You may have missed the significance of the effort to sanction Republican Senator
Mark Hatfield of Oregon. Senator Hatfield was the only Republican in the Senate to vote
against the balanced budget amendment, a key plank in the Republican Contract With
America. As Senator Hatfield is chairman of the Appropriations Committee which oversees
over one-third of the nation's $1.6 trillion federal budget, Republican senators discussed
stripping him of this powerful chairmanship as his punishment.
Senator Hatfield's chairmanship resulted from his seniority, an attestation from his
constituents in Oregon that he is serving them well. The effort to sanction him is
therefore evidence that he and his Oregon constituents have misunderstood the
relationships that exist between a senator, his constituents, and his party.
The loyalty of a senator is not to those who elect him, but to his party. If the
party wants something, it is the responsibility of the party member to produce, never mind what constituents want.
And the sad truth is that this is how most senators and congressmen operate--for the
benefit of the party; and you and I really have no access to our government: the party
picks its causes with little regard for our desires, and then enhances its image by
identifying ills that only it can cure. And this is nothing new. The same was true years
ago, when Jesus came to dwell among men. The Jewish leaders recognized a god higher than
Caesar, and that the people sought a relationship with such a god. By presenting
themselves as the conduit to the unseen god, the Pharisees and Sadducees enhanced their
stature before the people. They made and enforced rules concerning special days and
customs to be observed; engaged in philosophical debate on the existence of
life-after-death; charged Jesus with having an unclean spirit and casting out devils by
the power of Beelzebub; conducted commerce in the temple; and welcomed sin for the valuable
price of the sacrifice presented by the penitent.
If you and I could have our views presented to our government for consideration, the party system might well
fade away. While this is not a likely occurrence in the near future, we do have a
system where our views and desires can be shaped by the reading of God's word and our
requests can be put before Him. And we have the assurance of John 16:23 that
"...Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you." This promise
carries no party membership requirement: it is a promise of direct access. But we must
understand, "in my name," is more than a mere incantation delivered at a time of request or
need. "In my name" is a requirement that we live worthy of the name of Jesus--no small
task. But God's word has powers today just
as it did when Jesus walked the earth (Jesus
is the word of God made flesh as stated at
John 1:14). Isaiah 55:11 says "So shall my
word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it
shall not return unto me void, but it shall
accomplish that which I please, and it shall
prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
God's word has been sent to change us that we
might prosper, and as we make an effort to
read God's word, He ensures that we are
changed by it.
And what of our political system? There is nothing permanent or sacred in our present
political structure. And there is nothing powerful about a party, apart from the people
represented. God has made us stewards over all His creation and called us to lead mankind by our witness. We possess and cultivate thoughts and opinions too great for
displacement by the party line. The Christian view is certainly worthy of
consideration in the secular arena; and the view of the Black Christian should never be
taken for granted by thoughtless grouping under any political banner.
There is only one banner under which we should routinely gather; and until a
political party aligns under all its principles, it can never be assumed that our
thoughts and opinions are the same. It should never be we who are joining them, but
they who are joining us.