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Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are about missed opportunities.

In the Old Testament reading, God calls a people who are to represent God’s name and ways. But they refuse to listen and miss a golden opportunity to be God’s ambassadors. (Jeremiah 13:1-11) In the Gospel reading, the religious leaders hurl insults and stones at Jesus rather than listening to the truth and hope that he offers to them. (John 8:47-59)

Mr. President, the nation missed a big opportunity this week.  During your campaign, you promised, “there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid” and that there will be “insurance for everybody” and healthcare will be a “lot less expensive” for everyone.

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Photo by Howard Zehr

But you didn’t appear to advocate for these principles this week.  Rather than strengthen the Affordable Care Act – which most would agree needs improving — the bill you supported would have resulted in 24 million Americans losing health insurance coverage by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  Mercifully, the bill was pulled from the House floor yesterday.

Several months ago, I had the privilege of being part of a circles process training led by Kay Pranis – one of the leading U.S. experts in this field.  Rooted in the practices of Indigenous Peoples, circles are becoming popular in schools, businesses and communities to facilitate dialogue, make decisions and transform conflicts. In a circle, everyone’s voice matters. Kay cautioned that effective decision making cannot happen if the groundwork of building relationship is short-circuited.

In reflecting on the debacle that unfolded this week in Congress, I had to wonder if the outcome would have been better if you and the Congress had taken a different approach.

  • What if you had begun with a season of relationship building? Mr. President, we are in a time of crisis. Congress and the Executive Branch are not governing. They are not serving the interests of the American people. Nothing will change when you move on to the next issue – taxes or whatever – if you and the leaders of Congress continue to ignore this fundamental political and human reality: relationships matter.
  • What if you had begun with a positive vision? What if, instead of bashing “Obamacare” and failing to build on the hard work it represented, you had focused on a lofty goal like you articulated in your campaign — quality and affordable healthcare for all Americans? And then had joined the best thinking from both sides of the aisle to achieve this vision?

Reach out your hands, Mr. President. Build bipartisan coalitions to fix the challenges this nation faces.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

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