on to her life in the same way you might take up a hobby. Nor have I ever thought that Christianity is something that pertains only to my "spiritual life" but not to my everyday "secular life." Frankly, I have never known anyone who really thinks that way.
Sure, there are all kinds of people who do not live totally consistently with what they believe, including all of us and me too, but rarely would anyone say this is because they are just Christians in their "spiritual lives" so its okay to be drunks or racists or slum lords or whatever in their "secular lives." People just don't make those kinds of distinctions.
So why is there so much of an emphasis in some quarters on making the distinction, as though sin and human folly is rooted in bad ideas rather than in the disorder of the human soul?
I think there is perhaps an unconscious but certainly an unspoken agenda at play. This is best reflected, for me, in the work and emphasis of the late Francis A. Schaeffer, whom I followed before my conversion to the Orthodox Church, but it can be found in Orthodoxy as well.
More than twenty years ago, I read the multi-colored five volume set by Schaeffer multiple times, and my copies were heavily underlined and notated. I had plans to attend L'Abri, the organization he founded, before being sidetracked by Orthodoxy. His main emphases were presuppositional apologetics, and in relation to that, the Lordship of Jesus Christ permeating into every area of life. The latter idea relates to my point here.
In Schaeffer's later work, he heavily emphasized the fact that the kingdom of God refers to the authority God has over all creation, and how as Christians we are responsible to submit to his Lordship not only in our "spiritual lives," but in all other areas of life as well. So far, so good, but there is nothing controversial here. What Christian would ever claim otherwise?
His next couple of logical steps, however, should cause anyone to be suspicious. He formulates Christian faith in a context of a culture war, conflating "spiritual warfare" with the construction of political issues.
This results in at least two errors:
1) it suggests an authoritarian mission, wherein the Christian task is to either convert others or otherwise coerce not only non-Christians, but entire institutions, to submit to our ethics and rules. The submission of all of creation to Christ is won through brute theocratic force; and
2) it replaces the dogmatic Christian witness of the Gospel -- the good news of Jesus Christ -- with the false construct of overly-simplistic black-and-white binary "issues" that are now used by politicians to polarize constituencies.
Complex, nuanced, multi-faceted and difficult social problems become stark, two-sided war zones, and if you fall on the wrong side, your faith and conversion may be questioned.
Rather than offering the whole world back to God eucharistically, the entire project rather provokes Christians and their efforts towards carnality.
Rather than understanding the Christian struggle as one of personal sanctification through humility and prayer, wrestling with our thoughts and against demonic powers, it is seen as being one that is primarily poised against people who are on the other side of the false construct, or people who are not like us. Schaeffer was a huge proponent, based upon his extremely flawed caricature of history and art, of the bogey-man of "secular humanism," for instance, which is of course filled with evil people who are out to get us. The enemy takes on a human face, and is always someone other than us.
The impact Schaeffer made served the ambitions of others who were perhaps more politically motivated than he was. But his project remains as one of the basic primers for the religious right today.
Others, such as "kingdom now" dominion teachers or Reconstructionists, use or append his work, but it is largely reflected today in an Evangelicalism that is willing to support someone like Donald Trump because he fights for their "values" (based on the false constructs of "issues") even if he is personally not by any historical definition of the word anywhere near to being someone who shows us what it means to be a Christian.
The effort to "make Jesus Lord over every area of life" is definitely the root of political circus acts such as evidenced in Trump, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and others. Christian identity has easily turned into a cultural and political matter rather than a sacramental one.
The basic error is to suggest that we must make some sort of effort, whether personal or political, to make Jesus the Lord over every area of life. The Christian doctrine is that Jesus is already Lord, and that his victory was won through his self-emptying through the incarnation, and his submission to the suffering of the cross, as well as his resurrection.
The problem with seeking to "make him Lord" over every area of life is that it suggests an imposition, a use of force and coercion externally. But that isn't what Christ calls us to in the Beatitudes. The sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes offer a far better way to show us how to live as Christians, and what our relationship to the world should look like.
Our mission is not to become overlords in a Christian empire, but to transform the world from the inside out through our poverty, through our hunger and thirsting for positive justice, through mourning, through meekness, through mercy, through purity of heart, and through peacemaking.
That's why I am often suspicious of teaching that emphasizes the reality that there is no partition between secular life and spiritual life, or in fact that reality is not so divided in the first place. While this is no doubt true, it does not justify coercing others to submit to our interpretation of Christian tradition, our rules and norms and canons, all of which as Orthodox were written in the context of the Church to the Church and for the Church.
Our call and witness to the world is to become peacemakers. The Beatitudes reveal the path towards that end.