Last week I drove past a sign hanging from the fence of a pasture.
It read: "Don't Cross This Field Unless You Can Do It In 9.9 Seconds ... The Bull Can Do It In 10." I couldn't help but think of the face-off over the debt ceiling in our nation's capital.
The clock is ticking. Soon we -- the USA -- won't have time make it across the field without defaulting.
As our nation's leaders brandish their partisan swords, I thought of King Solomon's dream, in which God invites Solomon, the new king, to ask whatever for he wants.
"Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people ..." says the young Solomon.
The reply comes in these words: "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart ..." (Hebrew Bible, I Kings 3:5-12).
Since I have no wisdom as to what path our leaders should take to get across the field to protect the nation's financial and civic health, I decided to look for bits of wisdom from our history that shine some light on the darkness while making us laugh as the same time. Here are a few of what I found:
"He knows all the facts, and he's against all the solutions."
* * *
"All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies."
JOHN ARBURTHNOT, 1887
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"A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking."
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
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"He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career."
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
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"I only wish that I could be as sure of anything as my opponent is of everything."
* * *
"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
* * *
"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
* * *
"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
* * *
"I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind, and that I could not do unless I took part in politics."
MOHANDAS K. GANDHI
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It is the whole -- the nation itself -- that is at risk today in the bull's pasture. The clock is ticking.
If our national leaders -- the partisan advocates whom we, the American people, have elected -- remain stuck on the horns of partisanship, the bull of entrenched interests and ideology will gore us.
This is a time for the wisdom of Solomon, who demonstrated it in the famous biblical story about two members of the world's oldest profession who come before him to resolve a stalemate.
The two battling prostitutes put the king's wisdom to the test with competing claims about a child. Each has given birth to a child.
One of the babies has died; the other has lived. Both mothers claim to be the real mother of the surviving child.
"Then the king said, 'Bring me a sword.' So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: 'Cut the living child in two and give half to the one and half to the other.'
"The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, 'Please, my Lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!'
But the other said, 'Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" Then the king gave his ruling: 'Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.'"
Those who do not love this country will cut the baby in half. Those who love her will put aside their swords to follow the way of wisdom.
Gordon C. Stewart is pastor at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska. He delivered a version of this essay as a sermon on July 24.