Published September 27, 2013 | By Rev. Rob Schenck
It was a beautiful late September day in Washington, DC, the kind I look for with every autumn sunrise. Bright blue sky, only a wisp of clouds, cool morning and warm afternoon, a light breeze to refresh things every few minutes. But what would happen at 3:15 PM in front of the White House was even more refreshing . . .
Before I explain, let me get something off my chest: I’ll admit there are some things in my mission field of “official Washington” that exasperate me. One is the constant tension between political parties. Now, before you pounce, let me make clear that it’s not the important–often critical–distinctions between the two parties that bothers me–those are of enormous consequence. It’s not the difference in principles, positions, or practices, either. It’s the rancor. It just gets to me. I remember a quote my father loved to drill into all four of his kids (I got tired of that, too!), it was an historic remark made in the midst of debate, but I don’t know who made it or when: “You raise your voice, Sir, when you should strengthen your argument!” That retort has become a maxim for me. (I’ve only done one of those terrible “shout-over-your-opponent” television “shock shows” and I found it so loathsome I never did one again.) I’d rather have a very civil exchange of ideas and let the best presenter win. By the same token, I know when to stand my ground and not yield, but I try to do it congenially. When we were threatened with draconian fines for putting the Ten Commandments monument in front of our building, I offered to serve lemonade to government officials when they came to wrench it out of the ground. (They never came–just hand-delivered a letter basically saying, Never mind, on secondary review, we find you do have a First Amendment interest in displaying the Ten Commandments.)
So, I like to keep things civil, to be fair, to engage in a robust but even exchange of ideas and opinions, to patiently listen to the other side, but in the end, I know when to stand quietly and firmly for what I believe is right and true. At the same time, I know that in the end, I’m not the final authority on what’s right and true; the final determination on that rests with the Author of Right and True: Almighty God. And that’s what brings me back to the beautiful autumn day in front of the White House and the photo at the top of this post.
In the image you see me at the center with my prayer stole as we intercede in Jesus’ name for our brother in Christ and imprisoned pastor, Saeed Abedini, who has suffered in an Iranian prison for one year because of his faithful witness to Christ. Kneeling with me on my left (the significance of the placement should be noted) is the US senator Ted Cruz, a tea party Republican from Texas. Sen. Cruz just made wall-to-wall headlines for his 20+ hour filibuster opposing Obamacare, the President’s signature legislative achievement. On my right (again, note the orientation) is Rev. Frazier White, a Democrat community organizer from my neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and a huge supporter of President Obama. At the moment the photo was taken, though, the politically polar opposite positions of the Senator and the Pastor were irrelevant. We were bowed before the Holy, the Supernal, the highest Lord in the universe, and the One and Only Eternal King. Everything else: party labels, policy positions, job descriptions, accents, zip codes, skin color, filibusters and organizing, were all utterly and completely dwarfed. In that moment of prayer–especially for a fellow Christian, a persecuted believer, whose circumstances are for most us unimaginable–our political and cultural squabbles seemed petty. Pastor White, Sen. Cruz, Rev. Pat Mahoney, Jordan and Anna Sekulow, myself, and so many others, were there in front of the White House to do the really and truly important business of crying out to God for one of our own that was suffering for his faith.
We will, of course, get back to the temporal business of wrestling over public policy–which remains critically important to me and to everyone else in the prayer line at the White House–except in that one transcendent moment when, kneeling before the Heavenly Throne, we were all the same: sinners saved by grace, humbly crying out to God to help another soul in great distress. Perhaps if we spent more time crying out to God, we’d waste less time shouting at each other.
In prayer for Brother Saeed, his family, and all distressed believers around the globe,
(Of a king) “[I]t shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes,that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17: 18-20)