Pastor Robert Eckert Pastor
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford
“Let integrity and virtue guard me” (Psalm 25:21a, Common English Bible).
This space that the Post so generously offers to area clergy each week is not intended to be a forum for political discussion. It’s difficult, however, perhaps even impossible, to fully separate matters of faith from politics, especially with so much of our attention focused on Washington in the past few weeks as matters of budget and finance brought things to a standstill—for many of us, quite literally.
The fact is that much of what we say and do as expressions of our spirituality are intertwined with our relationships with government. Sometimes as a critical resource, sometimes as a bothersome obstacle, government is part of the landscape as much as family, friends, traditions, jobs, education, everything. So I think there are certain characteristics it is fair and reasonable for people of faith to expect from government, even to demand from government. And, more importantly, whether present or absent in government, they are characteristics that need to be honored and demonstrated in daily life.
For my part, I see the threat and reality of shutting down the government as a breach of integrity. Passing laws is a nation’s way of giving its word. Among the laws of this land are those that identify priorities for the common good and commit to providing the means for pursuing agreed upon priorities. When access to those means is denied, the nation’s word has been broken.
The bill from last week that raised the national debt ceiling for another 90 days set up budget negotiations between the GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate intended to reach a broader agreement on funding the government. Both Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and Sen. Patty Murray (D), chairs of the two legislatives houses’ budget committees, spoke of the need to find “common ground.” I would suggest that they begin by determining whether they are willing to occupy a plat of integrity together.
Heck, if world religions with all their differences and points of contention can find such common ground, is it too much to ask of politicians? Hebrew scripture offers as an example of blameless living the one “who keeps an oath even when it hurts.” The Qur’an admonishes, “O you who believe! Fulfill your obligations.” A Buddhist blogger writes, “[H]onesty and integrity are essential components of the good life.” And the Christian Testament quotes Jesus calling for simple, dependable, transparent adherence to moral and ethical principles: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Let’s set an example for our elected leaders. Let’s not shut down the means to fulfilling our priorities for the common good. Let’s keep our oaths, fulfill our obligations, and pursue the good life. Let’s let our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no.” Maybe those to whom we’ve entrusted responsibility for so much that directly affects our hopes and dreams will notice. Maybe they’ll get it. Maybe they’ll see what common ground looks like.