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HIGH TOLERANCE

A REtired preacher looks at the world

Every once in a while, Dave (being a retired preacher) feels the need to pontificate. After all, it's hard to go cold turkey. To scratch this itch, he has created High Tolerance--an e-letter touching on all things worldly (or whatever grabs his attention at the moment).


There is no set frequency to this publication, so you might get one each month or three in a week (although the latter is highly unlikely). When the spirit moves, Dave will shoot one of these literary masterpieces to you if you wish.

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The previous high tolerance

THE RELIGION OF POLITICS

      One doesn’t have to have an overly keen sense of observation to see what place everyday politics plays in our nation (and possibly, the world). I can understand that. For one thing, political topics often penetrate the heart of daily life. After all, politicians are the ones who pass the laws by which we abide. If we neglect all things political, we do so to our own demise. If we allow the political class to do whatever they wish, we could find ourselves on the proverbial short end of the stick (and often do anyway).

     I, personally, find politics to be extremely entertaining. Watching the national politicians on TV is often akin to following the characters on a soap opera. I discovered (while in college) that soap operas can be quite addictive. 

     As a junior in one of Pennsylvania’s fine institutions of higher education, I roomed off-campus with three other guys. One of my roomies came back after Christmas break that year with a small, portable TV. All we had for reception was a minuscule, telescoping antenna that protruded from the top of the eight inch set. Needless to say, we didn’t pull in many channels—one or two, as I recall. 

     That first Monday following our return from the holiday, I came back from my three o’clock class and flipped on the set. As fate would have it, I caught the initial episode of a brand new soap opera. I forget the name of it, but I was immediately hooked. It became (as many homemakers at that time would have called it) “my story.”

     I was back at the ranch each day by four o’clock, so it was prime time for me—not to mention a priority. I’d come back from class, turn on the set, and watch my story every weekday. It became a staple of daily life for this young collegiate junior. But it didn’t end there.

     There was another soap opera that followed my story. It was natural sometimes to continue watching. It wasn’t long before I was hooked on that one as well. Also, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I didn’t have that three o’clock class. Consequently, I discovered another soap opera that preceded my four o’clock story. Hooked again…

     It’s a tad embarrassing to admit, but there came a time when I was skipping classes to see what was going to happen in the next episode of these daytime dramas. I’m not sure how I got through that semester of my junior year’s academics, but I was surely up to speed on the daily dilemmas of my melodramatic heroes.

Between my junior and senior year, I got married. That meant losing the eight inch TV set which belonged to my former roommate. Fortunately, that also meant graduating to a much larger TV on which to follow the escapades of the many characters whose lives I now knew intimately. I was now set up for a glorious senior year of college as a newly wed and an ardent devotee of daytime TV.

     My young spouse and I set up shop in a large, old home that had been divided up into six small apartments. The other five residences were occupied by a few young married couples as well as one single guy who lived across the hall from us. One had to be careful not to make any loud noises because everyone in the entire house could hear you.

     Then it happened. There was a trial. Lenore was wrongly accused of murder and was being represented by her attorney husband, Walter—who, by the way, was the real killer, bound and determined to get his young wife off. His plan was to beat the rap for her and live happily ever after. Plan B (should they lose the verdict) was to turn himself in. How heroic…

     It was a long, torturous trial full of twists and turns. But, at long last, the day came when the verdict was to be returned. I made sure I was seated squarely in front of our resplendent black and white set—soda in hand—to absorb Lenore’s fate. It was exactly what I was yearning for it to be. The jury magnificently proclaimed her innocence.

     I will never forget what happened in the seconds immediately following the announcement of the verdict. A roar of muffled cheers echoed through that old apartment building—the likes of which I had never heard prior to that event. Along with the cacophony of raised human utterances, the entire building shook. I found out later that everyone in the edifice had been watching (unbeknownst to me) and many of them commenced jumping up and down at Lenore’s release—including the bachelor across the hall.

     It was shortly after that that I began to wean myself from soap operas. I was able to do so because the opera I had initially stumbled upon came to a conclusion and went off the air (unlike many of its counterparts). Once that one was extinct, it became a tad easier to lop the smarmy productions off my schedule, one by one. Giving them up cold turkey just wouldn’t have worked. Today, I am a free man. My stories are a thing of the past, and I am proudly and gloriously emancipated from the bonds of those daytime dramas.

     But, I digress. I’m actually writing about the religion of politics. If you recall (back at the beginning), I had mentioned that the political gamesmanship of national politicos can be quite addictive. I’m not sure what happens to politicians when they reach the national stage. There are a multitude of wonderful local politicians. It seems, however, when they move to seemingly higher ground, they take a turn for the worse. Many of them become “Walter” types.

     I really can’t explain it. There are, I suppose, many factors contributing to that metamorphosis. Some are obvious, but I’m pretty sure many are hidden to the public eye. I’m not going to use this space in a feeble attempt to analyze how they got this way. Suffice it to say, the conflagration of these many characters makes for great political theater.

     I find myself drawn to their varied machinations with increasing interest. In the midst of that, however, there seems to be (in my mind, at least) a very disturbing trend in our nation among the laity (those who are not national politicians). For many, politics seems to have become a national religion. I view that as a rather scary proposition.

     Like many religions, there seem to be several sects and denominations. In the United States, there are two major ones and a slew of minor players. You might be familiar with them. The two are the Democrats and Republicans. They differ in many ways but share many fundamental characteristics which make it difficult to tell them apart.

     I’ve looked at these sects and attempted to determine what god it is they’re worshipping. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are polytheistic—they worship many gods. Among those deities are status, power, wealth and country; but these are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

     In today’s polls, it has been reported that people are often asked about their religious preferences. There is a rising category (about 37% at last count—depending upon which poll you read) who state they have no preference at all. They have been dubbed, the “Nones.” I don’t mean to be critical, but I suspect that a lot of these Nones are actually Democrats or Republicans in their worshipful attitudes. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of politics as a religion, so they don’t consider it as such in their answers.

     On top of that, my guess is that many who would give their preferences as Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Other are actually (in practice) Politicos. They live, breathe, eat, and sleep politics and their stated preferences are actually secondary to their loyalty to the party line.

     Being a Christian, this is the part that I find to be a “rather scary proposition” (as I mentioned previously). Christians have a loyalty to Jesus that is paramount to anything or anyone else. If our primary loyalties, affections, and worship lands upon any other object, we are not Christians at all, but something else. If politics are the predominant thing in your life, politics is your religion. Is that your intention?