I have now concluded a seven-column series concerned with what is currently taking place in the religious world, and the rise of an emerging church. When I return from my summer break, I will again try to make sense out of what is happening politically in American society. Someone recently asked if I had trouble finding material for these weekly investigations. My answer, “I have trouble finding enough weeks!” Nevertheless, this summer I’ve got other fish to fry, watercolor paintings to complete, a summer invested in working with our community’s homeless, a garden to tend, a pile of books to read, and lots more. So in July and early in August I will be taking a break from writing my columns.
These columns appear in four publications plus my blog The Bayer Essentials. They are also reprinted in a few thousand e-mails—both mine and others who send these columns to their own lists. From all this I receive anywhere from 30 to 60 responses a week. I try to answer those who raise solid issues and whose response is more than a sentence. All this takes about 26-28 hours a week. What money do I earn from all this? Nada! I don’t even copyright these columns, so anyone who wants to use them is free to do so. In the last four years plus there have been over 200 entries. Most of them are well-researched and hopefully accurate. But they are personal opinions, not the result of some divine revelation, or the product of my omniscience. I have occasionally been wrong. When I am, there are those at the ready to point it out.
A friend of mine carefully proofreads what I have written, and not only corrects my grammar, spelling and other results of my dyslexia, but occasionally challenges how I say things. His name is Don and his support is terribly important.
Before I sign off for a few weeks I want to raise a question and next week take a stab at answering it. Here is the question. Is there a legitimate relationship between religious belief and what goes on in politics, or is the wall of separation between church and state so solid that no person from a religious perspective has any right to meddle in public affairs? There are those who legitimately feel that no religious body or even religiously motivated person ought to wander outside the ecclesial walls. On the other hand, there are those who believe that to separate religious ethics from public policy is to be false to both.
The issue has recently been broadened with the IRS investigation of certain 501(c)(4) bodies on the right. Tea Party and “patriot “ groups and even groups connected to Billy Graham’s evangelistic organization poured tens of millions into last fall’s election. While their amounts were much less, tax-exempt organizations on the left were also politically involved. In both camps, money flowing from these 501(c)(4) bodies helped make the dollar glut overwhelming.
Jim Hightower, and others, have suggested that all such groups be prohibited from political involvement. That, of course, includes religious bodies as well as their more secular partners. So what is the role of tax-exempt social service and religious bodies in public affairs? Let me know what you think and next week we’ll tackle that difficult subject.