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mw_1113_FISCAL_CLIFF_620x350 (1)I realize this is a blog about theology, however for this theologian in residence theology never happens in a vacuum.  Theology is the living, breathing, active faith milling about in a tension filled dance between Holy Scripture and your news outlet of choice.  So, today I am going to run the risk of my fellow bloggers asking for my resignation and regular readers to pound me with nasty comments.  Why? Because today I’m going to get political.  Specifically surrounding the so called Fiscal Cliff.

I have been sick for three days, coughing, hacking, high grade temps and even a little fainting spell in there so I have been pretty much confined to my chair to watch football or pretty people with tiny brains blame everyone but themselves for this mess we are in.  Congress blames the President, the President blames the House, Boehner blame Reid, and Reid says, “There’s nothing we can do.”  Then turn on television or go onto political forums and you really see the hatred and tension boil over.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Many of those in DC “debating” this issue want to yell Geronimo and drive us over the fiscal cliff?  Surely not – you say, I disagree.  For you see, I have learned that most of our elected officials do a rather poor job of representing those who will be hurt by such foolishness – it’s all about looking good to your voting block.  If we go off the cliff, the President gets what he wants – higher taxes on the wealthy.  If we go off the cliff the Republican leadership gets what it wants, automatic roll backs on spending.  Then they can negotiate and make a grand gesture of cooperation right before the new season of American Idol starts and we will have forgotten all about it.

You may think me crazy, but I got a brief chance to see it play out first hand in 1990 during my Clinical Pastoral Theology.  I interned at the South Carolina State Department of Mental Health.  20 hours a week on a lock down ward for those deemed criminally insane (some say I fit right in), and 20 hours a week on the streets of Columbia doing ministry with the homeless community.  In talking with experts in mental health and homelessness we eventually spoke of the political nightmare that caused a great deal of the early on homeless crisis I found myself immersed in.  You see in the earlier 80’s those on the left were legislating that many mental health patients were being “warehoused” and should be mainstreamed into society while at the same time those on the right were demanding spending cuts.  What happened was patients were mainstreamed but the spending cuts destroyed the safety net and many had no place to go.

I listened to speeches in the 90 congressional elections that fall and the left celebrated the mainstreaming of “warehoused persons” and showed sound bites of those who made successful transitions, the right celebrated the money that had been saved by closing “outdated institutions” and none from either side ever joined me under the Broad River bridge holding the hand of someone who had been beaten and raped but was petrified to call the police because they had “self medicated”, or walked a person desperate for help through the red tape that was needed.

This is not a right vs left issue, this is not a President vs Congress issue, this is about a ruling class that gets inside the beltway and in many ways forget that the decisions they make are about more than whether or not they get reelected.  This is about doing what is right, finding a way to compromise and to walk together.  That’s one of the biggest problems in government today, the other side is viewed as the enemy.  I remember reading in a book on President Reagan that one of the first people to see him in the hospital was Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, that they had a beer or glass of wine together regularly and I doubt you could have found 2 men with more divergent views of the political spectrum.

About the theology of this mess? From the words of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, “Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping”


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