Can We Have a Little Respect In Washington?

Some say the greatest source of grief in the world develops either when someone wants you to do something you do not want to do, or when you want someone to do something they do not want to do.

I think it’s true. It seems as though we human beings can overcome just about any obstacle, but the suffering caused by one person or group demanding that another conform to their wishes has caused more human grief than any other single issue.

Religious people tend to do this. Those who agree are included and given benefits, while outsiders are shunned, punished, humiliated, and sometimes put to death for their lack of compliance.

Political leaders do this. When people refuse to submit to the dictates of some political leaders, those in office use the power of the state to cause their opponents to suffer.

Married couples, kids on a playground, young men and women deciding the pecking order in their group can cause immense grief.

We should never minimize the power of respect. In my younger days as a pastor, I thought about how delightful it would be to have a Sunday morning worship service with only those in attendance who wanted to be there. I envisioned no one there because of family pressure, religious guilt, shame or obligation. So I decided to try the experiment of respecting people’s choices about their own church attendance. Gayle and I decided many years ago that we would not use any of the popular techniques to get people to come to church. We decided that we would simply have a believers’ meeting and respect the decisions of others whether or not they wanted to join with us.

We have made a fundamental decision to respect the choices others make for themselves. And of course, we appreciate it when others are respectful toward us. It leads to a more peaceful existence for all—one more conducive to respectful dialogue in the marketplace of ideas as opposed to hostile division.

Now for the mid-term elections . . . Today I am dismayed with the headlines in our local newspaper. The banner headline across the top is “Obama takes a defiant stance” with the sub-headline, “vows to act alone to change immigration system; GOP opposes plan.”

I do not expect President Obama to start thinking or acting like a Republican, but I do expect him to be respectful toward those with whom he disagrees in Washington. I remember when congress was controlled by the Democratic Party for 40 consecutive years, while having a variety of Republican and Democrat presidents. During those years Democrats and Republicans dined, golfed, worshipped, and negotiated together. Even in the midst of significant conflict, decorum, respect, and a fundamental understanding that the other guy was elected too, provided a fundamental foundation for the democratic process to work.

We as Americans want our politicians to be statesmen, not just advocates. We want them to represent us, use wisdom, have manners, and when necessary lead us responsibly. We trust them with power, but that power is rooted in the dignity of the citizenry. So we want them to give their best arguments in a respectful way, and move our country forward.

We don’t want them to be such strong advocates for their position that they demean, embarrass, or dehumanize those who differ from them. They should debate, vote, accept the results, and go to dinner or play golf together. Disrespect prevents that from happening. If there is trickery, deception, blame, or embarrassment, then we human beings tend to get bitter, align only with those who sympathize with our view, and we stop thinking and start hurting one another. I believe that is what has been happening in Washington, but it’s time for it to stop.

Our mid-term elections count. President Obama needs to respect the people’s representatives, and those representatives need to respect our chief executive. If mutual respect is not upheld, then the power struggle begins again with our politicians simply positioning themselves for elections in two years.

Many have paid a high price so that we don’t have a monarchy, a dictatorship, or one party rule. I believe that President Obama is thoughtful and was elected by the left because of his political philosophy and pleasant demeanor. But there are many of us who do not believe his philosophy is best. If he will honestly work with those who differ from him, he could be heralded as a great president. But if unilateral executive actions continue, while mocking and blaming congress, then history might not laud our current administration.

When President Obama was elected, the majority in both houses of Congress shared his philosophy of government. We, the people, did not approve of what he did as president when his office had that much power, so we limited it to some degree by changing the leadership of the lower house of Congress. Two years later, our nation re-elected him as President, affirming his role, but not with the power of both houses of Congress, requiring that he respect, listen, advocate and negotiate, to enjoy greater success. But there was too much blaming and division, so rather than ending the gridlock by re-electing Democrat leadership in the lower house, we went the other direction. We elected to further limit his power and increase the level of accountability over his actions by electing Republican leadership in both houses of Congress. If those in the White House will respect the decisions we, the people, are making, we can move forward. Strong, humble leadership, Republican and Democrat, working for the common good, could serve our nation and the world well right now.

Today’s headlines make me wonder if this is what people in other countries feel like when their prime minister or president disbands their parliament. Checks and balances are gone, decorum and dignity are thrown to the wind, and brute force prevails. Is that what we’ll have for the next two years? I hope not.

