Welcome to the re-launch of American Secularist. I had intended to really focus on writing when I moved to Beijing – then found when I arrived that wordpress blogs are for some reason blocked here in China. After many months of unsuccessfully trying to get around the Great Firewall, I’ve finally figured a way in – at least for now. I hope you’ll forgive the long hiatus and join me in the fray.
It has been so long since I’ve posted, I think a bit of review may be in order – why did I start this blog to begin with?
It all started when I arrived back in the US around Christmas 2009 after a decade of living abroad. It seemed the tone of our political disagreements had taken a turn for the worse in my absence. I had, after all, been in Bangkok when the 9-11 attacks occurred, and had not been back home for longer than a fortnight since. I had made the decision to come back and work in the US back in the spring of ’09, not knowing at the time that I would be arriving at the onset of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Living abroad had certainly made me more liberal / progressive as far as my politics were concerned. Living in China, I saw first-hand how massive government projects could put a country ahead of its peers in a hurry. Asian nations were busy building schools, railroads, and airports, and finding ways to pull their poorest out of need. I wanted my country, ‘the greatest country in the world’, to stop resting on its laurels and do the same thing.
While I admit I had become more open-minded, it seemed my countrymen had moved in the opposite direction. I had witnessed the progress that positive government action could achieve, yet everyone around me seemed to think that such actions were tantamount to ‘socialism’. Perhaps more worrying, many seemed to voice the opinion that ‘bringing the nation back to God’ was the only way to put America on its feet again. This was a curious conclusion to me, as Russia and China (two predominately atheistic countries) as well as India (perhaps the most pantheistic country) were all seeing economic blue skies, no thanks to Jesus. I worried that we were looking at things the wrong way.
Many suggested that I needed to ‘get into the Word’, read the Bible with an open mind and see what God had to say. I thought this was an excellent suggestion. I had read the entire Bible from cover to cover once in my youth, and the New Testament twice more as a young adult. Nevertheless, I had lost my confidence in Christianity over the years. It had sort of become like MS DOS 3.1 to me – brilliant at the time, but it didn’t enable me to cope with more sophisticated problems that I faced as an adult. I found that the old algorithms just didn’t work with the modern realities of life. Was it time to give the old-time religion another go?
That’s where this blog comes in. I decided that I would once again read the New Testament, and comment on it, chapter by chapter. My purpose was to look at it once again with fresh eyes – not from the point of view of the cynic or atheist, but not from the ‘inerrancy of the scripture’ viewpoint either. As someone who has fond memories of both church camp and comparative religion class, I feel I can give a balanced reading.
My main purpose, however, is to specifically look at where American Christianity and American politics and policy intersect, and whether the influence of the former is positive on the latter. In other words, I’m not trying to find out if the Bible is ‘true’ or ‘relevant’. What I am mostly concerned with is looking at how American Christians interpret the scriptures, and whether that interpretation helps or hurts American society. Basically, there are so many people who think that the answer to our ills as a nation would be a ‘Jesus infusion’ that I think it is fair to look at what such an event might entail. And what better place to look for answers than in the Bible itself.
Work, family responsibilities, and the cares of life in general have pulled me off-track, but as the claims of one group become ever bolder – and louder – all of us need to take a closer look at what they are saying; we cannot just smile and nod absentmindedly if we truly care for the future of our country.
I’ll be posting two or three times a week – I hope you’ll join in the conversation.
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Also, check out my newest blog – nevercomingback – for tales from my travels abroad.