I have joined numerous Americans of many faiths who have come together to pray for our courts and particularly for our nation's political leaders as a new Congress was sworn in January 3. There will be 18 days of prayer, culminating with President Obama's Second Inauguration on January 21st.
As the new Congress begins the New Year, they are confronted with herculean problems. This stark reality gives our elected representatives the opportunity to be one of the most successful and productive Congresses in decades. Difficult problems open the door for meaningful solutions.
Here are five resolutions, perhaps political miracles, for which I am praying. And the first resolution is key to them all.
First Resolution: More Civility in Congress
The call to prayer grew out of an interfaith "Better Angels Summit" sponsored by The Faith & Politics Institute last June in our nation's capital. The summit focused on President Lincoln's call to bend to the "better angels of our nature" and to reject the spirit of extreme rancor and partisanship that has enveloped our government.
The prayer petition for the new Congress, titled a "Call for Cooperation for the Common Good," challenges our elected officials to "refrain from using inflammatory words, derogatory names, or an angry tone" and to "avoid attacking the character of others or falsely impugning their motives." It further calls for officials to "show respect" and "pray for one another, especially those with opposing views."
I join my fellow signers in calling for our elected representatives to cultivate and embrace civility and to acknowledge and believe that people can disagree on important and fundamental issues without succumbing to the temptations of personal attacks and hostility.
Second Resolution: Address the Debt Crisis
Surely the Congress can agree that the nation's severe debt crisis must be addressed. We can't go on forever passing our debt on to our children and our children's children. We avoided the so-called "fiscal cliff" with a last minute deal that raises approximately 44 dollars of revenue for every dollar cut from spending. Could not Republicans who held their nose and voted for new taxes, to move the logjam, and Democrats who voted against the deal, because it didn't address spending, emerge as the responsible adults in the room and, with civility and purpose, become a "coalition of the middle" to find meaningful and responsible ways to reduce our staggering national debt through meaningful tax reform and spending cuts?
Third Resolution: The Time is Right for Immigration Reform
There is clearly sufficient common ground and good will among the "coalition of the middle" to forge consensus and seriously and comprehensively address our broken immigration system. Millions of human beings are suffering as casualties of this broken system, and the issue is rending the social fabric of our nation. Common sense and beneficial solutions are available and achievable and could help, in turn, rebuild a sense of trust and civility too often neglected and experienced on Capitol Hill.
Fourth Resolution: Reasonable Heads Should Prevail on Gun Control
There is sufficient common ground for pro-Second Amendment people and gun control advocates to address the myriad causes of gun deaths in America, including mental health reform, sensible regulation and a serious conversation concerning the mind-numbing violence in popular entertainment media. Once again, a coalition of the middle should find enough common ground for meaningful legislation which would model and encourage future civility, while acknowledging and respecting regional cultural differences on this volatile issue.
Fifth Resolution: Agree That Religious Freedom Matters
There is clearly a deep reservoir of conviction in Congress concerning the bedrock American principle of freedom of religious belief and freedom of conscience. Surely our elected representatives can find common ground to defend this God-given right both from increasingly violent abuse abroad and to be ever vigilant to protect our own citizens' freedom of conscience as well.
Americans believe in the rule of law. Obamacare is now the law of the land. Americans also believe in freedom of individual conscience. Surely Congress can find effective ways to deliver mandated healthcare without coercing the consciences of medical practitioners and providers.
All of these political miracles require the first resolution of civility as an essential ingredient.
As a nation, we can either reach out and constructively embrace civility and practice it with courage and conviction, or we can continue the corrosive partisan bickering that produces bitterness, mistrust, and stalemate.
I vote for civility.