Watching Politics From the Pew: The Failed Supercommittee and the Possibility of Peace

I’m a little tired of writing about my disappointment with Congress. I’m actually one not to mind a do-nothing legislature, but this is something else.  America has a very real inability to compromise on needed budget measures, and it is undercutting faith in our financial health.  This plays havoc with the markets at a time when we are desperately struggling to recover our former every-man-a-king economic utopia.

The failure of the so-called supercommittee is especially discouraging in light of the size of the group: negotiating compromise in a small group is far easier than in a large one.  Yet they couldn’t get it done. And as Politico has so ably reported, this was no shortfall of a heroic effort; it had more to do with egos and dithering and chaos than it did with the size of the task. President Obama was wise to keep his name off this one.

The collapse of the supercommittee does, though, teach us much about conflict in general. At its heart, conflict is rarely about numbers, or challenges, or even ideology. Conflict is about individual egos and the constant pursuit of power. Conflict is about a herd of cats, none of them willing to submit to the others, and none of them responding to the one trying to guide them.

This, in turn, teaches us something about peace. You and I say that we want peace. We want the people in our church to agree on the budget distribution. We want to be in harmony with our spouse about how to raise our children. We want our children to obey, and we want our boss to give us a good review. But standing in the way of all these things is the selfish, grasping, desperately greedy nature of the human heart.

Achieving real peace starts by having peace with God, and peace with God involves submitting our hearts to his will. Right away, that should tell us that peace elsewhere in our lives will require submission as well. It requires giving up favorite line items on the church budget, or giving up that extra hour of video games at home.  It requires holding our tongue when our boss makes a mistake, or it may require allowing someone to receive credit for something you did.

There are moments to take a stand, to protect boundaries that were fairly laid.  And there are moments to fight, when the honor of God’s name or the safety of those in your care is at stake. Seeking peace does not mean becoming a doormat.  But that is rarely our problem. Most of the time, our egos are at stake, and we go to war because we cannot conceive not being in charge.

It is at these moments we must consider whether God’s kingdom is always advanced with a shout, or whether it sometimes comes with a whisper.  Whether it always means public victory, or whether it sometimes involves subtle changes inside ourselves.  Whether reflecting his glory to the world means covering ourselves in the glory of the battlefield, or learning to accept the humble attitude of a servant.

I’m disgusted at the supercommittee, but not surprised. Our world is a chaotic war of sinful desires, and ultimate hopes for real and lasting peace depend solely on our ability to trust that God knows better than us, and to accept His will in our lives. Only then will the real victory shine through.

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.