Our Body Politic

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ah, the retired life. Without the constraint of having to be at work on time this “more mature couple” has adopted the habit of devotions following breakfast each new day. We do several, reading and discussing prepared ones and follow with a prescribed instruction of reading the Bible in 365 short bits that completes its entirety in one year. Grannie Annie and I find it a great way to start each day.

A recent reading from Matthew 23: 13-39 really rang a bell with the machinations that we see on the daily news. Follow me through with a version that I have shortened somewhat for brevity.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath. You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath. You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First, clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

I read the above as Jesus condemning the “Pharisees and teachers of the law” in the temple, the seat of government the leadership of his time. He is not condemning the institution, just those in that institution. Think the modern parallel of the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.

Now look at an op-ed recently written by Amy Wax and Larry Alexander both university law professors. They list some of the ills afflicting society:

“Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.”

Sadly the above in my opinion is a sad but pretty accurate description of our society. Yet what do we see happening in Congress today? Our elected officials are on a wild goose chase trying to cover up or blame each other for corruption in the electoral process. They worry and fight about immigration into our country and attempt to grant amnesty to those already illegally here. Look at how many have become multi-millionaires on what $147,000 plus benefits for salary. Insider trading, pay for play, bribes under the table, how else do they flourish financially?

Congress more interested in internecine fighting won’t even do their job of preparing an annual budget for the country. They seem to prefer continuing resolutions and the threat of government shutdown so they can insert unrelated pet projects, like DACA, into unrelated budget resolutions. Their quest for personal power seems to be more important than addressing the real needs of our country.

As an example of the daily dysfunction, we are forced to watch former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to insert a requirement to fund a study of UFOs to the tune of millions into the budget. The program cost federal taxpayers $22 million from late 2008 through 2011 and continues today through the blindness of continuing resolutions. Silly, stupid! Money that could be made better use in the military budget for acquisition of new equipment. With no long-term budget, we are sacrificing personnel in order to pay for new equipment. Morale suffers and pilots, already critically short in number, are leaving in droves to better-paying jobs at the airlines. UFOs indeed and the abuses go on.

Congress was designed by our founding fathers to be a more responsible body. Sadly it is not a Democrat or Republican issue as members of both parties abuse the system. Yes, the temple Pharisees and givers of the law won in the short term as they stilled the voice of Jesus by crucifixion but in the long term, they lost mightily. No stone was left one on another. Our future? We the people must pay attention and then vote sensibly.

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail

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