As a self-professed political junkie I find it hard not to think of the current government shutdown as just another bad reality television show writ large. Everyone it appears is following worn out talking points and falling into familiar narratives: the two sides are being blamed in equal measure, a Shakespearean plague on both your houses. What does it say about our nation that we have reached this point? How do people compromise without being viewed as weak? How is a country governed when it seems so equally divided? Not good vs. bad people per se: just people who passionately disagree.
It does strike me that I wonder what it would be like if people were as passionate about their faith as they are about politics and ideology. Even the U.S. Constitution, clearly a human-made document that has had universal (and I believe a positive) impact on nations throughout the world, in the current debate captures the passions of people far more than that of Holy Scripture.
I would like to say that we in the Church have a ready answer to the politicians in Washington D.C.: just get along. But are we on solid and high ground? Our own Episcopal Church, even as we took steps to be more inclusive in our theology and practice of the past 20 years, failed to do so in a way that prevented many congregations and laity from leaving. To be sure, it was a minority of people, but nevertheless it tore apart communities and friendships. Even our so-called extremes – liberal and conservative – find it hard to live together in the same body. Is an Anglican Communion even viable when primates and bishops will not even break bread together?
In two weeks I will travel to Germany for a conference of the German Community of the Cross of Nails. I am invited to give a presentation on the issues that the U.S. is confronting in terms of reconciliation and peace. What will I say? That Jesus’ call for us to love our enemies and seek peace is still as vital as ever. I just never thought the enemy would be perceived as so local. The enemy for too many sits across the political aisle. Red and Blue America needs a proverbial “Come to Jesus” moment to ask ourselves: will our common humanity allow us to solve big problems that challenge us and work to create a better society and world? I hope it does.