A pledge is a serious thing
Linda Downing | Highlands TodayWords have repercussions. Taking an oath or signing a pledge may bless us if we keep it and curse us if we don't. Pledges haunt us even if we claim past ignorance or current changes. Their history is as old as the Garden of Eden and as close as our present focus on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge promoted by Grover Norquist since 1986.
Published: December 7, 2012
Published: December 7, 2012
"The Pledge," signed by more than 1,100 political officeholders, boils down to a solemn vow to support "no new taxes" or elimination of tax deductions. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a powerful lobby, is holding the pledge-takers' feet to the fire as one-by-one they face becoming characters in a Dr. Seuss' tale, standing head-to-head through all the seasons in an impasse that could destroy us all.
What to do? In an Associated Press report, Philip Elliott wrote: "But now, several senior Republicans are breaking ranks, willing to consider raising more money through taxes as part of a deal with Democrats to avoid a catastrophic budget meltdown."
Is this situational ethics? The pledge-breakers are answering, "Yes," and, in the words of Sen. Jeff Sessions, pointing to "the crisis we face" and "political reality."
If officials were elected based on The Pledge and they now default, is the honorable thing for them to resign? Would that be in our best interests as we face the "fiscal cliff" together — Republicans, Democrats, no partiers and bystanders?
This is another of those teachable moments, a good time to ask ourselves what we believe about giving and keeping our word. And, in the rough sea of harsh opinions, biblical advice is about the only kind that makes sense — a story:
The people called Gibeonites heard that Joshua and his army were coming. They pulled a scam to save their own lives, presenting themselves as ambassadors from a distant land. Without consulting God, Joshua pledged to spare and protect them. Even when he learned of his own ignorance, his word was unbreakable — to the detriment of Israel and the Gibeonites, who were forced into slavery.
Such instances, then and now, are why Jesus warned us to avoid pledges or oaths: "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is evil (or leads to evil)" (Matthew 5:37).
The critics of the pledge-breakers might need reminding of a more common pledge many of them have taken and broken, some more than once: the marriage vow. And most default on their promise based on such flimsy excuses as "incompatibility" or "irreconcilable differences."
What to do? The Joshua story took place under an old covenant with God. The new covenant under Jesus, whether you are a believer or not, offers the only sensible path: Repent of past broken pledges, release one another from these oaths, and start over with what we've learned so that we can make wise decisions to help us all get out of the messes we've made. This will take courage and humility — the essence of what Sarah Palin probably meant when she told us all to "man up."
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together — side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.