I often find something useful in Colson’s “Breakpoint” commentaries. But I have no idea how, given what he seems to think about the Christian faith, he came up with some of the ideas in this one.
Colson is worried about the debates in Congress over spending, debt, and budgets. That’s reasonable enough – it is a matter worthy of concern. After some introduction, Colson says:
I’ve never seen the kind of chaos, recalcitrance, and perhaps downright obstructionism that I’m witnessing in the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling.
I’m still with you, Chuck. There is plenty of all the things you mentioned going on in this debate. But then Colson goes on to say in regard to previous political debates:
But almost every time . . . agreements were reached when both parties put the national good over ideology. Even if it took, as I remember one time long before that, Lyndon Johnson, then majority leader, locking the parties in a room and telling them not to come out until a deal was reached. And they stayed there until they did reach a deal.
Now I am starting to get worried about old Chuck. Is he really longing for the days of Lyndon Johnson (practically a political gangster) locking people in a room until “a deal” is reached? I would remind Mr. Colson that many of these “deals” forced on people by Mr. Johnson were the very things that have led us to the fiscal precipice at which we now stand.
Colson goes on to say:
But that isn’t happening now. And I find it both bewildering and alarming. I cannot explain the behavior of either side. It’s bordering on the irrational.
I am rather glad things – bad things – are sailing smoothly into law as they did with LBJ. Then Colson come to the heart of the matter:
What is going on? I can only think of three possibilities. None of them are good. First, is ideological madness. Both sides held captive by a political ideology that won’t let them settle for anything short of total victory. If that’s the case, the system may be badly broken.
I won’t go into Colson’s other possibilities, because they are really just variants of this one. When Colson says mentions “both sides held captive by a political ideology” he seems to be forgetting that there are more than just two “sides” in this debate. There is President Obama, who has never really made clear what he wants other than higher taxes and increased spending and debt. There is the majority of Congressional Democrats who are – I don’t know how else to say this – fiscally insane. There is the Republican leadership which keeps proposing ever-changings “solutions” that do not solve anything.
And then there is a sizeable minority of Republicans (and perhaps a Democrat or two I don’t know about), led by people like Rand Paul and Jim Demint, who see that we have a fiscal crisis rapidly approaching and are trying to do something that could actually address the problem. They do have what Colson would call an “ideology” behind what they are uncompromisingly advocating.
That “ideology” informs them that it is practically impossible for the United States government to continue to borrow trillions of dollars each year that is cannot repay. That “ideology” also has a moral component that informs them that it is morally wrong for a government to borrow money that everyone knows it will never repay. That “ideology” informs them that it is wrong to promise people that we will pay their bills for them by borrowing money we cannot repay.
Then Colson goes on to make a statement that causes me to question his rationality in this matter:
Our society has jettisoned the belief in moral truth and absolutes and we have grasped at man-made answers and ideologies; whether it’s angry anti-government sentiment on the far right or the sacredness of entitlements on the left, or any host of other political pathologies.
It is not a “political pathology” that causes us to conclude we cannot, and we must not, continue to spend money that we do not have for things that we do not need. That conclusion is drawn directly from the Christian worldview that Colson professes to love and teach. It comes straight from the “moral truth and absolute” that it is wrong to borrow money that you know you cannot and will not repay.
And if Chuck Colson does not understand that, then he does not understand the moral teaching of the Christian faith.