A Proposal for Resolving Government Gridlock

Like Washington D.C., North Carolina's lawmakers – even though Republicans control all three branches – are seriously stalled in their budget negotiations, bogged down in the mire of their differences.

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The standoff has been somewhat surreal. At one point, Senate members walked out on the negotiations. When some lawmakers commented that it might take until Christmas to work out their differences, staffers hung Christmas wreaths and strung up holiday lights in between meetings. Senator Apodaca handed out lumps of coal to House members. House negotiators called off a meeting for Friday morning after the Senate said Thursday that they wouldn't attend.

All of this certainly makes for great political theatre; nevertheless, it causes considerable angst for the public. What's at stake here is not simply the issues of profound importance in the state's budget, but the more critical matter of the public's confidence in their leaders to govern. This crisis of confidence in government is not confined to North Carolina and is not just partisan politics. Remember, all of the leaders in North Carolina ferociously struggling against each other are Republicans.

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Even the greatest of leaders can get caught up in a political logjam. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when our nation's founding fathers were attempting to draft the U.S. Constitution, they became hopelessly deadlocked in disagreement. The effort was turning into a signal failure.

What happened as a result is, perhaps, something North Carolina House and Senate budget negotiators – and our leaders in Washington D.C. – ought to earnestly consider. History says Benjamin Franklin rose and said the following:

"In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence…in our favor….And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel….I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business." [1]

George Washington later recorded that members of the Constitutional Convention went to church to hear an address, where the Rev. William Rogers had a special prayer for the delegates:

"[W]e fervently recommend to thy fatherly notice….our federal convention….[F]avor them, from day to day, with thy immediate presence; be Thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measure as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions and promoting the good of the whole;…that the United States of America may furnish the world with one example of a free and permanent government….May we….continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized society." [2]

After five weeks of gridlock, following a break and time of prayer, the nation's representatives reconvened and within only ten weeks came together around the most sublime compact of human government ever devised by men. According to testimony given by the delegates, it is clear America's Constitution was born out of a direct answer to prayer. It was the entreaty for Heaven's help that broke the logjam and made the difference.

Benjamin Rush who followed the proceedings closely, noted:

"I do not believe the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power." [3]

 Franklin had similar comments, saying:

"I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits 'live and move and have their being" [Acts 17:28]. [4]

But Alexander Hamilton seemed to summarize best what happened. What he declared should serve as an admonition to North Carolina lawmakers as they clash over budget issues. He wrote:

"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." [5]

Perhaps a proposal for prayer would be appropriate for lawmakers now. Granted, both state and federal chambers of the House and Senate are already served with prayers by a Chaplain before they deliberate. Still, sometimes the challenges are especially difficult and call for most earnest prayer. Questions of grave significance can't always be solved by partisan politics. At times, God may wait for us to come to the end of our rope that we might see our limitations and understand our constant need of His grace and mercies. It's only then that He will act in our stead.

There has probably never been a time in the Tar Heel state's history where more hung in the balance in budget negotiations. There has probably never been a time in our nation's history when Congress was more at an impasse than the present, with so much at stake. Lawmakers are in need of divine intervention and assistance. I implore North Carolina budget negotiators to consider a quiet and private place, one not in their official capacity, but a location where they can meet and silently pray together. A clergyman of their choice could be asked to preside over their time with prayer. The Governor should be invited to join as well. Congressional members could do something likewise, with an invitation extended to the President. The time for prayer should be devoid of politics or fan-fare, but kept meek and modest – a moment for participants to humbly seek the wisdom God promises to give liberally to all men who seek Him (James 1:5).

It may sound overly simplistic for many, but God will still honor a people willing to recognize His sovereignty in the affairs of men. God still answers prayer.

Lastly, I implore every person of serious faith to take time to pray for their state and national leaders. We are exhorted to pray and intercede "for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2:2).

God save the great state of North Carolina. God save America.

Dr. Mark Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He also serves as president of the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

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