Responsible Citizens

Can We Have a Little Respect In Washington?

I remember when congress was controlled by the Democrat 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 our Republic to flourish.

Some say the greatest source of tension in the world develops either when someone wants you to do something you do not want to do, or 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 others conform to their wishes has caused more human dissatisfaction and division than any other single issue.

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

Political groups, 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 that no one would be there simply 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 as to 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.

I remember when congress was controlled by the Democrat 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 our Republic to flourish.

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 positions that they demean, embarrass, or dehumanize those elected representatives who differ from them. Instead, 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 begin to hurt 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. The various branches of government need to respect each other. 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 elected representatives are generally thoughtful people and are elected by the people because of their political philosophy and attractive demeanor that’s conducive to representation. Even if their political philosophies differ, if they will honestly work with those whose views differ from theirs, they could be heralded model public servants. But if our representatives continue mocking, blaming, and accusing one another and igniting like behavior in their constituents, then history might not laud our republican experiment.

When President Trump was elected, the majority in both houses of Congress shared his philosophy of government. According to the most recent mid-term elections, the majority of voters limited his power to some degree by changing the leadership of the lower house of Congress. Now the Lower House, the Senate, and the White House will have to respect, listen, advocate and negotiate, if they expect any success.

If those in the White House will respect the decisions we, the people, have made, we can move forward. That is a two way street though. Those in Congress need a touch of humility as well, recognizing that the states elected President Trump and the people elected a Republican Senate. We Americans don’t mind strong leaders, but strong leaders need to have a touch of humility so our nation can laud the work of public servants instead of being bombarded by screaming radical advocates positioning themselves to conquer those on the other side.

Our founding fathers designed our government to keep any one person or group from exercising unilateral power over others. So if our public servants forget they are elected to serve and instead insist on conquering those whose ideologies differ from theirs, then we’ll fire them by voting them out. We the people, after all, enjoy the rights and opportunities we have to replace representatives we dislike or feel do not represent our views.

  • When Democrat President Bill Clinton was president, the Democrats lost 54 House seats and 9 seats in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • When Republican George W. Bush was president, the Republicans gained 8  House seats and 1 seat in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • When Democrat Barak Obama was president, the Democrats lost 63 House seats and 9 seats in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • And though the count isn’t finalized for Republican President Donald Trumps first mid-term election, Republicans have lost 26 House seats and gained 3 seats in the Senate.

We the people know how to remove and replace people in government when we need to.  Checks and balances work. If our representatives think that the people are not watching their manners as well as their actions, they are gravely mistaken. If they think checks and balances are insignificant, decorum and dignity are inconsequential, and that brute force will prevail, we will replace them. 

So what do we expect? Honorable people who have some manners, are reasonable, effective, and respectful. 

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 our constitutional republic, we are ultimately responsible to ensure that our society is civil. Let’s begin by upholding the value of mutual respect.

By tedhaggardblog

Ted Haggard is the Sr. Pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, CO and founding pastor of New Life Church and past president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He is the husband of Gayle, and the father of Christy, Marcus, Jonathan, Alex and Elliott.

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

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.

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.

Excellent examination of the challenges facing effective bi-partisan government.
Unfortunately, it appears some “servants of the people” don’t hold the same intention and integrity of generations past.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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