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January 13, 2011

Cheap Unity

In 1937, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer published a book called "The Cost of Discipleship." In that book, Bonhoeffer wrote about the dangers of what he called 'cheap grace,' which he defined as "the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession..." Bonhoeffer's point was that while forgiveness, baptism and Communion are a wonderful part of church life, they cannot be truly experienced without paying a cost.

Bonhoeffer's words came to mind when I read this story.

When President Obama comes to Capitol Hill in two weeks to deliver the State of the Union address, what are the chances that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will heed the call of Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO, to sit together, rather than divided by party?

Simply put: unlikely.

Udall is asking other members of Congress to join him in signing a letter to House and Senate leadership proposing that both parties should scrap the tradition of sitting on separate sides of the House chamber during the Joint Session of Congress Jan. 25.

I know that more unites us than divides us, and now more than ever we need to find ways to dial down the political rhetoric and set a positive example for all Americans, Udall said in a statement Wednesday. Our country has been talking about changing the way Washington works, and now its time to take action by crossing the aisle and sitting together.

Its a simple step, but an important one that will go a long way in bridging our political divide, Udall added.

After spending days watching their base accuse Sarah Palin and the tea party of encouraging a murderer, while saying nothing to stop the slander, Senator Udall and his fellow Democrats think all of this ugliness can be whisked away by encouraging members of each party to sit next to each other during a speech. With this meaningless gesture, the Democrats are trying to enjoy the benefits of calling for unity without having to criticize fellow members of Congress or their base for the repulsive slanders of the past week. Why apologize for the behavior of one's party when you can just plant your butt next to a Republican for an hour-long speech and look good on camera while doing it?

This is not the first time Democrats have tried to atone for their ugly behavior on the cheap, but that doesn't make Udall's suggestion any less cowardly. Senator Udall, members of your party and your base have accused me and those who share my ideology of murder. If you want to show me that you're serious about unity, you have to be willing to offer more than empty symbolism.

You want unity? Prove it. Now's the time for your Sister Souljah moment. Name names.

Repudiate this. And this. And this, this, this, this, and this. The time for posturing is past - if civility is what you want, Senator, then first demand it of those who agree with you, donate to you and vote for you.

Last weekend, a member of Congress was seriously injured and six people who went to meet her died. Instead of acknowledging the tragedy and taking the time to mourn, the left shamelessly used the dead as weapons in their war against their political opponents. What should shame you the most, Senator Udall, is that they were able to assume the freedom to do so because their allies did not speak out against them when it mattered most.

It will take more than a seating chart to attain true unity, Senator Udall. Unity, like grace, is not cheap. Nor should it be.

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posted by Slublog at 11:12 PM

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