It’s said there are two topics to avoid for the sake of politeness: religion and politics. For nearly a quarter-century now, I have flouted that advice and flaunted the adage “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” 

You have been gracious to hear me out in this space and seek me out in other places to keep the conversation going.

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Truth is, we need more, not less, talk about religion and politics. These will always be related as both deal with visions of how our lives together should be arranged for the common good. 

To that end, this column has been an exercise in public theology. Throw in the arts and sciences, entertainment and sports, education and business, and you have a fuller sense of the public aspect of public theology.

The theology part is always tricky in a pluralistic and democratic society. If one religion dominates public discourse and mutes the voices of other views, we move closer toward theocracy. If all religions are required to keep their spiritual perspectives to themselves in the interest of reason-based democracy, citizens find themselves divided between their public and private selves.

My first column in October 1998 set the tone. It was titled “The Spirit of Halloween.” Halloween has its origin in pagan tradition but was “baptized,” so to speak, by Christians into All Hallows Eve, a time to face fears with faith.

Eventually, Halloween became more secular than a spiritual for most people — a way to give and receive across class lines and neighborhood boundaries.

It brings people together. Whether you capitalize or lower-case it, the Spirit/spirit of Halloween typifies the communal aims of chasing darkness with light, evil with goodness, and fear with faith.

Religion and politics should make us better. Too often the impulse to get our own way wins out over “the better angels of our nature,” as Lincoln put it.

 At Paul Quinn College, their motto is “We over Me.” It may not be grammatically correct, but it is poetically and spiritually perfect.

As you might have surmised by the vector of this column thus far, this will be my last regular offering in these pages. I want to thank my friends at The Advocate for giving me this outlet for so long, especially Rick Wamre, and my longtime editor, Keri Mitchell. They have given me wide berth to maneuver these words around the White Rock Lake harbor community. 

Having repositioned myself in the work I do (not exactly retired yet), I have determined it is the right time for a shift in my writing for The Advocate, too. The first part of the compound word deadline is the part I am ready to avoid. That includes sermons and columns both. 

Going forward you may hear from me amid a cohort of other contributors in this space during the coming months. It’s hard to quit you cold turkey, so let the weaning begin.

See you now and then, here and there. Thanks for being a good neighbor.