Is Compromise a Dirty Word?
By Audrey Stallsmith
There appear to be far too many impasses blocking progress these days. National and state legislatures often can’t agree on budgets, leaving many essential programs in danger of having to shut down altogether.
Also, the main street in one of our local small towns had to be blocked off for a time recently, due to a crumbling building, causing loss of revenue to all the businesses on that street. Somehow, nobody seemed to agree whose responsibility it was to repair that building or tear it down. I suspect many of the businesses have had a hard time recovering once customers got in the habit of going elsewhere.
When did compromise become a dirty word? Granted, such giving in can be smutty when people are talking about compromising their morals. In other aspects of life, making concessions to each other is necessary if we all are going to rub along together.
Congressmen today seem to act as if their biggest responsibility is to their party when it actually is to the people who elected them. And those people themselves don’t toe the party line on everything. Although I am conservative on most issues, I probably would be considered a liberal on the environment, as I am strongly in favor of protecting it.
I also think my own Republican party is too inclined to see more policemen, more soldiers, and/or more guns as the answer to everything. That seems diametrically opposed to the One who told us to be peacemakers. I’m guessing that He also would tell us that you can’t apply the same verdict in every case, and that it’s impossible to impose morality on people who don’t have God’s spirit within.
Consider the woman taken in adultery, for example. Although Old Testament law called for stoning in such cases, I’m guessing that sentence actually wasn’t handed down often or there would have been far fewer Israelites altogether! This obviously was a set-up, intended to make Jesus look either like a heartless letter-of-the-law conservative or a disdaining-the-laws-of-morality liberal.
A rabid male conservative probably would have said to throw the book--or the stones--at her. We females would have wanted to know what had happened to the male in the case, who should have been there to share the punishment. I suspect that, after the woman met Jesus, she wanted to change. He has that effect on people.
Like Jesus, good judges make their decisions based on individual cases. They will, for example, be far more likely to go easy on someone who has shown repentance for his or her crime than someone who hasn’t.
Good politicians also avoid assuming the same answer will apply in every case. So I would be more inclined to vote for one who doesn’t feel the need to blindly follow the party’s lead on every issue and doesn’t throw childish tantrums when he or she is thwarted. Such a person would be a genuine statesman.
All of us know what it’s like to have a stomach bug, and what generally has to happen when you get what feels like an impacted mass blocking progress, around which everything churns in a nauseating sort of way. You have to vomit the whole mess up and start over again.
Perhaps that was what made so many Republicans vote the way they did in the primaries this year. They felt they had to barf up all the politicians who weren’t getting anything done. But the knee-jerk reaction of replacing them with someone eminently unqualified didn’t help.
If only those voters had been willing to negotiate with the members of the party establishment, who know quite a bit about who can win and who can’t. We might have found a candidate that everyone could agree on--and been spared the fiasco of Trump’s campaign.
At the moment, it looks as if those of us evangelicals whose consciences won’t tolerate a vote for either Clinton or Trump will have to opt for one of the independent candidates. Here in Pennsylvania, we are leaning toward Evan McMullin, who is on the ballot in some states and a write-in candidate in ours. Although his Mormon faith makes him less than ideal for us, he appears to be genuinely pro-life, unlike Trump who only adopted that position when he became a candidate. Life is one issue on which we can’t compromise, because murder is murder and must be illegal in any culture.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in Ethics, “Life, created and preserved by God, possesses an inherent right, which is wholly independent of social utility. The right to life inheres in what exists and not in some value or other.” In other words, it is essential.
And it doesn’t just apply to babies. When I consider how many millions could die if someone as self-centered and ill-tempered as Trump ever gets his hands on the nuclear triggers, I have to shudder. Those people have a right to life too.
Part of the art of compromise is knowing where you finally have to draw the line, and I don’t believe we can vote for a man as lacking in moral sense and maturity as Trump, just in the hope that he will appoint Supreme Court justices that we will like. Fortunately, Supreme Court nominees must be approved by the Senate. So, if Clinton becomes president, we do have other recourses.
One of my state’s two pro-life senators is up for reelection this year in a close race. It obviously is essential that I support Pat Toomey against his pro-choice opponent, especially so since he has refused to endorse Trump. That could cost him votes from those Republicans willing to throw out the babies with the bathwater.
Fortunately, the number of abortions performed has been steadily declining for years now. Although some of that could be attributed to better contraception and fewer clinics, I believe there are other reasons. Just as pictures of police dogs attacking peaceful marchers in Birmingham finally convinced many of the evils of racism, the better photos of babies in the womb now available have had their effect too. People can see what they would be killing, and seeing is believing.
Also, church programs have helped provide support, both financial and emotional, to many who thought they couldn’t afford to have a baby. Once her infant is placed in her arms, a woman seldom believes she made the wrong decision in keeping that baby. In fact, she is more likely to be horrified at the thought that she almost killed her child.
In other words, convincing people has a more permanent effect on their conduct than confronting them does. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:22b, “whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him. . .”
That works in politics as well as in evangelization. We must be willing to find common ground with people who disagree with us--rather than demonizing them--if we expect to make any progress at all. After this acrimonious campaign, we Christians can bear to be reminded that our faith doesn’t allow us to hate our opponents!
And we can’t demand quick results. It took Wilberforce twenty years to convince the British parliament to prohibit the slave trade, and that just was the trade rather than slavery itself. During that time abolitionism fell in and out of favor according to the trend of events at the time.
Fortunately, Wilberforce’s Christian conscience wouldn’t allow him to give up. Over the course of those years, the efforts of the abolitionists caused more and more people to recognize the evils of slavery. Finally Wilberforce inched his way--through a series of smaller bills which made only incremental progress--to getting the big one passed.
So all those state laws banning late-term abortions are better than no laws against abortion at all. But, if we are going to win the ultimate battle, we must continue to work on convincing the people rather than the politicians.