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The American people’s gridlock

Congress

Everyone’s down on Congress. Public approval for the institution stands around 13 percent. Even three billionaires, whom the law generally serves well, used an op-ed page to voice their frustration with Capitol Hill’s extraordinary inability to pass needed legislation.

Congress is certainly no remake of Let’s Make a Deal. People call them childish, a deliberative daycare center. But most of them are highly accomplished and very shrewd when it comes to preserving their jobs.

Congress is divided because the country is divided. Vermont is not New Hampshire; Wyoming is not Oregon. Pennsylvania is deeply divided between the big cities—Philly and Pittsburgh—and everything in between. And these places do not just lean a little one way and the other; they have radically different ways of seeing the world, the people who inhabit it, and our hope for the future.

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Consider abortion. Some see it as the legalized slaughter of our children, a national abomination that in time is sure to bring God’s wrath. Others see it as a noble right, essential to women’s equal liberty and worth defending at any cost. This video (warning: foul language) of a woman in Columbus, Ohio, confronting pro-life demonstrators dramatizes the conflict. She tries to be as violent as she can with words alone to punish these people for entering the debate. Then she gets physically violent. Abortion divides Democrats and Republicans almost neatly along party lines.

Consider the anger generated over the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. In the midst of a national controversy over the minimum wage, Hobby Lobby voluntarily pays its full-time employees$13 an hour! But because this company refuses to pay for employees’ access through insurance to four forms of abortion-inducing birth control, it may as well be the cruelest faction of the Taliban throwing acid in women’s faces. For others, the court decision was the Battle of Lexington.

Consider homosexuality. Those who advocate its normalization, even to the point of legally recognizing same-sex relationships as marriage, ferociously attack anyone who questions their behavior morally as though they just stepped through a time warp from the 13th century. Those who dissent from the post-Christian cultural experiment, including polygamy and transgenderism, see the utter confusion of its giddy embrace destroying the family and every good that depends on it. Polarized views in Congress reflect this sort of cultural polarization among the states and districts represented.

A meme of side-by-side photos depicting a young woman standing in front of the Stars and Stripes holding a gun and a Bible and a Palestinian female terrorist holding a gun and a Quran illustrates the broad divide. The caption reads, “Explain the Difference.” Many Americans can’t see the difference between someone standing in front of freedom’s flag holding the benefits of the First and Second Amendments and a jihadist who blew herself up, killing four innocent people. Our borders contain two completely different moral universes.

This Congress is our Congress. We elected these men and women. The problem is us before it is them. But I’m not giving up on Jesus, the Constitution, and the least among us. I don’t see moral passion subsiding on the hard left. Only a surprising work of God can make us one country again.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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