Friday, March 10, 2017

Giving up politics for Lent and doing something for the Earth

My blogging will continue, even if intermittently. You may notice the absence of politics for the next while. Here is why. It is Lent. During Lent I also want to give up something else for the sake of the Earth. Read on.

I have decided to give up politics for Lent. This means that I don't want to discuss politics during the entire period, especially not on FB nor on this blog. In a previous post, I already announced that I would stop posting on FB for a while. That moratorium involves more than politics. How long I will stay off FB remains to be seen, but Lent gives me an opportunity to test my resolve to temporarily leave politics alone in this blog.

There are thousands who have made the same decision not to discuss politics during Lent. The chief political lightning rod for many, especially in the USA, is President Trump. My decision goes further than not discussing Trump. I am extending it to include all politicians and all forms of political talk. This is hard for me.
I have to admit that that I have already broken this self-imposed rule once or twice since Lent started and I will probably do so again. Lord, have mercy!  I confess that I am addicted to politics or at least political discussion.  By temperament, I would never have made a good politician, but politics is in my blood. My family has always enjoyed political debate, as my children will readily testify.

Lent, as celebrated in many Christian churches, is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word "len(c)ten", which means "spring." The Dutch word for spring" is "lente."

The forty days represents the length of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he endured the temptations of Satan and prepared to begin his ministry. But there are many other references to forty in the Bible that indicate such a period of preparation.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. This involves self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism.

Today, many Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. This is what I am also doing during Lent this year, as I will mention in a moment.

Let me begin with something to give up: politics or, at least, the discussion thereof. Why politics in general? The answer is spelled: TRUMP. He has given politics and many politicians all over the world a bad name. I had hoped not to use his name at all, but that is unavoidable in the context of explaining why I don't want to discuss politics for a while during Lent.

I have friends, some of whom are dual American and Canadian citizens, all of whom get livid when his name is mentioned. If only out of respect for them, I would refrain from any discussions in which his name might come up. But it is almost impossible to engage in any political discussion at present or discuss any politician without referring to him.

For the sake of my friends, my own mental health, and indeed the sake of my soul, I have decided to stop such discussions until Lent is over. Addictions can make many forms. It seems that our whole society is addicted to discussing this man. Hardly a day goes by without an organized protest taking place somewhere either for or against him.

Rarely has anyone so polarized people as much as this man. You either love him or hate him. However, since I am not allowed to hate anyone, it is difficult for me as a Christian to engage in any political discussions without transgressing the commandment to love my neighbor. The feelings he generates in me are that strong.

Of course, this will not change after Lent. But, at least during these few weeks, I can try to do what God commands me to do: to love others as myself. This commandment is difficult at the best of times, but these are not those times.

So, what can I do? My decision stems from my faith obligation to love even those who are largely unlovable. Even if I do keep my resolution during Lent as much as I can, this does not eliminate the problem I will face afterwards. It remains just as the obsessions or whatever we resolve to give up for Lent do.

Nevertheless, the attempt to control our obsessions is spiritually enriching. It may never stop them entirely, but it does strengthen our resolve to do more in the future. It signifies this as well to ourselves and to others.That is why we should not be afraid to mention our resolutions to those around us.

Such a public pronouncement can help us to keep our resolutions. That is what I am doing in this post. Yet this too is not enough. It is negative: it something I want to avoid. I also want to do something positive,

This Lent, Citizens for Public Justice is encouraging Canadian Christians to Give it up for the Earth! I am on the board of this faith-based organization. Give it up for the Earth! is a campaign that challenges us to see Lent as an opportunity to promote the well-being of the global community as we work to mitigate climate change. (Please use the links for more information.

Let me quote from the webpage of Give it up for the Earth!
Give it up for the Earth! campaign is centred on a postcard that includes:
  1. a pledge to individual climate action, and 
  2. a call for more far-reaching national climate policy.
The aims of Give it up for the Earth! are to raise awareness about climate change, and collect signatures as a demonstration of support for increased federal government action. How you do this is up to you!
I have my ideas and you have yours. Send them to CPJ, and they will forward them the federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. These ideas will be presented to her at a campaign closing event on/around Earth Day (April 22).

You don't have to order cards from CPJ in order to participate in this campaign. Just decide to make a change in your life for the sake of the Earth. That is a small sacrifice to make. That is what I am also doing during Lent. Your decision is vital to help reduce the effects of climate change and to save the Earth.

Give it up for the Earth! goes beyond changing personal habits like driving or eating meat everyday, taking long-haul flights or making money from investments in fossil fuel companies. as important as these are to show our commitment to God’s call to care for the well-being of people and the planet. For Canadians, it is imperative that our governments also change their priorities on climate change. We can do so by presenting our ideas to them as vigorously as we can.

This message of speaking up for stronger government action on climate is not only for Canadians. In every nation Christians are called to care for the earth. The OT prophet Jeremiah addressed the misuse that God's people had made of the land he had given them: "And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination" (2:7).

This message has never been more relevant as humanity faces the devastating consequences of climate change around the world, while those with the power to act do so little. As citizens of wealthy, developed countries, we have both the ability and responsibility to take action to protect creation. All faith communities increasingly recognize this.

So, this Lent I am doing something negative in givng up politics, at least for a little while. I am also doing something positive by giving up something for the sake of the Earth by making changes in our personal lives and urging our governments to do what they can to limit climate change.

