Citizen-Times, 1/2016

An obscure Republican Congressman from Michigan wrote something truly remarkable:

“The Christian who enters politics must do so with the aim of achieving political justice. He does this by subjecting his own personal ambition and desires to the scrutiny of God’s revelation in the Scriptures. And as God gives the grace to do so, he learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own. In so doing, his search for justice becomes an act of sacrificial love.”

Paul Brentwood Henry served four terms and was elected to a fifth term when he died in 1993.   He was a solid evangelical conservative. His congressional district included super-conservative Grand Rapids.

His philosophy was a reasonable fit to his time.   Republicans and Democrats still came together to work on the country’s problems. There was a spirit of good will.

Henry died exactly as Rush Limbaugh waddled on the scene, preaching a belligerent doctrine of “conservative” non-cooperation with “moderate” Republicans and Democrats. Republicans converted.

In the mid-term landslide of 1994, 70+ freshmen Republicans were elected, almost all of them Limbaugh-style inflexible partisans. They voted Limbaugh an honorary member of their freshmen caucus.

Ever since then, Republicans have followed Limbaugh’s creed. They’ve turned the old-time spirit of service and cooperation into all-out, no-prisoners ideological warfare. Congress doesn’t function.

This new Republicanism invaded N.C. in 2010.   In Raleigh, people who for decades had begged majority Democrats for more bipartisan cooperation were cackling and drooling with power. They were free to impose their low-minded ideology on us like the Taliban had done in Afghanistan.

Paul Henry said, “As God gives the grace to do so, [the Christian politician] learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own.”

Can it be said, by any stretch, that diminishing our public schools is serving a neighbor’s need? Or denying 500,000 citizens Medicaid out of hate – yes, hate – for Barack Obama? Or redistricting so that voting is predetermined and meaningless? Or rewriting voting rules to inconvenience citizen groups who vote Democrat?

Paul Henry knew how to apply his faith to a politician’s life. Most Raleigh Republicans govern like mean little Limbaughs.

We’ve endured a long, painful swing of the pendulum, haven’t we? We yearn for the arc to swing toward fairness, truthfulness, openness, compassion and a spacious spirit. That’s why we’re Democrats, after all.

Wouldn’t you love to see the 2016 Democratic campaign sound like Paul Henry wrote it?

“We come to you as humble servants who want nothing but the privilege of making your life better. We’re not seeking power. Your felt needs drive our priorities. We’re politicians, but we’ll never show it. We pledge ourselves to this.”

Or something like that.

I’m realistic enough to think it could be.