From The Road … On Weather And What They Call "Politics"

Once again proving that I’m no stolid, stationary stay-at-home mom, I write — again — from the road, specifically, this time, from a too-crowded Starbucks in Monroe, Washington.  We thought we’d combine a trip to Bellingham, Washington, to see our son with a brief celebration of our long marriage — 29 years on September 8.  We left last Thursday with our older son and his dear girlfriend, who’d been visiting us in Moscow, and have had a wonderful time exploring Bellingham, discovering Whidbey Island, and reconnecting with the community we called home for nearly 20 years.

Because of my weird form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I’ve been exultant at the chill air, low, gray skies, and endless rain of the West side of the Cascades, which I’m fairly sure annoys the sun-lovers around me.  But I can’t help it — growing up in the stultifying sameness of the desert Southwest was like an inoculation against the winter-blues version of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and when we moved to the relatively sunny, drier Palouse in 2002, I mourned the loss of cozy gray skies almost as much as I did the separation from dear friends and family.

I learned the moment I arrived in Moscow to not go around making sunny, cheerful comments about how neat the late-February dreariness was.  And I’ve discovered that during the summer, it’s not a good idea to whine about how endlessly sunny it is outside — it puts a damper on outside activities when someone’s gravitating toward drawn blinds and low lights, and I’d hate to ever be accused of putting a damper on things.  It would put into question your view, dear reader, that I’m in possession of a perennially chipper disposition.

Of course, there are other things that threaten my sunny mood.  They don’t have to do with weather, which you’d guess, but they also don’t have to do with what people call “politics,” no matter how much it appears.

You may have detected in me a strong and specific stand against the GOP, the Tea Party, and the Religious Right, and if you do, then I’ve done what I set out to do.  I had no part in the formation of the GOP in history, nor in its genesis, since the mid-70s, as an ideological club for budding fascists and crazies.  I haven’t had a thing to do with the establishment of the Tea Party, which enshrines ignorance and bigotry as civic virtues worth pursuing, and I have had disdain for the Religious Right ever since I gave my life to the Lord who commands my obedience in 1981.  These three strands of one dangerous cord of selfish gain and social disregard wove themselves together entirely apart from my influence; I bear no responsibility for their inanities.

But neither does the Christ they claim as patron, role model, and premier affirmer of their convoluted Gospel.  And that’s the point:  The Religious Right and the GOP it finds itself in bed with have forcefully shoved the mantle of Christian witness onto their proud and arrogant shoulders with no regard for the un-Christian, even anti-Christian, policies, pronouncements, and practices they evince.  Not since the days “Christian” slaveholders and their defenders kept kidnapped human beings in bondage like cattle has the Gospel of Jesus Christ been as maligned as it is now by the strangling cord woven by the Tea Party, the GOP, and the Religious Right.  (Remember, please, that here in Moscow, the days of a Christian defense of slavery aren’t past; they continue merrily along in Wilson World and its various entrepreneurial suburbs).

This cord, like most things birthed in evil, isn’t easily unraveled.  However, unlike most movements and ideas birthed in evil, it DOES claim to be largely influenced by and in alignment with the Christian Gospel.  Which, as you can imagine, but perhaps choose not to acknowledge, puts the Church in the awkward position of embracing an ascent to power that has produced horrific examples of anti-Gospel practices, just because those who’ve ascended have convinced it that they, too, are brothers — and that those on the outside are undeserving, insignificant, and unnecessary.

It’s easy to call the nearly four-decades-old seizure of the GOP, the embrace of the Gospel of the Religious Right (it’s not only the Galatians who were stupid), and the rise of the Tea Party merely “political,” since the currency they deal in has to do with bills, policy, elections, and campaigning.  And this three-stranded cord hasn’t become prominent because it focuses on evangelism, ministry, or Bible teaching — which would be entirely inappropriate for a political party, which is kind of my point — but because it’s wrapped itself in a chokehold around the political, governmental institutions that run our society.  It all looks political, and certainly IS political, but it’s far, far more than that.

Mere politics wouldn’t be enough to command such passion and energy from me; while the effect of politics is profound and life-changing, it’s still temporal.  It’s still, at the end of the day, just what it is:  The occasionally noble, most-often damnable, exercise of power in civic society, and as such is entirely unworthy of a greater reservoir of energy or a greater depth of passion than is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is, however, that life-changing, soul-transforming, eternally-minded Gospel that is threatened by the Religious Right- and Tea Party-embracing GOP, even more than the social order.  And that makes the “political” maneuvering thereof infinitely, eternally, more significant than simple politics — it makes its confrontation and eventual defeat a Gospel imperative.

I used to say, back in the late 1970s, that all politics is personal.  In a sense, I still believe that — but all politics is personal because all politics affects the human beings and the planet that our Lord Jesus created for his good pleasure in fellowship.  All politics, then, is personal, because all persons affected by politics are beloved of Christ, and when those who’ve become “the least of these” in our world are oppressed in his name by those who are “the most” politically, it becomes not just political bickering but a crisis of faith.

Believe it or not, politics doesn’t excite me a whole lot.  But a crisis of faith launched in grotesque technicolor in the public square, one that makes the Gospel into an ugly and filthy thing in the eyes of outsiders?

That, by the grace of God, really gets me going.

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