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Last week I said “It’s time to talk about greater hopes. Hopes for the condition of our world, including our own nation and others – even though most ordinary people like us will probably never hold positions of power and authority. It’s time to talk about righteousness, with liberty and justice for all – especially for those we will never know or even come in contact with personally. It’s time to talk about issues which some would say are not appropriate because they are too “political”. So today I will proceed with that intention.
Every day I look at the newspaper and listen to the TV news. thinking that I might find some really good news. If I pay close attention, I usually can find a bit of good, hopeful news. But for the most part, on most days it’s mostly bad news. Recently there has been one bad news subject that has been popping up every day, over and over again. I’m talking about the bad news that the government of the United States has reached its authorized spending cap for the year. I’m not an expert on this whole issue, but as I understand, according to an agreement reached by congress near the end of 2012, the decision to do something about this spending cap was put off for a few months, with the understanding that if a compromise agreement was not reached by February 28 of 2013, substantial cuts in government expenditures would take place. Half of this would be applied to the military and half to civilian purposes, including essential services and support for those already living at or near poverty in the nation. At the time this decision was made, it was expected that the political parties, Republicans and Democrats, in congress, along with the President, would spend the next few months working out a compromise involving both cuts in expenditures and increases in revenue, primarily from increases in taxes, in order to balance the national budget and drastically reduce the national debt.
I believe that when that plan was announced in 2012, most Americans saw this as good news. However, as the months and weeks went by, and now (only two days away from that deadline) we’re expecting some hopeless bad news. The news reporters and commentators, along with the politicians whose job it is to resolve this problem, are all saying that there is no hope that these drastic reductions in expenditures, will be avoided. They are saying that there is no hope for the compromise agreement, which the politicians in Washington said they would provide.
Now why is it that they can’t come to an agreement? It seems to me that this is just another example of what has been happening over about the last two years. What I see is that each of the two major political parties has a proposal for fixing the national debt problem, and each believes that it’s proposal is the best. As it happens, those in the Democrartic party basically call for increases in revenues (taxes), while those in the Republican party call for cutting expenses. Each has been essentially saying that if you adopt our plan, all will be well. But if you adopt the opposing plan there wll be a disaster. So there is a stalemate. There is little if any willingness to compromise.
I believe that behind the present issue I have just mentioned, is the greater issue that too many of elected officials have become more and more concerned with getting themselves and others of their political party elected or reelected. Everything they say or do seems to be calculated to show the opposition as evil, and to show that they will not compromise with evil. They refuse to cooperate and compromise. They condemn each other. They blame each other. They even stoop to lying about each other. Anything to have everything their way and only their way. The result of this self-centered and often childish behavior is that they are demonstrating their own capitulation to evil.
It seems that more and more, they are placing loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the nation. They have forgotten, or maybe never understood, that their purpose is to serve all the people of the whole nation. To provide for the common good and general welfare of all the people of all the nation. Their focus seems to be on providing for their own good and their own welfare. It is interesting to note that while they will allow a situation which will be harmful to those who are defending our nation and those who are already living at or near poverty, they will continue to receive the relatively lucrative salaries they have voted to pay themselves.
I could go on and on with what’s wrong with our government as it now operates. But I’m not an expert on politics, government, or finances. What I have said so far is just what I observe. But there is something which I can say which I believe to be absolute truth. In my post last week I also said “I was reminded that in his time on earth Jesus spoke about a lot of things (that today might be considered political). In fact, it was to a great extent that because he spoke about and acted on those kinds of issues that he was denied, betrayed, tortured and executed.”
The kind of things Jesus talked about, especially what he talked about in the “sermon on the mount” (Matthew chapters 5-7), are in fact today considered to be political. Also, through the word of God as found in the Bible, we can read a great deal about things that are today considered to be political. The message I get from all that is that ideally, politics should be about coming to decisions on and acting in such a way that they provide for the well-being of all people. Yes, for the common good and general wefare of all people. How do we know that God is concerned about all people? We know because God, in the words of Jesus as found in the Bible, said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor. When asked “Who is my neighbor?” he answered with the parable of the good Samaritan, which identifies neighbor as anyone in need who you can serve and you are in a position to serve, especially persons who are different from you.
So, is it realistic to have hope that we will ever see and hear good news in the midst of the bad news that is being made in Washington? What can ordinary people like us do to change things? I believe that behind all that is wrong in Washington, is that most of those we have elected are not seeking or listening to God’s direction as to the issues that come before them. I believe that above all else, in the future, we need to elect people who we believe, based on everything we can know about them, are most likely to seek and do the will of God as to how they go about serving. Unless we know the candidate personally, we can never be sure that our observation about that person is accurate. This means that we ourselves have to seek God’s guidance as we try to discern what is true about political candidates. To the extent that we do that, we can help further positive change in our government. This will not happen as the result of one or two elections. Ultimately, we cannot make this change happen. But God can and will, in God’s time and God’s way. We need to be praying and having faith that God will work changes in the lives of actual and potential politicians, as he does in all kinds of people including you and me.
Finally, while things will not change overnight, and maybe not even in our lifetime, history tells us that even in the face of disastrous situations resulting from political divisiveness God has always provided us with the grace (everything we need) to get through it all. God has provided good news in the midst of bad news and hope when things looked hopeless. Consider these examples:
* Our establishment as an independent nation – We not only had to win a war, but deal with the divisive politics of that time
* The holding together as one nation under God, despite the divisive politics resulting Civil War
* The unity of most Americans, resulting in our world leadership in defeating the evil forces let loose in the world during and after World War II.
* The adoption of laws and positive changing of minds which provided for establishment of the civil rights and welfare of women, children, minority persons, children, and those living in poverty
I believe that God has always been at work for the well-being of our nation, and through our nation, the well-being of other nations, even before we were established as a nation. I believe God is still at work here, despite the failures of our government in recent years. In terms of our love for other people, we still have a long way to go before we are fully on the same page as Jesus, but we are getting there. That’s the good news in the midst of the bad news. That’s the hope which God can and will fulfill, in his time and in his way.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray