Friday, April 02, 2010

Overpowered and Overwhelmed

The American Spectator recently published a piece by James Gannon entitled, “America’s Quiet Anger”, in which the author deftly captures the frustration I’ve experienced for quite some time, long before the health care debate but probably amplified during the course of these debates. My frustration reached a peak when the Democratic-controlled Congress circumvented parliamentary rules and procedures as their own available means to cram down the throat of a clearly resistant nation a new welfare bill that will vastly broaden the federal government’s reach. There was a time when our Congress seemed to work toward “empowering” citizens to reach for the stars in their quest for their own piece of the “American Dream” by leveling barriers and working to create a more level playing field. Now, rather than feeling empowered to pursue my own life’s work and ambitions, I feel completely “overpowered” by a federal government that seems intent on taking what little I have and redistributing as they see fit. My life, such as it is, seems no longer to be my own.

I am conflicted as well because as a Christian pastor, my life should clearly not be “my own” but devoted solely to the work and cause of Christ the Savior and His gospel of salvation. My conflict exists because my own denomination uses the “social justice” mantra as a call to ministry to an unbelieving world. It is not that I do not believe in social justice; it just is that my own social justice ideals do not seem to square with another’s. For instance, I do not believe it to be just on any level that government can take from one and give to another without “the consent of the governed”, yet this seems exactly to be what this current government is intent upon doing. But my conflict is more profound when I believe the Church should be calling sinners to repentance and grace, but the cry for “social justice” seems to be blowing the trumpet for the masses to come to the government trough and drink until filled. Social justice, indeed.

I am one of Mr. Gannon’s “angry Americans” who once wrote to his representatives and senators consistently but found, as evidenced by their answers (if answers came at all), that they clearly do not read the letters. Or maybe it’s just mine. They do not answer direct questions but choose instead to send a form letter packed with platitudes and clever “sound bites”, all of which lack any substance, go nowhere, and explain nothing. It is as if they are in perpetual reelection mode. Except for senators, of course, who are not up for reelection. They seem to count on Americans’ lack of long-term memory.

It is also frustrating that I am a Republican represented by Obama Democrats, though some seem to try and play themselves off as “Blue Dogs” or “Yellow Dogs” or whatever these niche Democrats try to pass themselves off as, sort of like trying to play on both sides of the road at the same time. I have rejoiced in voting for some Democrats in the past, and I have regretted voting for some Republicans in the past. Clearly, then, it is not the “party” itself to which I am affiliated but, rather, the principles that gave rise to the GOP and its first US president, Abraham Lincoln.

I also share the frustration with the many who believe the power Congress has granted to the government through this massive health care bill is power that is not enumerated in the US Constitution. And while some states will be challenging the bill in federal court for this very reason, I live in a state in which the governor and the attorney general are both Democrats. Even though our governor has expressed his opposition to the bill AFTER its passage (another frustration but for another time), he refuses to consider a federal court challenge because he believes it will do no good. Now our governor is a licensed attorney who served as this state’s attorney general before being elected as governor, and he seems not to understand that the federal courts exist for such conflicts as these, to settle the matter according to the terms set forth by the US Constitution. That he won’t even consider it speaks volumes about how he really feels, I think. And I am extremely frustrated with this lack of leadership, this voluminous attitude of defeatism in which the governor of a state feels powerless against the behemoth federal government. Maybe the Constitution should have something in it that specifies what the feds and the states can and cannot do. Oh, wait. IT ALREADY DOES!

More than anything, I am frustrated and somewhat angry that I have a voice and something constructive to say in my writing but because I try not to express my “anger” in a hateful way by calling names, my writing does not seem to get much traction. Maybe if I take up a bullhorn and start marching in the streets and call members of Congress “crooks” and “thieves” or threaten them in some way beyond my refusal to vote for them, someone will listen. Then again, these are the ones who are being given all the press and being played off as “kooks” or “fools”.

I don’t know what it will take to be heard. I try to remember that I am a Christian first and foremost and that my Bible admonishes me to submit to civil authorities for the sake of good order. I must also remember that my status as an American citizen is secondary to this. My frustration, however, seems to be feeding upon this internal conflict I continue to have with trying to faithful to my calling while also being mindful of my civic duties and responsibilities as a US citizen. One day I hope to find the balance. Until then, I will continue to work through the conflicts, through the anger, and try to remember that certain reality that what we have before us in civil government – as a representative form of government – is exactly what we as voters have apparently asked for.

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