CAPITOL HILL IS GROUND ZERO
“There are many of us here who do the best that we can to be able to sleep at night.”
A friend was cautioning me to be careful about calling Capitol Hill a lifeless place. It’s a valid point—if it’s a lifeless workplace, doesn’t that assume the people there are lifeless too? But then again, if we’re just trying to do the best we can—that also assumes we’re up against a lot and deep healing is needed. It assumes there’s a lack of abundant life—in the very place where life is represented in America.
This is critical: an entire nation is represented here, but the people doing the representing aren’t thriving. And if they’re not thriving, what does that say about their ability to represent the nation? To be sure, thousands come to Capitol Hill to make our Republic work – or to make it better. But how many of them get taken out by the culture—or if not taken out, are forced to settle for the best they can do? The best you can do when you’re up against impossible odds is admirable, to be sure. But what if we could shift the paradigm and find a deeper freedom than we have yet imagined?
What if we began healing through freedom, a freedom deeper than we have yet imagined rooted in Truth and Beauty, and what if we learned to invite others into this pursuit? What if we realized that we not only need healing but that it’s also possible? And what if we started on Capitol Hill, a place where thousands come to represent millions?
We can get there if we think of liberty, and our work to uphold it, as a creative pursuit of truth and beauty. And if all of the people on Capitol Hill who are worn out from the way things are—the over-used talking points, the intentionally divisive partisan culture, and the constant cycle of burnout—band together in pursuit of our true freedom, we can shift the paradigm away from doing the best we can, towards one of creativity and abundant life.
That said, it’s not like it will come easy. We’re talking about a deeper reality, which means we won’t be blind to the truth in our search for abundant life; it means we will see the brokenness of Capitol Hill more than ever before. And we won’t have to look far. We’ll look inside ourselves and find how entrenched the idols of significance and power are in our hearts. That was—and is—certainly my story. We’ll be crushed by how much we see it in others too, but in seeing it we will have hope in a freedom deeper than we ever could have imagined. It is this hope we will creatively speak into the culture.
Because a deeper reality is possible, we have to go there not only for ourselves but for the nation we represent. Capitol Hill is Ground Zero in this pursuit of healing both because there are millions coming to this city to be represented, and thousands coming to represent them. To represent them well, we need a vision for a deeper freedom.
Another friend recently noted that people kind of expect what they’re getting out of Washington, that the reason the way things are the way they are here is that it’s kind of expected, that there's a pretty strong market for it. It’s a thought I’ve had for a long time too, and probably other friends have said the same thing. Deep down I think people are ready for the dysfunction to stop, and yet, paradoxically, I think if we actually took the steps necessary to get there (actually engaging with people in substantive debates based on the truth, instead of slamming each other with talking points) we’d be labeled as traitors and un-American, whatever that even means.
But the gospel frees us from that nonsense, and it’s time we take more ground in telling and living this better story. Think about the number of people that come through a congressional office during any given session week. We’ve got to learn to offer them something better than what they’ve come to expect, or want, and better than what we usually give. Is our first thought to speak words of healing and unity? And beyond that do congressional staffers even have the mental capacity to address their concerns well, or do their concerns get lost in a sea of forgotten folders as we sigh and remind ourselves we’re doing the best we can?
With a vision for a deeper freedom, we can do better, both in how we communicate and lead and in our work culture, and we start here by planting the seed that it’s even possible.
When I started thinking about what I would journal for this post, I wanted to find some stats proving DC’s position in the world, that we’re in a place of national and global impact. And it’s true that 19 million people visited our city in 2013, that there are more than 175 embassies, and 2/3 of people in DC came from somewhere else. But I think what stood out to me most is a stat anyone living here largely knows to be true already: 25-29 year olds make up the biggest chunk of DC’s population.
People come here from all over to lead the nation, and the world. There is young talent in DC already leading the world, and they will be for decades. The reason we need to rethink liberty is not only because we know our political culture is a mess, it’s because an entire generation needs a vision for where we are headed—not just so we can lead ourselves well, and the nation—but because we have the opportunity to look beyond our nation. The impact on the world would be dramatic if we began to approach our political culture with a new anthem: LIBERATUS—we are set free.
Finally - this post was largely written a few weeks before the publish date, but as I've edited and actually posted to the website, it seems fitting to add one more final thought related to the response of grace and forgiveness we've seen from our brothers and sisters in Charleston. When you work on Capitol Hill, people kind of expect that you and your Member have opinions about what's going on and you have opportunities to speak into the culture in real time, leading and shaping the debate, in ways you wouldn't have otherwise. So the question we have to think about is, are we ready to welcome any of our brothers and sisters to the Capitol, to listen, to hear them well, and to understand humanity at a deeper level -- regardless of where they stand politically? Right now we see brokenness fully, because it's screaming for our attention, and it changes the way we see the world and other people. Are we ready to enter that space and love and heal? Or will we be too hung up on our opinions regarding taxes and welfare and healthcare to listen and engage in pursuit of truth? What I'm not saying is that our policies don't matter: they do, and they have real world consequences that affect people's lives. But when we disagree, let's cling to the freedom of not having to be right, of knowing that this form of government is actually upheld by the one who called us here to govern well. And finally, these ideas of healing and unity are largely the reason we have and will continue writing about work culture on Capitol Hill, because if you're too tired, too burned out, too underpaid, you're probably not going to be able to sit down with someone and despite everything our culture - politically and otherwise - is throwing at you, be able to just share Jesus with them, resetting your hope and your affections and speaking from the strength and depth of one simple thought: LIBERATUS—we are set free.