Finding clarity can be difficult with so much noise around us. The digital platforms of our lives are full of clutter. On this day 28 of the shutdown, what God would say?
I write this from the comfort of my kitchen table. A light dusting of snow fell last night. The woods outside my house reflect a serenity that is unlike the turmoil in America’s politics. What would God say? (1) Build the wall and the open the government? (2) Don’t build the wall and open the government? (3) Don’t open the government and let people continue to struggle and suffer?
The last option seems to be the least consistent with scripture and Christian traditions. The first option promotes manifest destiny—the nineteenth-century justification for American expansion and prosperity. With a nationalistic reading of Hebrew scriptures, and transferring the role of ancient Israel to the twenty-first-century United States, this notion makes sense. Yet, spelling it out that way sounds fallacious.
In ancient Israel, all wars were holy wars. God represented an inextricable part of daily life and national decisions. The Deuteronomic authors* present two accounts of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. One is a genocidal total war. The other includes negotiation and limited war. Michael Walzer writes that the genocidal total war was a “retrospective invention of the last years of the monarchy” (“The Idea of Holy War in Ancient Israel” JRE 20:2, Fall 1992, 215ff).
What about today? Are we, like some Deuteronomic authors, reshaping our policies to reflect God’s will? Borders, walls, asylum seekers, social justice, freedom, and protection—which notion represents God’s will? Those same authors assure God’s protection. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33.27). They believe God is present. They believe that God will provide.
The snow outside reminds me that the world is bigger than the latest news. The eternal message of God’s love and protection tell me that this government shutdown will end. What do we do? We can encourage our Representative and Senators to reopen the government. Look for opportunities to build trust. Stand in solidarity with furloughed federal employees. Support and encourage them if possible. Engage in healthy dialogue. Discourage unhealthy lines in the sand (e.g. we won’t reopen without $5 billion for a wall).
This too shall pass.
* Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings