Wednesday, September 15, 2004

a confession, a commitment and an attempt to properly use the hyphen

first, a confession. as a teen i was a power tie sporting, state senate paging, card-carrying member of the young republicans. i was the youngest member of 'jed' wright's reelection team and considered myself an up and-and-comer in the dirty little business that is oklahoma politics. my extra-curricular activities in high school included protesting at abortion clinics, where i could barely conceal my contempt for and the violence i longed to inflict, upon those who held the other side of the line and trying to read newt gingrich's 'contract with america.' in 1994 i was a seventeen-year-old foot soldier in the republican revolution. i even had the rush limbaugh license plate frame to prove it.

then, in the spring of 1995 i enrolled in mrs. stitch's legendary writing and research class. stitch wasn't nearly as intimidating as advertised, but she did: relentlessly push me to develop my voice, heartlessly repossess my thesaurus (she didn't appreciate my discovery of 'ergo') and constantly harp about the length of my sentences. as we approached the conclusion of the semester she assigned the dreaded research project. she wanted us to develop a twelve to fifteen page thesis that showed original thought as well as a thorough grasp of mla style. since i was a battle hardened republican, still enamored with the capture of congress in 2004, and a lapsed but culturally committed christian, i chose to explore the virtues of the religious right. when i proposed my thesis to stitch at our teacher-student conference she fell somewhat short of rolling her eyes, but i could tell that she was less than enthused. she said that she hoped the research process 'left a mark on me.'

needless to say, it did. as i read the literature of the religious right and listened to the rhetoric of ralph reed, falwell and robertson, i found it hard to distinguish their approach from that of other special interest groups. i shared the religious right's position on many social issues such as abortion and the welfare system, but their tactics as well as their intent seemed to be somewhat less than christian. when i watched interviews and read articles with the leaders of this movement, i did not hear them speak words of love, but thought that i detected a lust for power. furthermore, as i began to consider their intent to reestablish judeo-christian morality through legislation, i began to question how their approach squared with the life and teachings of Jesus. as i thought about the latter, it seemed like they were either misinterpreting or ignoring Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom as well as, perhaps, expecting republican governance under the 'right' leaders to produce a form of salvation. needless to say, i was less than intrigued by what i found. quite quickly, my paper turned from a paean to the republican right into a critique that questioned their tactics and expressed deep suspicion of their intentions.

'why the long-winded story,' you ask. good question. this story illustrates how my political resolve has often been grounded on unsure convictions, if not mere opinion. once i took a good long look at the platform and personalities of the religious right, i questioned all of the slaving i had done on their behalf. the same thing happened later with the republican party as a whole.

now that i'm older, i don't find that i'm much wiser. i am still tempted to pick up the rhetoric of a party, in this case the democrats, and resolve myself to seek their ascension. in the midst of my current political fervor, i have also found myself as unable to sympathize with republicans as i once was with the pro-choice supporters who held the other side of the line. on more than one occasion, i have openly and, unfortunately, verbally questioned the intelligence of those who support the president. yesterday, i blatantly insulted a co-worker, fellow pastor and erstwhile bush supporter by considering him an illustration of p.t. barnum's dictum that 'one can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the american public.'

i started with a confession and, in accordance with good ole' evangelical tradition, i am going to seal the deal with a commitment. i am committed to keeping my mouth shut regarding the particularities of american politics. i will not fail to speak out on behalf of my poorly-defined but deeply held values, but i will not engage in political partisanship of this blog. it is my prayer that i will also be able to set aside partisanship in my other interactions as well, but i am going to take things one step at a time. i intend to explore this commitment in greater detail at a later time. but for now, i need to get my ass back to work.


james said...

A toast you friend in your hyphenating political pause. It is one I most certainly cannot take at this juncture. Yes, you know me all too well, and i can't sit idle (verbally that is) whilst the goof rakes his 'New American Century' across our asses.

g13 said...

thanks for the note dr. j. i wouldn't think of asking or expecting others to follow my lead in this area. but for some time i've had a strong sense that this was a step i needed to take.

of course, when an(y) administration blatantly ignores the values such as peace, justice and the proper care of the poor, i do not intend to remain silent.

Anonymous said...

May I offer a suggestion? Give yourself ten years (or five if you find you can't wait that long) and look back at this. You'll find yourself writing a postscript to this in what has changed in the past ten. -krista (with the wisdom of 15 years worth of journals behind me)