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Faith & Values

These have been trying days for federal employees, those dependent on federal services or federal dollars, and the American people in general. Who would have thought the government shutdown would last 16 days?

My church, along with thousands of other churches and religious groups, continues to pray for our elected leaders. We pray that God will give wisdom and soften the hearts and rhetoric of those who brought our government to the brink and imperiled so many innocent people.

The Washington political gamesmanship is no longer amusing. Unnecessary burdens were placed on those already living paycheck to paycheck.

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Our country believes in the strong principle of separation of church and state. Religious freedom was bedrock for our founding fathers. The state cannot mandate faith or religious practice, yet many elected officials affirm they are guided by Christian principles.

I would venture to say there are a few Christian principles that have been forgotten by those charged with running this country. One is to care for those on the margin — children, the sick and the poor.

Making sure everyone has affordable health care is not only the law in this country, it is morally the right thing to do. As the leading country of the free world, we must uphold health care as a right for all and not just a privilege for a few who can afford outrageously high premiums.

Lost wages were not the only consequence of the shutdown. Head Start dollars were on hold, and many children who needed educational support and food were held hostage. In some areas, learning opportunities for at-risk children were lost for 16 days.

Another casualty of the political gridlock: Some medical research was placed on hold. October is breast-cancer awareness month. While athletes and businesses are adorned in pink showing solidarity with those struck by this disease, our government leaders played politics.

In Washington, D.C., the Christian mandate to care and act with compassion has been tossed aside and replaced by political posturing and election grandstanding.

Christian scriptures tell us clearly that Jesus did not get along with the religious establishment of his day. The religious leaders were interested in keeping power only among themselves, maintaining tradition for tradition’s sake, and espousing a narrow interpretation of religious law. Jesus focused his ministry on healing and empowering the vulnerable while always maintaining that God must be our first love.

Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, he gave his followers a new commandment — that they love one another as he loved his followers. The commandment was not to be right, or to be powerful. It was not to get back at enemies or those who think differently. The new commandment that is to influence all our actions is love. Shutting down the government was not an act of love.

Now that government employees are back to work, a working budget has been approved, and the debt ceiling has temporarily been lifted, the hard work of healing wounded spirits continues.

Those financially harmed will have to work hard to get back on track. Misguided politicians will need to confess their arrogance and ignorance. And we, their constituents, will need to forgive in order to move forward.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Congressional and presidential elections are just a year or two away. The dysfunctional gridlock that has stifled the American spirit must be broken and replaced by a spirit of care and justice.

Those of us in the pews and pulpits must keep the faith and stay in prayer for our leaders. I firmly believe prayer changes things. Our Christian faith sets our moral compass. Hopefully, our Christian elected officials will set aside ego and be directed by the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and senior benefits consultant for American Baptist Churches in the USA. Readers may send feedback to

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