I am not suggesting that you need to follow me to stop discussing politics for Lent. But I do invite you to join me in doing what we can for the sake of the Earth. I have written many times about climate change. In my opinion, climate change is the biggest threat to human existence today. Let's all do what we can to save our planet! That is the best way to observe Lent 2017.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Confessions of a blogger

I'm back. Sort of. Blogging that is. Like Hamlet, I have pondered this existential question and decided to blog again, even if more intermittently than in the past.

Let me explain what happened and why I am beginning to blog again after a break of almost three months. It's been a long time for me as well, but there are many valid reasons and there are also some confessions.

About these confessions, don't expect anything prurient. My reasons are practical (at least for me), yet I owe everyone an explanation for my absence for these many months.

If you have missed receiving any new posts recently, my apology for that loss. If you did't, I apologize as well. Maybe I can earn your interest this time around.

Blogging is a personal experience. The postings are my own reflections on what is happening in the world, but they are also ones that I want to share with others, otherwise I would not write them. Yet blogging has created some problems for me. Thus let me begin with a few personal confessions.

First of all, I am getting older. Even though aging is a chronic condition that afflicts each and every one of us, I now realize that it is afflicting me more intensely every year. The list of my infirmities is growing. Walking has become a challenge because of back problems, but sitting behind a computer is also difficult. Moreover, my eyes are progressively clouding over, although surgery can correct that.

So I needed a break to give my body time to heal. That healing as been much slower than I expected. And thus I am back to blogging, albeit cautiously. My previous schedule of weekly postings has slowly but surely been diminishing since I started blogging about six years ago.

Both my back and my eyes have made it a challenge to keep up this schedule. Even now, it is difficult for me to sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time. This is frustrating for me. Even this post is more onerous than previous ones over the years.

For the record, in 2011 and 2012 I had 64 posts each year. In 2013 my total went down to 61 and the following year it was 49. In 2015 the total went down even further to 39, while last year, in spite of only one post in December, the total rose slightly to 41. The grand total now stands at almost 320.

The total number of pageviews over that period is approaching 600,000. One post has attracted about 72,000 pageviews, but most garner only a few hundred views each. I typically have had an average of approximately 10,000 views per month. That is still how many I receive per month after being absent for so many months. Evidently, there is interest in my blog. Enough to encourage me to take up my pen, er computer, and continue blogging.

My second confession is political. I confess my disdain for Trump. I refuse to dignify him with the title of "President." He may have been properly elected (although that system needs a major overhaul), and thus earned this title, but in my heart I refuse to acknowledge him as such. He is not MY president. I am a Canadian, thus this is true of me by definition. But I share my disdain for Trump with many Americans who also make this claim, as was evident on Presidents' Day.

Trump is perhaps the primary reason for my absence from blogging. I found it too difficult for me to write every week and avoid discussing this man. After his inauguration, my problem only became worse. I  have previously referred to him as "He whose name shall never be used in my house!"

That gives you some idea what I think of him. I did not want to spend the next few months irritated by him nor have comments irritate others the same way. This break was one way of protesting the current scandal of American politics. My silence has allowed me to reflect on what is happening. America has become a pigsty, one that I don't want to wallow in it any longer.

I am not afraid to speak out publicly against Trump and his administration. The worst they could do is to refuse me entry to Trumpland. This would be a serious loss for me because some of my children and grandchildren live there, and I have many friends there as well. But I refuse to sully my mind every day by describing what is happening in Trumpland. You can read that yourself in your newspaper of choice.

A well-known Dutch theologian wrote a book some decades ago with the title (translated), Politics is everything, but not everything is politics. He meant to say that politics influences every part of life but it is not the most important thing in life. In the Trump era it is easy to regard politics more important than it is.

For a few weeks I wanted to step back and reassess what I was doing in this blog. Aside from Trump, I discovered that I was devoting too much time and space to politics in general, and drifting away from the role that religion plays in life, which is the central focus of my blog.

My most popular posts are not intentionally political. Climate change, has generated the most attention of my readers. This topic certainly has strong political aspects but it is not inherently political. It is, however, a religious topic since it touches on our view of the world and the place of human beings in the world.

Have we as human beings contributed to climate change? Our answer to that question is at heart a religious one. Religion, as I define it, deals with more than the existence of God or of many gods. It also deals with this world and how we perceive our role in it.

In the next few weeks and months, I hope to concentrate more on the role of religion in life, not just in the private sphere, where it has been relegated by secularism, but also in the public arena. That is where we live out our lives and interact with each other. This is where we express our faith. It is also where our hopes and our fears come to the surface.

In my future posts I also intend to explain certain subjects that interest me and, I hope, you as well. Things that I do not fully understand, and thus want to clarify, if only for myself. This too is part of What in the World. I could turn the title of my blog into a question: "What in the World Is . . . ?"

So I intend to veer away from the politics of Trumpland, but not necessarily politics as such. There is much that is happening in the world that has not (so far) fallen victim to Trumpism. That I will emphasize, rather than the excesses of you know who.

I hope that this confession helps to explain why I have not posted anything for several months. Health concerns are only part of the story; Trump also plays a significant role.  I want to purge my soul of that awful man as much as possible. These months have been a catharsis for me.

So with some fear and trepidation I hope to return to blogging with a degree of regularity. Health issues will continue to restrain me, but my intention is to write as much as I can, but at the same time ignore Trump. The rest of the world cannot ignore him. but I will as much as possible for the sake of my sanity.

Confession, it is said, is good for the soul. If so, that is yet another step to in this cleansing process. I have bared my soul a bit. Please encourage me as I open a new page of this blog. I need to know that I am doing what you want as well. We need to encourage each other in a world that has seemingly become crazy.

This post is being published on the day that my father would have turned 97. Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of his death. I dedicate this post in his memory.