Gridlock may be the greatest challenge facing our nation in the immediate future. Merriam-Webster defines gridlock as “a traffic jam in which a grid of intersecting streets is so completely congested that no vehicular movement is possible; - a situation resembling gridlock.” We all know what gridlock looks like in our congested cities. Many of us have been trapped in our cars on gridlocked highways unable to move. Traffic gridlock is frustrating, but when gridlock grips our government it can be far more serious.
Gridlock occurs when people cease to seek understanding, demonizing those who disagree with them and abandoning meaningful communication. It can occur in marriages, families, schools, businesses, corporations and governments.
Congressional gridlock may be defined as the inability of our elected leaders to find common ground, to craft compromise positions, to engage in thoughtful and meaningful dialogue that can lead to solutions for the significant problems that we face. Regardless of which candidate wins the presidential election, we will not be able to move forward in any direction without overcoming political gridlock in congress.
As soon as the election dust settles, we will be staring at the “fiscal cliff” that looms in front of us. At midnight on December 31 the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect resulting in significant tax increases coupled with austere budget spending cuts. Most economists believe that unless new tax and spending laws are passed before the end of the year, the U.S. will be thrown into another recession dragging the global economy with it. To pass those laws, our congressional leaders will have to work together to find reasonable solutions.
There are instructions in Scripture that can help.
Jesus said, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.” (Matthew 5:25).
The Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).
So, what can we do? First, we can practice Jesus’ instructions in our own relationships in our homes, our schools, our businesses and communities. We can demonstrate to our children and our youth the ability to listen, to engage in thoughtful conversation that seeks to understand. We can refrain from name-calling and demonizing those who disagree with us. Second, we can expect the same from our elected officials and hold them accountable. Third, we can pray for one another, for our enemies, for whoever is elected President, for all of our government officials and for our nation.
When Lincoln was President during the Civil War, a group of clergy visited him and offered to pray that God would be on his side. He stunned them by saying, “No, gentlemen, pray that I may be on God’s side.”