Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Old House

When I visited Washington D.C. with my father last March, we had the privilege of visited Congressman Ralph Hall at his office. The elder statesman welcomed us into his office, took pictures with us and spoke with us about the affairs of state facing him. At a particular moment, as he was watching the clock on a video screen, said to my father and I, "I've got to go vote on something on the floor of the House. Would you like to come along with me?" That was a no-brain-er. Of course we wanted to come along.

We accompanied him down a "Representatives Only" elevator, and rode on the underground tram that ran through a tunnel from below the Rayburn building to below the Capital. As my father and I walked with Congressman Hall, he graciously introduced us to other Congressmen and Senators as "Dr. and Reverend Ott." It was a real treat.

As I rode the secure elevators, passed through security checkpoints, strode the marble halls and found my seat in the gallery, I could not help but be overcome by the history of the building. Imagine what events have taken place here. Some bills have been passed in this "house" that I've objected to, but others have been passed that have made my country better. Historic State-of-the-Union addresses have been heard in that very room. Generations of political hacks and heroes alike have wandered those halls debating or collaborating with one another over important bills. In essence, this is the 'house of our Fathers' (in a political/national sense).

Now at the time of this visit to the Capital I was not yet engrossed in the Anglican Christian tradition. However, since becoming Anglican, my views regarding having a sense of faithfulness to ancient "fathers" have grown considerably. On any given Sunday, the arrangement of music, the use of symbols and Christian liturgy all seem employed toward a unifying goal: faithfulness to Fathers of Christianity (which includes Christ, the Apostles and the early church believers that gave their lives to preserve the 'faith once delivered'). In essence, I enter the Church thinking two things: (1) this is the Father's house, and (2) this is the fathers' house.

This sense of wanting to be faithful to "the fathers" under girds every activity. This is NOT the space, building, hall or house wherein I'm free to make it up as I go. It's instead the space wherein I'm to be faithful to the one who came before me. It's "the fathers'" house; not mine.

Correspondingly, I now look back at the House of Representatives and wonder: what do they think when they wander those "hallowed" halls?

Do they see it more as "the halls of power?" Or do they see it as "the house of the fathers?"

Few politicians in Washington has distinguished themselves (Congressman Hall excepted; I'm sure there may be others) as people who think of their office in terms "faithfulness to the fathers." Therefore, their examples do little to combat cynicism regarding all politicians and the corrupting influence of power. Indeed their example seem to suggest that they think of the marble halls as "the halls of power," with its accompanying intoxicating effects.

Where can be found more of that brand of statesman that strives for "faithfulness to the Founding Fathers?" From where might emerge such leaders that examine the U.S. Constitution for guidance in the roles of government and the "fathers" writings for wisdom in governing? Could there yet be any in the nation that would approach the Capital, stand in the hallowed halls of 'this old house,' and remain mindful of those who came before them in that place, seeking to be faithful to their charge?

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