We can all show more respect. We in the Church need to be respectful of those we may never persuade and protect them as we would protect our own. Christians should ensure that Jews and Muslims feel safe in our communities, and the opposite should be demonstrated as well. Atheists need to be respectful of those with faith, and vise versa. We should demand that all of our representatives be statesmen, and should they choose to be partisan advocates, let them, but not from an elected governing position. As citizens of a constitutional republic, we are ultimately responsible to ensure that our society is civil. Let’s begin by upholding the value of mutual respect.

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33 thoughts on “Can We Have a Little Respect In Washington?

  1. Gary VanDyke says:

    SO, SO, SO, SO True.

  2. Ernie Plumleu says:

    I agree 100 percent. No further comment needed.

  3. brgeem says:

    I have always appreciated your words Ted, and from time to time found great wisdom – and solace – in them. I do not fully understand American politics, (despite living in New England for a while), and I suspect at my end of the World the relays of the news media is not as good as it could be. What I do see and hear is considerable disrespect for the President. I am not here talking about the man, who I admire greatly, but the role. There is so much hatred for him, at least that is what we see on our TVs and read on-line, (I don’t anymore buy newspapers).
    Yes, I fully agree with your sentiments and feeling about respect. God knows, you have been well tested in that fire yourself. But the venom that is being lashed out at Leader of your Nation seems to me to be well beyond any level of fairness, decency, and respect. Even some religious leaders speak of ‘sending him to hell’. Where is their God in such bitter anger? I cannot get my mind around that.

    • Ernie Plumleu says:

      I don’t think you understand pastor Ted’s comments unless you are being sarcastic.

    • I know and respect those who built the religious right in the 1980s. I love their love for God’s Kingdom, and know they had good motives. Interestingly, as the decades have past (and some of them have passed as well), I have come to see that a totally unintended consequence of our movement gave the body of Christ in America permission to blame. That combined with a novice president that had a tendency to blame, along with Pelosi and Reid being so partisan, we lost decorum in Washington. Sadly, that atmosphere fueled much ungodly activity within the church. Now, though, I hope we have a window to restore civility in our debate. It would be better for the whole world should that occur in Washington. I do hope and pray that the church could find a way to lead the way in that effort. Sadly, though, many of our religious right organizations have built their mailing lists and funding base on “getting the bad guys,” which means they might have to risk all they have to move the ball forward.

  4. brgeem says:

    I fully understand every word of Ted’s article – every word! And most certainly not being sarcastic, I have fare too much respect for Ted to do that. Perhaps you have misunderstood my response?

    • Ernie Plumleu says:

      I appreciate that you aren’t sarcastic. I do think you don’t understand the full context of Teds response then. It wasn’t only in concern to Obama. Obama isn’t respectful of the choice the voters made in recent elections by his defiance of said elections according to Obama’s response. I know there is sometimes disrespect on both sides but the president by evidence of his remarks is totally disrespecting the voters results.

      • brgeem says:

        I am not going to get into any further debate on this, as clearly you do not wish to understand or respect my response. As I have said, I FULLY UNDERSTAND what Ted has written, and indeed, its context – how could I possibly understand what Ted has said if I did not first understand the context.
        My response to Ted’s article was in praise of what the Pastor had said, nothing more, nothing less – and I stand by my words, else I would not have written them in the first instance.

      • I’m sorry I offended you brgeem. That was not my intention. I think you are misunderstanding my response but that’s ok. It sounds like the media over there is very left leaning or at least the media you are receiving. Maybe that’s the biggest misunderstanding between us.

  5. brgeem says:

    Sorry, that should be ‘far’ not fare. My PC sometimes corrects words of its own volition.

  6. Ted Flood says:

    Great article Ted, I enjoyed it. This concept of mutual respect is exactly what we need to move America forward and fix some major issues that need fixing. Although I did not vote Mr Obama’s way and disagree with his ideals, does not and should not be a factor in our respect for him or the office he holds. Nor does his office or position allow him the right to disrespect the people that now surround him in washington. I would love for this to this be the case and point for the coming times, but I am not optimistic that it will happen, at least not right away and then to what degree who knows. Will it be enough at that point, only time will tell. As you have very well stated, there is a lot of ugly history here that was not created over night. I believe it will take some time for anything like this to happen. That is why it is vital that we the church get on our face and pray for our leadership in Washington.

