I have been greatly offended by all the posturing and politicizing over the debate in Washington over the budget and reduction of the national debt.

I was reading an article in the The Christian Century today, titled “Irreducible Faith,” about Pope Benedict the theologian.   I liked one quotation by Benedict (which was a surprise).  He says this about Holy Saturday in his book Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life:

For the saints, “Hell” is not so much a threat to be hurled at other people but a challenge to oneself.  It is a challenge to suffer in the dark night of faith, to experience communion with Christ in solidarity with his descent into the Night.  One draws near to the Lord’s radiance by sharing his darkness.  One serves the salvation of the world by leaving one’s own salvation behind for the sake of others. (The Christian Century, July 12, 2011, p. 26)

This can be withheld into the spiritual realm, but none of us are Gnostics, so we must not only think something, but do something. The idea that any community can get through any crisis without some shared personal suffering is a myth of the worse kind.  Here, where I live, our church knows that we have two options, usually used in unison: increase income, and reduce expenditures.   To achieve this we necessarily have to decide what is most important (in terms of income and expenditures).

I for one am tired of hearing programs to assist the poor and ill as ‘entitlements’.   I don’t like this term because it is used derogatorily.  I fail to understand why collaboration and compromise are unavailable in seeking a resolution to the pending disaster we face.  Perhaps, without this idea of sacrifice, it is impossible to expect lawmakers to make good decisions for the country (if they are only concerned about re-election) or us to support the common good (if we are only concerned about our own market share).  Just as courage is involved in everyday faithfulness, it would be good to see some courage in Washington on behalf of those who are in greatest need among us.

If the purpose of the church and its ministry is (as Richard Niebuhr says) “to increase our love of God and our neighbor”, we fail this purpose when we squabble over the intricacies of striving toward this goal.  If the purpose of the national government is to provide for the common good, no single good can be exempt from the possibility of negotiation.  The place of common ground from which we can tend to the long-term common good without abandoning the particularities of our own perspective is this: everyone will need to contribute something to the solution.  If we insist upon operating like Ananias and Sapphira, we’re as good as dead.