Already and not yet

By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

Credit: Jesse Epp-Fransen/MCC

When a student interviewed me recently for a class project, he asked, “What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?”

The question is not an easy one! Having now spent 10 out of the last 15 years in the MCC Washington Office, I am well aware that the kind of work we do is like planting seeds in the ground. But rather than sprouts coming up after a few weeks, sometimes we wait for years to see results from our work.

In this issue we look back at 2012, to see what happened on issues we care about in Congress and the Administration. Sometimes it feels like we are taking tiny steps in the right direction, and sometimes the accomplishment is even more modest than that: stopping legislation from getting worse.

It is important, though, to remind ourselves of what we are working toward. The list includes:

  • A federal budget that devotes far less money to the Pentagon, strengthens the safety net of anti-poverty programs and devotes increased funding to programs which support people living with HIV here at home and abroad
  • Just and humane immigration reform with no further border militarization
  • Approaching criminal justice through a restorative justice lens
  • Policy shifts to address the racial disparity in the criminal justice system
  • A comprehensive climate bill to curb carbon emissions
  • Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act
  • Reversing the trend of increased U.S. military activities in Africa
  • Investment in social and economic needs, rather than beefed-up militaries, in Colombia and around the world
  • Peaceful and just resolutions to the conflicts in the Middle East
  • Transparency and accountability in U.S. assistance to countries such as Haiti

With a list like this it is tempting to feel overwhelmed. Others would say we are trying to legislate the reign of God into being. We must indeed be careful to not confuse our role with that of God’s.

hpfeature survey dc office photo
Front row, left-right: Tammy Alexander, Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach. Back row, left-right: Theo Sitther, Jesse Epp-Fransen, Patricia Kisare

God’s kingdom is not yet here and the United States is not the instrument to bring it about. But at the same time, the Scriptures are equally clear that in some ways God’s reign is already here. We must constantly live with this tension—longing for the full redemption of a groaning creation (Romans 8:18-25) even as we live in response to Jesus’ call to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:34-40).

This love for one another is surely meant to take shape in tangible, lived-out ways. And as we as Christians get involved in the messiness of people’s lives, we inevitably bump up against public policies. Thus the cycle—and, if we are willing to engage it, the tension—continues.

In the end, the accomplishments of this office cannot possibly be limited to one individual, nor are they always legislative. Rather, they are the collective work of many Christians, persistently and faithfully making their views known to the U.S. government. And sometimes, when we take the long view, we can see the sprouts poke up above the soil as policies shift in the right direction.

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