  7. Kelly Oliver says:

    I agree with you 100%. It will make the world a better place.

  8. Neil says:

    We do need more respect in Washington, and one more thing, organized religion needs to stay out of the legislative process.

    • Not if the participants in organized religion are citizens. Neil, the United States is a secular government, not an atheist government, meaning all citizens, and the organizations they build have voice. There are countries that do not practice that, and the alternatives to our system have not demonstrated the vibrant, wonderful lives we all enjoy.

      • brgeem says:

        Absolutely Ted! And it ought to be the same for any true Democracy.

      • Neil says:

        But then, we are not a true Democracy.

      • We are a republic. Major difference, though most public school teachers say the pledge, they don’t know the difference between a republic and a democracy. But we are a republic.

      • Neil says:

        There is a big difference between the terms secular and atheist, and there is a big difference between “organized religion” and ordinary citizens Mr. Haggard. Organized religion has organized money and lobbies (see LDS prop 8), and some wealthly Corporations (like Hobby Lobby), to pass legislation that the vast majority of ordinary citizens do not accept in a free society. By the way, you may not have noticed but the United States is now an oligarchy (governed by the wealthly influence of a few, and backed by powerful religions).
        And you are correct in saying that some enjoy vibrant, wonderful lives (our homeless downtown and elsewhere do not). Our religions need to concentrate on helping those that do not have vibrant, wonderful lives, rather than debating secular citizens for their worldly rather than spiritual approach.

      • Yes, and the Supreme Court has been clear that both non-profit and for-profit corporations are entities made up of group of citizens with common purpose who had a right to a voice. That is the price of freedom and liberty – people can join together and have a voice. It’s ok, you can too.

      • By the way Neil, a little civics lesson, corporations cannot pass legislation. The people elect legislators who debate and pass legislation, and the executive (governor for states and president for nation) signs or vetoes. That’s how we get legislation. If someone is damaged by it, they may use the courts to challenge or gather their friends, replace the legislators and have the law redone. Bottom line, hobby Lobby has never and does not have the power to pass legislation.

      • Neil says:

        Mr. Haggard, thank you for the basic civics lesson. You seem to miss one salient point. That is that wealthly people spend money (millions through dark money) to hire lobbyists, PR firms, and elect legislators, to influence the legislators who debate and pass legislation. In some cases, through organizations like ALEC, they even write the legislation for our legislators to debate and pass. Since our legislators often do not even read the legislation (there is so much of it — this according to one Colorado state legislator I spoke to) there is no real debate. If you stack the courts with judges that think the way the the wealthy do, then court challenges for damages are difficult. Hobby Lobby may not pass legislation, but it (and its supporters) certainly have influenced it with the prime goal of creating their own religious influence upon our nation. Certainly the wealthly are free to create entities for the direct purpose of influence, but that often overides the desires and even the protections of the people who do not have the resources the wealthly have. That is the polar opposite of Democracy or true representative government. Consider this and other statements my voice.

      • I’m not wealthy, never have been. But I’ve been with several Prime Ministers working on relief projects in Africa, Presidents working on greater relief for the poor, etc. I was raised on a pig farm, didn’t go to Ivy Leage schools, am not a political activist and am not part of a denomination, but because of my ideas, I’ve been included in a few important decision making moments. So though what you say has an element if truth, quality political leaders do want people to be better off and do often work with others than just the formal lobbying groups.

      • Neil says:

        Well, Ted, maybe we will just have to agree to disagree. I think what I said has more than an element of truth. Like you I was raised on a farm and didn’t go to an Ivy League school (not that either really matters in the long run). I am college educated and I do read extensively. I agree that ‘quality’ political leaders (a rather idealistic definition) do want people to be better, however, they are few and far between these days. Thanks for the dialog, I wish you well.

      • Then run for office, make your case, win elections and improve things.

      • Neil says:

        Ted, sounds good. You should do the same.

      • Considering my scandal right years ago, I think I should limit my influence to those who chose to read my material or attend the church I pastor.

      • Neil says:

        Ted, good enough.

  9. brgeem says:

    Ted, better to be the P of Pastor than the P of Politician. Keep up your good works.

  10. RDee says:

    I expect churches to pay taxes when they are promoting politics in church. This causes me grief.

    • Churches are free to freely speak with the exception if endorsing a candidate. All other non-profits, corporations, press, businesses, households can endorse candidates. Why should churches be the only non-profits denied this freedom?

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