The Bible Study
At a Wednesday evening church bible study the pastor announced that the study would center on two tribes, Dan in the northern part of Israel and the Beersheba in the southern part of the nation. Just then, an attendee said, “Pastor, I am so glad that you are teaching on this subject, I grew up hearing from Dan to Beersheba. I hope that during your talk you will answer a question that has been on my mind for years. What is the actual distance between Dan and Beersheba?” A longtime trustee raised his hand and said, “Look, I don’t want to come across as arrogant but, my goodness, everyone knows that Dan and Beersheba are husband and wife, like Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary, and of course, Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Just because we have a strong feeling about something and held such a belief for a long period of time does not make it a fact. For example, most of my life, I have held an inflexible belief that capital punishment was nothing more than state sponsored butchery. And then a man was captured and convicted of raping and murdering a 15 year old girl whom he picked up at her school bus pick up area, only three blocks from my home where my then 12 year old daughter, out of fear, began sleeping at the foot of our bed. My anger prompted me to alter, at least temporarily, my belief in the wrongness of capital punishment. As I thought about it later, my position on capital punishment was just that – a position.
To be sure there are some who, regrettably, take their advice from my homeboy, Mark Twain who said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” Beliefs are not facts and no matter how hard we may try, they cannot alter facts. Therefore, most of the arguments in Washington are battles over conflicting beliefs. Sometimes we theologize those beliefs which then make it virtually impossible to compromise. However, a disagreement over, let’s say, the number of section eight public housing certificates Congress should fund, should not prevent a compromise on a final number. Compromising on beliefs related to housing policy, is not blasphemously violating ones values, it is doing democracy. And democracy demands deal making.
Shortly after my 2004 swearing in, I decided to speak out on what I had seen on the floor and in committee standing in front of the Democratic Caucus, I called Capitol Hill a fact free environment – and that’s a fact!