January 7, 2006

Thoughts on 2005, Plans for 2006

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:52 pm

I’m back from what turned into an extended blog vacation. Nice to know I was missed!

I took the opportunity during the holidays to reflect back on my blogging during 2005, and where I’d like to take the blog during 2006. First, the retrospective.

I began blogging in December 2004 in the midst of a national mood of conservative Christian triumphalism. The conventional wisdom was that the Christian right had re-elected Bush. The conservative Christians seemed to think they had brought about God’s will on earth through a second Bush administration, and expected Bush to reward them with arch-conservative SCOTUS Justices, a defense of marriage amendment, a roll-back of Roe v. Wade, increased funding to faith-based programs and a chipping away of the separation of church and state, just to name a few.

What a difference a year makes.

Two things the Christian right didn’t take into account. First, the incredible incompetence of the Bush Administration led to a rapid erosion of Bush’s “political capital”. Second, the majority of Americans, even of Christian Americans, don’t support their stands. Given these factors, it was often politically inconvenient, if not impossible, for Bush to push the Christian Right’s pet issues. Thanks be to God.

But the supposed ascendancy of conservative Christianity in the 2004 election did have other postive effects. Just as a body’s immune system is strengthened from the apparently hostile presence of a vaccine, so moderate and progressive Christians were energized by the illusory power of the Christian right. 2005 began with Jim Wallis’ book and visible presence in the media, and ended with Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Press’ similarly Christian and liberal books. The progressive Christian blogosphere blossomed with the Progressive Christian Bloggers Network. New progressive Christian organizations were formed, such as CrossLeft and the Christian Alliance for Progress, and existing organizations became more visible, such as Progressive Christians Uniting and Impact. The Christian right can no longer claim to be the sole Bible-based Christian voice in the U.S.

Progressive Christian blogging in 2005 reflected the apparent dominance of the Christian right by being largely defensive: decrying the latest outrage from James Dobson or Pat Robertson, pointing out the immorality of Bush’s policies, and calling for progressive Christians to fight back. All of this has been important, but in 2006 I think we need to go on the offense by laying out our policy options instead of just criticizing the Republicans’. We need to propose the policy areas that are most important to us as progressive Christians, and explain how following Jesus’ call to care for the least, the last and the lost can be realized in a democratic, pluralistic public square. When is government the appropriate vehicle to care for others, and when should it be left to private non-profits and individuals? How can we best alleviate poverty in Africa not just today, but for generations in the future? How do we act as good stewards of God’s creation for the future without causing suffering today? How do we protect ourselves from the real threat of terrorism without violating civil rights? We need to advance an authentically Christian policy agenda from the left, not just shoot down the policy agenda from the right.

I expect my blogging will change along these lines this year. I’m going to try to spend more time offering my thoughts on the positive Christian policy choices we can make on the left rather than responding to the latest news on the Christian right. As part of this shift, I’ve decided to try to blog less often but more thoughtfully. Hopefully each post will give you more grist for the commenting mill, so you won’t feel short-changed.

Although these are my plans, who knows how things will turn out this year. After all, this blogging thing continues to be something I only pursue on evenings and weekends, and only after meeting my obligations to my family, my church and my employer, so no guarantees. But one thing is for sure: 2006 will be as interesting a year in the blogosphere as was 2005.

7 Comments

  1. Bob-

    You and I are often on the same wavelength. I’ve decided to push forward with a positive progressive Christian message for 2006. One thing I’ve noticed is that immigrants, specifically illegal immigrants, are probably going to be the whipping boys of the GOP in ’06. Would you consider doing some research into this issue and presenting it from a Biblical point of view? I know that the Psalmist talks about the “aliens”, but what exactly would a progressive Christian message be on immigrants and immigration? I’m going to explore this over at my blog in the next weeks and months, but your thoughts would be appreciated.

    Comment by Expat Teacher — January 8, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

  2. I’ve got my sleeves rolled up, Bob. Let’s get started!!!

    Comment by wildwest — January 9, 2006 @ 5:52 am

  3. Sounds like a noble goal/direction change for 2006.

    Comment by Jarred — January 9, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  4. Teacher…. I think there are some inherent problems with trying to use the Bible as a formula for how we should address present day aliens. First, what is translated as “alien” in the Old Testament encompasses to different groups of people: foreigners and sojourners. The sojourner is one who makes Israel his home. The foreigner comes into temporary contact with Israel as a trader, traveler, soldier, without cutting ties with his original home. Today we might call these people business people and tourists. So a foreigner is not really the same as an undocumented worker, yet the OT uses “alien” to describe this person.

    Another problem is that ancient Israel relates to “aliens” differently at different times in its history. After being led out of Egyptian bondage and having been aliens themselves, Israel says to treat aliens nicely. But at other times when the purity of the cult is threatened, people are warned to avoid contact with the alien. Judah is warned by the prophets that it was Israel’s mixed marriages and racial and cultic impurity that led to the fall of Israel in 722 BC. And during the time of Jesus we see that there was great loathing for the Samaritans who were viewed as foreigners because of their cultic impurity.

    No, I would be careful about applying Biblical references to aliens to our situation today. Matthew 25 would be a better place to begin.

    Comment by Tony — January 9, 2006 @ 11:50 am

  5. Sounds interesting, Bob! I look forward to it. 🙂

    Comment by Angel — January 10, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

  6. Bob writes:

    “but in 2006 I think we need to go on the offense by laying out our policy options instead of just criticizing the Republicans’. We need to propose the policy areas that are most important to us as progressive Christians, and explain how following Jesus’ call to care for the least, the last and the lost can be realized in a democratic, pluralistic public square.”

    Yeah, that’d be a nice thing to do. And a novel idea, “hey, instead of demonizing the “evil” Republicans, let’s come up with our OWN plan!” Duh and 😛

    Comment by Jacke — January 11, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  7. I think that it is definitely time for the progressive Christians in America to make themselves heard.

    The demonising of immigrants, especially illegal ones, is something which is one of the most disturbing deatures of the right wing, and of conservative Christians. I wish you all the luck with your research.

    To see what’s really happening in the Holy Land: http://www.occupiedpalestine.blogspot.com

    Comment by Lewis — January 17, 2006 @ 5:11 am

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