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Assistant Minister's Column

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    I am grateful that the government has reopened. Still, I worry for all those in our congregation and around the country whose economic stability was at risk. We have now entered the post-shutdown examination and explanation period, and while pundits and reporters are telling us who won, who lost, and who is at fault, I have yet to hear one pundit place the blame where I think it deserves to be placed: on me.

 

    After all, Washington DC doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Congress is not made up of aliens and representatives who have no ties to us; each member of congress is elected by his or her constituents. The makeup of congress is the makeup of us as a people. In a way, congress represents our own inner conflicts and personal paradoxes. That is why I place the blame on me.

 

    We are living in a time of great fragmentation and disconnect. People are migrating to parts of the country that support their ideology. Districts are gerrymandered to maximize a partisan mindset and minimize the chance for ideological opposition. These maps were gerrymandered by the people we elected to gerrymander them. In Republican leaning states, the maps skewed towards Republicans. In Democratic leaning states, they skewed towards Democrats. Partisan TV and radio stations and websites further our own personal narratives while ignoring and demonizing the viewpoints of others.

 

    As much as I want to blame “them,” that is, whatever perspective I don’t share, I was the one who cheered when a news station that supported my view went on air. I kept an eye on political yard signs when deciding where to live. I ignore the hypocrisies of my own party while privately (and sometimes publically) reveling in the hypocrisies of the other. I bemoaned the gerrymandering of the other political party while quietly celebrating the gerrymandering that supported “my team.” And when my barber made comments I found politically untenable, my gut reaction was to switch barbers.

 

    This disjointed and partisan mess in Washington occurred because of the disjointed and partisan way I, and we, live our lives. People change and grow and compromise by listening to other points of view. This happens through conversation with and experiences of those we consider the other. Because we grow when we know we are safe and held in love, the religious challenge offered by the government shutdown is to practice loving and keeping safe all people – especially those we see as ideologically different. So long as we are separating ourselves based on ideology and expecting our elected representatives to do the same, we will never have the world we long for.