No American in his or her right mind would walk into this new year without some trepidation. Election years are alwasy raucous, not to mention tenuous; but 2012 promises to out-do even some of the best of them.
Christendom is dead. May it ever and always remain so. Few things have burdened me more over my many years than the tendency, up until fairly recently, of some of my fellow Christians to claim one political position or another as the absolute will of God. The one thing worse than that was the assertion that, in their speking, they were the true reflection of what “Christian” and “Christianity” are. Not only has that position always been offered at the exclusion of some of the rest of us who don’t agree, but it also–and this has consistently been the most painful part for me–it also takes my label and applies it in such a willy-nilly way as to make speaking for the faith ten times more difficult and a hundred times less likely to be effective.
All of that doesn’t mean, of course, that I naively think the Church and/or the Christian should exercise no influence on the conduct of politics. It means rather that, for me at least, it is the prayerful and humbled Christian who best serves the conjunction of Kingdom and State. So, to that end, some of my favorite words as a greeting here. Antique as they may be–and Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote them in 1850–they still best capture the whole New Year thing for me, and especially in this year if Our Lord 2012:
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out false, ring in true.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.