Sunday, September 24, 2006

Methodist Blogger Profile: Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson of Politics With Richard

Hi, my name is Richard. I was born in Bedford, England but have grown up in Connecticut. I was the first baptized member of the Methodist Church in my family, technically being baptized in the “Methodist Church of Great Britain,” but confirmed in the “United Methodist Church.” I’m probably one of the youngest Methodist bloggers out there, being the ripe age of 15. I have always gone to Catholic School, and I currently go to an all-male Jesuit High School. I’ve always been fascinated by theology, history, and politics. I’m a pretty liberal guy and don’t like fighting. I want to be a lawyer when I’m older, but who knows, maybe if things don’t work out (or do, depending on your perspective), I might find myself in the ministry. I generally blog about politics, but I like to bring up religion and moral issues, as I think they are increasingly relevant in our current events. Finding the balance between religion and politics is always the sticking point. I love to travel and hope to go to Italy and Japan next year. I can speak French just about fluently and some Spanish. I’m working on Latin.

Why do you blog?
I blog because I have so much to say about what’s going on in the world around me. I blog because it is truly a marvelous form of self-_expression. Blogging is the free press and free speech in action. Whether or not people read my articles, I gain great satisfaction from writing it. It’s almost like self-therapy in the sense that I can express my thoughts and feelings in a new medium.

What has been your best blogging experience?
My best blogging experience has certainly been the people and the connections I have made. I have interacted with people in my community and across the country. Locality is not a restriction. Because of this, I have been able to meet really great and intelligent people who have enormously ranging opinions and feelings. Particularly in the Methodist community, I have reached a new means of enriching my theological background through the connections I have made with enormously different people sharing the same faith. It has been a great exercise in theological discovery and the idea of the Church being a community of believers. This has been something that I would never have been able to do regularly due to the isolated nature of my own church and our fairly homogenous community. Also, bringing such great minds together in one place is truly a wonderful phenomenon of blogging.

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Don’t restrict yourself. I often see a lot of people try to start blogging with a single topic in mind, and then they can only write about that topic. They end up being restricted and lose interest. Likewise, there are people who don’t define enough what they’re going to write about, and then they can’t think of anything to write. Think of a theme – politics, religion, family, sports, your daily life, art, or whatever you want. You can always expand and stray off if you wish, but it’s always great to have a starting point.

If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
Locusts & Honey -
Coldflame -
Thoughts from a Library Administrator -

Who are your spiritual heroes?
Jesus, Moses, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, St. Ignatius of Loyola

What are you reading at the moment?
I am currently reading Dead Man Walking by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ. It truly is a shockingly insightful look into the American (in)justice system.

I recently wrote about it in this article:

What is your favorite hymn and why?
My favourite hymns are “Lord of the Dance,” “Where You There?”, and “Amazing Grace.” I love all these songs because of the passion and feeling which goes behind them, which makes them all so more powerful. I especially enjoy singing them and playing them on the piano, too.

Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
I haven’t necessarily changed my mind on this issue, but I have certainly reconsidered my opinions on abortion. I have always been pro-choice, but this does not mean that I want any abortions to happen. I have my reasons for being pro-choice, but I also understand the strong moral argument which people who want to ban abortion give as well.

What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
Well, I certainly disagree with the idea that throwing out tax breaks solves the economy’s problems because, in reality, usually these tax breaks only benefit the wealthy and the poor continue to lose out. Poverty is not eradicated but only deepened. I’m not sure what you call it – consumerism, “”spend and not tax?”

If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
I would change our policy on war in general. We continue to have the wrong approach by refusing to listen to our “enemies,” by even refusing to speak to them, they clearly are not going to make any changes. What’s the point of only exercising diplomacy to our friends when diplomacy to our enemies is what is most important? “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you,” is something by which I live my life.

If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
I love the UMC, though I wish they would be a little more liberal in regards to homosexuality in ministry. As someone who feels this issue very close at heart, restricting someone from entering or continuing the ministry because they are gay is an injustice. If they want to be that chauvinistic about it, then they might as well ban divorc├ęs and shellfish eaters from the ministry.

Also, on a side note, I wish that confirmands were allowed to choose a confirmation name of some sort. I had forever wanted a confirmation name, always assuming that this practice existed in the UMC. I was disappointed to find out this was not the case.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Don’t let people or things get in your way. Take risks. Don’t get caught up in the little things, but don’t concentrate for too long on the big picture. Live your life to the fullest, give yourself a goal, but don’t define yourself by it. Chances are you’ll reach it without even realizing it.

What, if anything, do you worry about?
I mainly worry about school, grades, tests, homework, and college admissions – the typical teenage worry points.

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Sure, there are a lot of stupid little things I wouldn’t have done. I would have taken my teacher’s advice and taken French III as a freshman instead of waiting till sophomore year. I wouldn’t have done the school musical and been on the mock trial team and a thousand other things at the same time. I wouldn’t have said things to some people that I had said. Yet, I don’t really think I’ve lived enough of my life to say that I would want to have changed it.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Well, the whole plan is to move back to England when I graduate high school. I’ve always wanted to live France and am considering doing that sometime in the future. Who knows?

What do you like doing in your spare time?
Spare time? Ha!

Seriously, I enjoy biking, photography, writing, sailing, camping, acting, and being with friends.

What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured material possession? Well, all my family photographs that I have accumulated from relatives over the years doing research for my family tree. They are very precious to my family and me, and I would hate for anything to happen to them.

What talent would you most like to have?
An ability to be a more engaging and sociable personality, especially being able to branch out of my comfort zone in terms of social interaction.

If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
Well, with such an opportunity, I couldn’t waste it on anybody. It would probably have to be Jesus, St. Peter, and, most essentially … someone who lived back then and could translate from Aramaic to Latin (considering that he wouldn’t be able to translate it into English bearing in mind it didn’t exist at the time… my Latin isn’t great, but we’d work something out) or, more ideally, someone who lives now and can translate from Aramaic to English flawlessly.

I’d use this as a time to clear up the whole papacy thing, see if the Catholic Church got it right or wrong, to get Jesus’ opinions on dilemmas facing us to day like war, poverty, abortion, the death penalty, homosexuality, etc, and finally to know who goes to heaven, when’s the end of the world, what’s the meaning of life, and was John on acid when he wrote the Book of Revelation.

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