All that changed when I heard God's call to the ministry. I didn't stop following politics, but I quit talking about them in public -- especially to my parishioners. I decided that serving as an ambassador from the court of the King of the Ages was too important to muddy it up with politicking for lesser causes and candidates. I preached about public issues very seldom, and then only in moral or charitable terms.
Meanwhile, I was making my way in the United Methodist clergy, where few of my colleagues showed a similar hesitance to address the issues of the day; indeed, to listen to any of the big-name UM leaders over the last thirty years has been to hear the latest liberal/Democratic Party talking points tricked out in ecclesiastical drag. And nobody said Boo. (I have found, generally, that conservative UM members merely tune out the liberalism of their pastors and bishops, while liberal UM members are extraordinarily touchy about anything that comes from the clergy's mouth that sounds like what a Republican would say.)
Bill Clinton finally made me break my self-imposed silence. Even then, I didn't denounce his policies in public, just his behavior. At the time of the Lewinsky scandal -- when even foreign newspapers were telling him to resign -- I felt that unless I said something, I would forfeit my credentials as a spokesman for virtue. After all, "silence gives consent," and if I stayed silent, then I would be condoning what the President did. So, I wrote a column on repentance and forgiveness. It was fair -- fairer than what he deserved, I think -- but I didn't write it in order to either bash or excuse him. I wrote it to be faithful to the vows I took to God.
In the time since, I've gotten a little bolder about speaking my mind, but I've still eschewed partisanship as much as I can. My political sentiments on LJ largely remain behind friends-only filters, lest I offend someone who needs to know me as one who cares about one's soul rather than one's voting record. Somehow, though, I sense that time may be drawing toward an end. I fear what may come, but I don't know how I can avoid it. The time is coming when politics will drive me (and many others) to a confessional stance -- to the place where we must say, "Here I stand, I can do no other."
I think the parallels between our current political situation and that of the 1850s are frightening. In 1854, the Democratic Party under the leadership of Senator Douglas of Illinois foisted the Kansas-Nebraska Act upon a country that didn't want it. Because they could. The country immediately began to come apart at the seams, and six years later, we were at war with each other. The Whig Party, which had attempted all along to finesse the slavery issue, found itself to be ineffective and irrelevant and it collapsed, to be replaced by the new Republican Party. The Republicans didn't all agree about what to do with slavery, but they all agreed there would be no more compromises with the absolutists they referred to as "the Slave Power."
Today, the Democratic Party has been seized control of by its most radical elements, who are driving all dissenters from their party. They have foisted upon us a terrible Act, whose only real purpose is the expansion of State power at the expense of personal freedom. They don't care. They figure they can fix it later; they figure that's what government is for -- to fix things on behalf of "the little people." Along the way, they will double our national debt in just a few short years. They don't care. The more broken our economy is, the more power they can assume to "fix it" on behalf of those same "little people." The threat to our personal and national freedom is real, and it is growing exponentially under this administration and his Party. Nor will it be merely an economic re-ordering we undergo. As people in the Founders' generation knew, economic liberty, religious liberty, and political liberty are intertwined. Look at what is happening in Canada, if you think the preaching of the Gospel and the practice of ministry will not be restricted under a "benevolent" Statism. The dream of the "progressives" is the vision articulated by Mussolini in the 1920s: everything within the State, nothing outside the State.
We are rapidly reaching a tipping point. Soon, we will either repudiate this organized awfulness, or we will reach a point where only a few cranks will be left to mutter about the country we used to be. The next few years will bring us to one fate or another. And for all of us, this will be a time of deciding what side we are really and truly on.
For those who have always thought of themselves as loyal Democrats, this will be a time of decision. There is no room for anybody in the leadership of the Democratic Party who does not toe the party line. The surrender of the supposedly "pro-life" Democrats shows this. What this means is that if you say to me, "Forget those mugs, I'm a lifelong Democrat, and you know I'm OK," I can no longer believe you. The crowd you run with matters. If you choose to back the Democratic Party as it is now, you will be complicit in everything it does, just as those "anti-slavery" Democrats and "Peace" Democrats were back in the 1850s and '60s. That means you are wanting to take away my freedom, and I take that quite personally. And you must want to make our country over into this new pattern being built by Obama & Co. Not you? then why are you voting for them? Why are you identifying with them? I'm sorry that YOUR Democratic Party doesn't exist any more, but I didn't destroy it; Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Emmanuel, et al, did. Blame them and leave the Dems, or if you stay, admit that you WANT what they're selling.
For those who have always thought of themselves as loyal Republicans -- including and especially those elected on the GOP ticket -- this will also be a time of decision. You cannot win -- and you certainly cannot stop the awfulness of the change now in process -- if the whole rationale for voting Republican is to get Big Brother Lite. I'm not saying that the Republican Party should embrace Libertarianism whole hog, but I am saying that the establishment Repubs who think that just changing who gets to sit at the head of the table is what really matters are as doomed as the Whigs. I think the Republicans have one, maybe two electoral cycles left to demonstrate that they "get it," and if they don't, the Grand Old Party will rapidly become as irrelevant as the Prohibition Party (which was still running candidates in my youth, but so what).
For those who have always sat lightly to politics, this is especially a time of decision. If you don't like what's happening, you currently only have one choice: the Republicans. If we elect them, and they don't bring us back from the brink and reverse the ebb tide of personal freedom, then you are going to have to look for someone who can speak up for you and for the country you'd like us to be. And I'll be with you.
There are no guarantees. Back in 1854, it was quite as likely that the USA would remain united and at peace, but with slavery legal everywhere -- or that it would come apart and go its separate ways as two different nations -- as what actually did happen. There are no guarantees. There are only choices. At some point, some time, even those reluctant to use God's pulpit to advocate courses in the temporal/political realm -- like me -- will have to speak out, at whatever cost to ourselves, or keep silent in cowardly acquiescence.