upper room daily devotions

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Republicans, Christmas, Partisanship, and Governance

It may not surprise anyone who reads this blog where my political leanings lay. However, I try to keep this blog from being a divisive place. On the whole, people pretty much want the same things: meaning, safety, a sense of home, belonging, and peace. People - rich and poor, Democratic and Republican, people of all colors and hues - yearn for wholeness and completeness, and they dream of a world that is better than the one in which we currently live. We may not all agree on how to get there or exactly how that dream looks, but in the main, I don't think people are as far apart as we are generally portrayed.

Given that paragraph on unity, I now move into dangerous territory - political territory - a partisan landscape that is fraught with ideological land mines, presumptions, coded language, and suspicion. Yet, as I labor to prepare the people in the church I serve to welcome the Christ-child, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, my heart is heavy and my soul wearied by the theatrics that are taking place in Washington, D.C.

Both parties play childish games, hold up processes necessary for governing our nation, and resort to name calling. It is disgust of both parties that compels many people to identify as "Independents." The childish maneuverings of people who should otherwise know better push the potential voter into a malaise from which it is difficult to be shaken or moved. Many potential voters in our political process stay home rather than choose between two evils on election day.

Yet, the Republicans have taken a no holds barred approach lately - an approach that I feel compelled to denounce because they have now invoked my faith, my religion, my Savior, and my holy festivals in their political high jinks.

When the Republicans won the House and made gains in the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made this statement to the National Journal, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." While he appeared to ease back from that statement in an interview on FOX News, it seems that his party has not backed off it at all. They have been playing the obstructionist role with great verve. First, they would not allow any legislation to progress until passing a tax bill that includes an extension of the Bush tax cut for those making over $250,000. Once they won this battle, they did not step aside and allow other legislation fair hearing. Up next in their sights were the Health Care bill, DADT, the START Treaty, the Dream Act, and the omnibus bill. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint went so far as to demand a reading on the floor of the Start Treaty, something that has been available for review for eight months. Senators John Thune (R-SD) and John Cornyn (R-TX) called a press conference to decry the wasteful spending and pork in the omnibus bill -pork they themselves put in - and when pressed by reporters why they were making hay out of a bill they helped draft and over earmarks which they requested, they fled the podium. Their basic defense: Yes, we put those in, but we're going to vote against this bill because it's full of pork. Even in an interview on Republican-friendly FOX News, Senator Cornyn did not give a cogent reason for requesting earmarks and then voting against them. But none of this is what drove me to write this post. What drove me to this post was the Republican invocation of Christmas as a reason to cease the work for which they have been elected.

Vice President Joe Biden has some feisty words for Republicans hiding behind Christmas (below). In Senators Thune and Cornyn's press conference regarding the omnibus bill, Senator Cornyn cried foul at the Democratic leadership jamming and cramming this bill down the necks of the newly elected at a time when they would like to be "shopping" and spending time with families. He seemed unconcerned with the families affected should the government grind to a halt. He seemed utterly distant from the realities of what occurs when the government is not fully funded and cannot operate even for the sake of national security. He seemed ignorant of the irony in allowing people to go unpaid and vital programs unfunded so that he can go home and celebrate the birth of Jesus, a poor child who would grow into the one whom Christians profess as Savior - healer and redeemer - of the earth. Moreover, he seemed completely ill-informed that Christmas doesn't begin until December 25 - not before. Christmas begins December 25 and lasts for twelve days. It does not begin in October or at Thanksgiving or a week before - it begins on December 25. That gives him plenty of time to do the work for which he was elected. Moreover, at the prospect of a post-Christmas Day session, Senator Jim DeMint rebelled against Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), saying that such a session would be "sacrilegious...deeply offensive to me and millions of working Americans across this country." And Senator Jon Kyl complained that coming back after Christmas would be "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate."

As a working American and as a professed Christian, it is deeply offensive to me that people elected to be stewards and leaders of this nation and all that is in it are playing games with people's lives and with our security - and using the Prince of Peace as the one to hide behind. It is offensive to me when we cannot make steps toward peace by ratifying the START Treaty because it may give President Obama political leverage and because it may interrupt shopping. It is disrespectful of their office, of our nation, and to this Christian when people "use" the name Jesus to further their own self-interested partisanship to the detriment of the least, the last, the weakest, and the most vulnerable - the very ones to whom Jesus comes.

When Mary discovers that she is pregnant, she offers one of the most poetic proclamations of biblical faith when she gives God glory in singing what has come to be known by Christians as The Magnificat. She says:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on
the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all
generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done
great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who
fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with
his arm;
he has scattered the proud in
the imaginations of their hearts.
He has brought down the
powerful from their
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with
good things,
and sent the rich empty away.
(Luke 1:46b-53)
If the Republican Christians in the Senate need to read something on the floor, I ask them to let the atheists, Muslims, and Jews head home and for them to stay and read Mary's song. Perhaps it will instruct them on who they are to be as Christians, and then perhaps they could spend some time in reflection before defaming the name of Jesus the Christ in the course of their political reindeer games.

I close my rant with a re-rendering of the Old Testament Reading from Advent 3A (December 19). The prophet Isaiah is speaking to King Ahaz, who does not trust God and who will not do as God says.
Isaiah: Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?
Katie: Hear then, O party of Reagan! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?

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