The United States government shut down this week due to Congressional disagreement over next year’s spending bill. At the heart of the disagreement is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a piece of healthcare legislation that was one of the signatures of President Barack Obama’s first term in office. Republicans in Congress want the spending bill to include language that either delays or changes the healthcare law; Democrats want to keep the law as it is. When Congress failed to reach an agreement, the government shut down — halting federal programs and furloughing 800,000 civilian employees. It will reopen when lawmakers can negotiate a compromise on the spending bill. The last government shutdown occurred in late 1995, and lasted for 21 days.
Regardless of our political leanings, we can each play a role in promoting honest, responsible government in the US and elsewhere. Our prayers can reveal common ground shared by lawmakers, and bring to light creative solutions that bless everyone.
A good place to start is by remembering that regardless of who’s in the Oval Office or on Capitol Hill, God is always governing His creation. “Prayer during a government shutdown” urges us to affirm the presence and power of God, and to remember that His government is always active, each day and each moment.
“God is not a Republican or a Democrat” explains this point clearly, reminding us that God, “and not a group of mortals pushing the agenda of this or that political party,” is in control, governing in a just, fair way. That shared spiritual heritage can be the basis for compromise that might have seemed impossible, allowing politicians to find acceptable solutions that don’t require one person or party knuckling under to another.
“The government that blesses all,” written just before last year’s presidential election, takes this point further, pointing out that true power comes not from a political government, but from the presence of God. As we catch glimpses of this fact, we’ll see government that goes beyond spending disagreements and healthcare fights. We’ll feel the love of God that dissolves misunderstandings and promotes humility.
On a practical note, given that Congress’s disagreement over the spending bill revolves around healthcare (the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act will open on Tuesday, October 1) you might be interested in “The Affordable Care Act and you,” a collection of resources that discuss how Christian Scientists could be affected by the new law. It’s worth mentioning that the Christian Science Church is working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on a healthcare amendment that accommodates Christian Science care.
Our prayers — not to push a particular political agenda or spending approach, but to recognize that God governs lovingly and impartially — can have a transformative effect on the political landscape. Mary Baker Eddy put it best when she wrote, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations ...” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340).