Tuesday, October 15, 2013


It came across my inbox a moment ago. Another fundraising appeal from a Congressional Campaign Committee that seeks to leverage the current events in the Capitol for advantage in the 2014 elections. It reminds us of two very germane facts of politics in America. One is that the election cycle never ends. The second is that everything going on this month is driven by winning and losing elections.  Actually “governing” is an afterthought.

They seem to not care about you and I in the Washington of 2013.  Those who lose the most in a debt default are the same folks that are losing in the shutdown. It’s those living day to day on their wages, and those who are the most vulnerable economically. What happens to the millions on the cutting edge of these self-inflicted calamities,  seems to have no place in Capitol Hill’s agenda. Given too many years of closely intermingled political action by many in the faith community, it seems as if many religious institutions are trapped by past support of one party and its candidates.  In times of political and moral crisis, it’s been the job of the church to illustrate what happens to the individual when our other institutions fail.  This is one of those times. We are facing a calamity inflicted upon us by elected leaders who are failing to accomplish their central mission.  Which is to govern.  

One of the most discussed aspects of the 1960 election was the influence the Catholic Church might have on an elected Catholic President.  Looking back on those days now, those fears were utter nonsense.  Nobody in the Vatican or White House questioned the role of each branch of government in our politics. The daily work of government, especially those concerning the power of the purse, was designed to be the product of compromise and consensus between the branches of government and more crucially between the political parties.  The idea of using government shutdowns and the full faith and credit of the country as hostages in these debates was heretofore inconceivable and for most of our history it would have been called simple treason. Even now, the majority of Republicans and Democrats alike, believe in governing.  There have always been differences in the scope of  government’s reach, but not until now has there been a pervasive hatred of government as a concept and idea.

In this atmosphere, politics is often confused with theology.  Instead of a worldview being defined by spiritual beliefs, the reverse occurs and faith is defined by opinions on how we should vote on Election Day.  When we look at Scripture,  we are not seeing a work that cries against government .  For the Bible   speaks about the proper role of government in our lives.  Amid all the political posturing we see surrounding these debates, it is too often stated as  God’s will we vote a certain way.  It’s time for people professing faith as justification to shut down the government to consult their source document .  Forcing the nation to shut down our  government, is contrary not only to our best political traditions, but also counters what Scripture says. The current crisis  is one of a pathological  hostility to government itself,  from a group of political extremists and bigots. that is focused on annulling the last two presidential elections. It should be remembered  that it is a minority of our elected officials who are demonstrating their nihilistic tactics and flawed ideology. But that extreme minority has hijacked their party and the process, and has driven the nation into peril based upon fear and in many cases race.

The tea party extremists are like to recite religious justification. But Scripture speaks of government as having the obligation to protect its people,  to   promote the common good, and to collect taxes to do so.   Because of their professed hatred of government, those promoting this crisis are hostile to the poor, who are supposed to be protected as part of that common good.  A reading of the Bible points out that there has always been those who are poor and afflicted. They blame the poor for the timeless curse of poverty, while opposing any effort to  protect the most fragile, much less do anything  to  lift them out of poverty.  Instead we see countless children are losing their Head Start, mothers with children losing WIC , and many of those most dependent on their pay checks losing them via this self-inflicted disaster.  


The criteria to evaluate and judge civil authority is simple. Do our leaders serve the people, guard their security, maintain  a  peaceful social order, and act to  make the lives of its citizens better? The opposition to government we are living through, is not about promotion of the common weal. It’s obstruction meant to serve the ultimate power of wealthy and powerful special interests. However its packaged and promoted, it is simply not a position the tea party minority within a minority can find justification for in a Bible,  often quoted but seemingly not read with comprehension.