National Edition

Senate chaplain scolds lawmakers for shutdown, unwillingness to compromise

Published: Monday, Oct. 7 2013 5:40 p.m. MDT

Rain falls on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

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If hearing the public rail on them for the government shutdown isn't enough, members of the U.S. Senate have also been getting an earful from an unexpected critic: the Senate chaplain.

For the past week, news media have pointed to the prayers of Rear Adm. Barry Black, a retired Navy chaplain and Seventh-Day Adventist who has expressed his displeasure with the name-calling, political gamesmanship and unwillingness of both parties to compromise.

Just days before the shutdown, the Washington Post reported, Black petitioned the Almighty to keep the Senate "from shackling ourselves with the chains of dysfunction."

That clearly didn't work, but it didn't keep Black from reminding politicians daily of their foibles last week.

“Save us from the madness,” the New York Times quoted Black as saying during what the paper called "an epic ministerial scolding."

“ 'We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride,' (Black) went on, his baritone voice filling the room. 'Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.' ”

The Times also recounted a prayer Friday when Black called Senate leaders out for name-calling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took notice and reminded his colleagues they had "lost the aura of Robert Byrd, one of the historical giants of the Senate, who prized gentility and compromise."

Black, who also conducts Bible study classes and a prayer breakfast for senators and their staff, told the Times his prayers are biblically based and that he takes advantage of being the first person senators listen to each day.

And he's not the only religious leader who believes Congress has strayed from the Bible in its stalemate over the budget and Obamacare.

Jim Wallis, president of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, explained on his blog that allowing the government to shut down violates the Bible's teachings on the role of government.

"Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security and peace, and promote the common good of a society — and even collect taxes for those purposes," Wallis wrote, citing chapter and verse. "The scriptures also make it clear that governmental authority is responsible for fairness and justice and particularly responsible to protect the poor and vulnerable."

He admonished political leaders to recapture the vision of working for the common good.

"Transparency, accountability and service are the ethics of good government," Wallis wrote. " 'Of the people, by the people, and for the people' is still a good measure and goal of civil authority."

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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