Yes, I'm still here. Just ended up taking a bit of a break. Work was particularly hectic. Family life too. A lot more on my plate than normal. Something had to give. Eventually I had to push the pause button on blogging for a while. That is over now. I'm back at it.
Taking a step back from every day responsibilities and routines is deeply entrenched in Christian culture. Jesus took breaks to spend time alone in prayer with his Heavenly Father. He encouraged others to do the same. Throughout the ages, Christians have periodically taken a step out of the hussle and bussle of the world for spiritual renewal and reflection. Those of us who tend to be more like Martha need to follow Mary's example, at least sometimes.
Taking those breaks can be helpful on many levels. Our weary souls need a little R&R sometimes. But those breaks to listen to the Holy Spirit can also lead to epiphanies, both great and small.
During my time away from blogging, I read and listened to a lot of perspectives. I was exposed to a lot of information relevant to the focus of this blog. I believe I had at least a few epiphanies while I was away. Some are going to shape the focus of this blog in the future.
For example, I had some time to get back to why I wanted to start this blog. During my lifetime, I had been perplexed by the use of Jesus's name and teaching in secular politics and in the shaping of public policy.
My first exposure to this was in the late 1970s. Ronald Reagan was divorced, rarely went to church and was passionately devoted to his wife, who was an ardent follower of astrology. Yet he was embraced so vigorously by the "Religious Right." He was touted by many as a president with "Christian values." This was particularly perplexing to me because they embraced him over Jimmy Carter, who has tried hard throughout his life to integrate his faith and his politics. You may not agree with his politics in all cases, but he did seem to be walking the walk, not just talking the talk. I found Mr. Carter's efforts to use diplomacy over militarism in keeping with the teachings of the Prince of Peace. His concern for the poor seemed to reflect the thrust of much of the Bible, which emphasizes economic vulnerability over and over again. Yet I still don't understand where the Bible says anything that remotely endorses increasing military spending, tax cuts and trickle down economics. I've read and thought about these issues a lot. I just don't see any Biblical support for these political issues.
Then the use of Jesus for political gain seemed to reach fever pitch in the 2000s. Based on what I've read, I do believe that George W. Bush had a meaningful conversion experience in mid-life that saved him from a life of drunken debauchery. But with all due respect, his political life has not shown much evidence of his conversion. As governor of Texas, he oversaw a racist, error-ridden capital punishment apparatus, which he made no effort to fix. He apparently lied when he told us that he reviewed each case carefully before determining whether or not to intervene. It turns out he had no interest in more than cursory reviews; human life was not important enough. As president, he took us into two disastrous wars that were of questionable legitimacy or utility. Misinformation and the use of fear enabled him to take us into those wars. Because of his policies, thousands of civilians have been displaced or killed. He has created power vacuums in which the already vulnerable in society lead an even more perilous existence. During his reign, we came to use torture--TORTURE--against our supposed enemies. Instead of being a leader on human rights and setting an example for others to follow, we joined the ranks of rogue nations like Iran and the People's Republic of China. Finally, to win reelection after all these horrors, Mr. Bush and his political cronies demonized gay people because homophobia apparently entices many to the polls in critical swing states. In sum, Mr. Bush's political legacy is based on a lack of honesty, fear-mongering and disregard for human life. I don't believe any of that is grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I grew up inside the Beltway. I'm not politically naïve. I know full well that politicians embellish, stretch the truth and outright lie. Those are sad realities. But when you go exploiting the Son of Man to achieve earthly political power, that is where I have to draw a line. I find that deeply offensive, more than I can even put into words. Blasphemy is the only word to describe it.
But politicians get away with that only because Christians let them. Shame on us if we fail to study God's word, to really dig deep for ourselves and try to understand it. Shame on us if instead we let ourselves be duped by politicians who use the name of Jesus Christ to convince us to campaign for issues that have no grounding in Biblical teaching, but have everything to do with exaggerating plutocratic trends that are destroying our nation. Shame on anyone who uses Jesus's blessed name to justify cutting the rates on capital gains, eliminating estate taxes on the wealthy or opposing meaningful efforts to protect God's creation. If you support those political positions, that is fine by me. But don't you dare use my Savior to justify those positions. Jesus said nothing that would support coddling the rich at the expense of the poor. Nothing in his teachings can justify our callous disregard for the harm we do to the beautiful planet our Lord gave us.
To be clear, I'm in no way saying one cannot be a Christian and also support politicians like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush or the policies they've championed. Both Messrs. Reagan and Bush were Republicans. I'm certainly not saying you cannot be a Christian and a Republican. I'm also not saying that the Democratic Party is more in line with the Gospel. What I am saying, however, is that it is blasphemy to use Christ as the rationale for endorsing politicians or political positions when what they advocate is not supported by the Bible. The Bible was written at different times several centuries ago, and unfortunately it does not speak to every issue we face in modern America. We have to do our best in the gray areas. But call a spade a spade. Acknowledge the gray areas, don't propagate misinformation by saying the Bible supports things that it does not even address.
In that vein, I've decided that I'm going to get back to what I saw as the original focus of this blog. Many of the hot button issues that have attracted some modern American Christians to the polls are complex. I've shied away from them to some extent. Not because I was afraid of wading into such areas of controversy, but because their complexity merits in-depth study and consideration. In many areas of life, Christianity does not offer easy, quick answers. Things are not always as clear cut as some of our brethren assert. In the past, however, I have not had time to really dig deep to explore some of these issues. I anticipate I will finally have some time this year, so that is the direction this blog will be going.