Not Loving Your Neighbor…A Recipe for Gridlock

Not Loving Your Neighbor…A Recipe for Gridlock

I know, I know, the title sounds so naïve.

But just suspend judgment for a few minutes.

In the past several years the word that most often is used to describe American Federal Government is gridlock. Gridlock means deadlock and is often used to describe a horrible traffic jam that blocks all streets.  Sadly it has described the executive and legislative branches of government and now after the death of Judge Antonin Scalia, it has infected the judicial branch.

How has this happened? We can point fingers at a group or a person and blame them but that does little good.  It has happened.  And it has ground the government to a dead halt several times.  Elected officials have gone to Washington to do great things and their time there seems to be fruitless.  Indeed several legislative members have opted to retire because of the lack of activity due to gridlock.

Rather than point fingers, let’s raise the discussion above personality to the communication climate. Get ready; I am going to throw some scripture at you; in fact a mighty important scripture.  Let’s keep it simple; from Mark 12, Jesus says the second commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Not much of that going around in the halls of government.

No one has a lock on the best way to solve the problems of the world. Some groups think they do but they really don’t.   The problem is that when we hate our neighbor, we don’t appreciate their view of the world.  Maybe their viewpoint is dreadful and we would not want to have anything to do with it, but if it is not dreadful, the other viewpoint probably has a good idea or two to solve the problems that we all face.  What I am really saying is we can borrow ideas from others and take those along with ours and maybe we will have a little progress.

In the forward to Seeing Gray, Pastor Jim Wallis gives us an example of how this works.  I will paraphrase.  Conservatives [by in large the Republican Party] have been right about their emphasis on the value of morality in our culture and the necessity of individuals taking personal responsibility for actions.  I like that idea.  I am a Christian.  Liberals [by in large the Democrat party] have been right to emphasize the need for government to ensure fairness and equal opportunity.  I don’t see anything wrong with all people in American society getting to play on a level playing field.  I am a Christian.  It seems like a good idea to me.

Why can’t these two ideas produce compatibility? Couldn’t people work together on the basis of these ideas?

I guess not. Not today.

What we have today is what I call an either-or world. Either you are with me or you are against me.  If you apply a party label to yourself, you are forbidden to see values in ideas other than the party you are for.  You are for me or against me.

People aren’t making much effort to love their neighbor.

Adam Hamilton is trying to focus on the common ground that we should all see because we are Christians. Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Do some good in the world while you are here.  Hamilton feels “a passionate evangelistic zeal should be coupled with a belief that the gospel has to be lived in social ministry to a broken world.”  His emphasis is on the common good.

Ideology associated with a conservative or liberal world view should not be our focus. What are the real and practical issues that affect people’s lives on a daily basis?  What are the moral concerns that affect people in real life?  Ideology is not getting things done.  Ideology is causing us to divide and not conquer any of the problems that we all face.

Hamilton asks can’t we build bridges instead of walls?

I am out of touch I guess, but I was raised to listen respectfully to people and then respond to their ideas in a respectful way. I was raised to exchange ideas so you can take the best ideas that a group of people have and solve problems with the best solution.  The solution may not be mine.  The solution may come from another person with a totally different perspective but that’s ok.  The main thing is that a problem is being solved.

As Pastor Wallis writes in the foreword about politics in 2008, he could be describing today. We are seeing it being played out in our presidential primary process.  He states “more and more people want to see a new common-good politics and a bridge-building church.”  They are tired of the either-or way of thinking.

Maybe people just want to see government work.

Maybe people just want politicians to remember that second commandment, you know that one that says “love your neighbor.”


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