I don’t want to be so bold as to assume that I’m the only one who has thought about this connection, but I will say I find it ironic that in the US, where church and government are separated (theoretically anyway), church and government are actually dealing with similar flaws at the moment.
Pope Francis made an astute observation last month in an interview. He essentially commented that the Church has been “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception–to the point that we have lost our way. I tend to agree. I think part of the reason people have been leaving the church (Catholic or Protestant) in droves is that we’ve made a switch. Instead of Christ being the centre and the starting point for Christianity, we have given that spot to our “pet issues.” So, instead of being the crowd that preaches the love and forgiveness of Christ, we’ve become known as the crowd that is “anti-fill in the blank.”
We are so concerned with being good “sanitary saints” that having real compassion for others actually frightens us. We don’t want to take the challenge of compassion because it’s too messy and unpredictable. So, while maybe we could look at the “forest of the gospel” instead of our favourite “issue trees,” we choose the trees instead. We’d rather tell ourselves that the moral principles we hold dear will eventually effect people for the better than actually learn about the people to whom these principles will apply.
To me, the current US government shutdown just seems to be another version of this “ideals war.” Each side has a “pet tree” that they don’t want to lose sight of, so they are focusing on it and trying to drown out the rest of the forest–even though the purpose of the forest is so much bigger than just one tree. The government officials would rather have a record of being “the guardians of stopping Obamacare” or “the guardians of Obamacare” than the record of “the people you can count on to put self interest aside in favour of their constituents.” I think that might be the saddest part of all. In both church and government, their original purposes for existence are good, and both can help the general population greatly. But, when maintaining your pride and your ideals supersedes the people you are supposedly helping, the people lose.
Does this mean ideals need to be tossed out the window and never discussed? I would say no. However, I think it is important to keep them in perspective–to keep “the main thing” the main thing, and let the rest fall into place when the time is right. For the church, the main thing is loving God and loving people. For the government, the main thing is working together to create a just and orderly system where a nation’s people can thrive.
So, come on, US government. The Church is remembering the people now. It’s your turn.