Well, we are in another government crisis. Conflict in Washington is raging yet again. Insults, anger, and power plays are everywhere. The news media is all over this and the talking heads are opining on how everything is the fault of the people that they disagree with. Dissension, blame, posturing, manipulation, and dishonest representation is all that we are getting these days from our "leaders." Most of the people that I consider sane and level-headed see through the corruption on both sides and want to see some humility and willingness to work together. But, that all seems impossible. The American governmental experiment is collapsing under its own weight.
The Bible does speak to this. It tells us exactly what is happening in Washington and why. Simply put, people are in conflict and dissension because of the desires that rage within them. It is not the fault of the other person only. Each party is to blame. This is the result of power-politics instead of servant-politics. When grasping for power to wield it over others, the end always justifies the means. When seeking to serve the people, the means are as important as the end. We are firmly entrenched in the former perspective.
James 4:1-3 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (NIV)
We are suffering from trying to make our own way in life without asking God. We want power to use for our own ends and desires. When someone stands in the way of what we want, we become angry. We fight and quarrel. Compromise is not possible because we are not able to see through to a way where we do not get what we want. The desires that battle within us push us forward into conflict with others.
James 4:4-6 says, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (NIV)
The world system and its perspective and philosophy is at enmity with God. There is no peace - only conflict and striving and power plays and one group trying to dominate another. We are being turned over to our own desires. The peace that we seek only comes from God. When we are trying to get our own way, we fall into the trap that the world has set for us and we are destroyed. It is pride that causes us to try and assert ourselves and our way over others - and God opposes it.
Many will say at this point, "Yes, but we should oppose what is wrong and unjust and fight to do right and seek justice. This ObamaCare system is wrong and will destroy us. It must be opposed." The other side will say, "But, it is wrong not to provide free healthcare for the poor. As a nation, we must do better. Anyone opposing ObamaCare is calloused and irresponsible." Both sides think that they are right and that the other is wrong and thus, they are completely justified in opposing the other side to the bitter end. It is a zero-sum game.
We are at this point of complete relational and functional breakdown in Washington because we have forgotten that we are supposed to listen to one another and that there are real problems that both sides are addressing. Health Care costs ARE out of control and something needs to be done. Democrats are right. But, government spending and debt is also out of control and something needs to be done. Republicans are right. While we can see the problem, we cannot discuss how to address it because we are so polarized. This fight is not about ObamaCare or Federal spending. It is about everything and the sides hate each other. It like watching a really bad marriage in its final stages. The couple is not arguing about who didn't take the trash out. They are arguing about hurt and pain that was inflicted 15 years ago. Unless some healing takes place, divorce is inevitable.
That is where we are as a nation. Thomas Sowell, Stanford economist and political/social philosopher in his book, A Conflict of Visions, says that the conflict that we are seeing comes from two competing visions of reality. One view, the Constrained Vision, sees human nature as unchanging and selfish. It needs to be constrained and held back from pursuing its passions while simultaneously prompted toward virtue. The problem lies within the heart of man. This is a Conservative view that takes in wisdom from the ages. The Unconstrained Vision believes that human nature can be changed and perfected. Means can be employed to construct desired outcomes that make society better. The problems in society are not within the individual but are embedded in structures. If we can see structural change, then humanity will automatically flourish. This is the Liberal/Progressive view that sees tradition as stifling and part of the problem. Sowell says that all perspectives in political discourse fall under one of these two visions.
We have been arguing about this in Western society for approximately 300 years. I believe that this is a spiritual disagreement and that both views have been shaped and formed by different aspects of Christianity. Law vs. Grace. Faith vs. Works. Sacred vs. Secular. Even when we are rejecting God as a society, our arguments are haunted by differing theological views on the nature of God, reality, man, what is wrong with the world, and how we fix it. We are having spiritual discussions and arguments without God. So, we assert our own wisdom, which isn't much, and we go at each other's throats instead of asking God for help. God opposes our pride and lets us destroy each other. But, He gives grace to the humble who recognize that the only answer to our problem is found in Christ, in whom all things are held together.
What is the solution? It is repentance and a return to God as our Source of life and wisdom instead of trusting in ourselves. James 4:7-10 concludes this passage with these words: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (NIV)
The Church in America needs to stop taking sides in these political arguments. We need to recognize that these are theological arguments being engaged in by a people who have forgotten and rejected God. The answer will not ever be found by one side winning the argument over the other. That will just continue the fight. The only answer is for both sides to return to God. The voice of the Church must be to point out that the existence of the dissension and arguing itself points to the larger problem: We have rejected God. The only solution is to submit to God. Resist the devil. Come near to God. Wash your hands. Purify your hearts. Grieve over our sin and dissension. Humble yourself before God and He will lift you up.
Some will say that this is naive. That America is a secular nation now and does not see their problem as being related to a lack of faith in God at all. That is the naive argument. We are in crisis as a nation and we are coming apart at the seams. Let me leave you with this question: If a massive terrorist attack on American soil were to occur where multiple cities were bombed and thousands were killed, or if a massive natural disaster occurred where thousands were killed, do we not think that Americans would come together and pray and turn to God and mourn together? Yes. We would. We know this because we have seen that happen in the last 13 years after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. When crisis hits, we still turn to God and come together with other Americans. Our differences melt away and we recognize our common humanity and that we are all in this together.
The crisis in Washington is no less severe. But, it is a crisis of our own making. The only way out is to recognize the conflict as intractable and treat it as we would an attack on our nation. We must pray. We must humble ourselves. We must put the nation before our own interests. We must return to God.
I do not see America as a Christian nation and I have no illusions about that. But, I do know that when a group of people humbles themselves and seeks the good of the other, that peace can be the result. My prayer right now is not that Democrats or Republicans would win. My prayer is that all of us would humble ourselves and turn to God for help before we completely destroy each other. We need a miracle.