Thursday, May 10, 2007

Garrett's Travels

Members of Congress being flown everywhere by private funders is a bone of contention. While some trips have legitimate educational purposes, and all trips are supposed to be related to a Member's duties, it's pretty safe to say that the sponsors want a return on their investment. While The Center for Responsive Politics shows that Rep. Scott Garrett takes relatively few trips compared to others, sometimes the number of the trips can be outweighed by what the sponsors want.

When Herb Jackson of The Record broke the story last July about Garrett traveling around the Pacific rim, the furor over possible ethics violations for having one trip paid for by a foreign agent and reporting trips well past the 30 days required died down pretty quickly. It would be interesting to see what economic benefit the area received from the provisions within the Garrett co-sponsored tax cuts of 2003 that gave foreign companies a competitive advantage raising capital over domestic companies.

In January, Garrett took another trip with an interestingly small price tag: $239. The sponsor was the Emmanuel Foundation, publishers of the Kairos Journal. Garrett was the only member of Congress to attend the Kairos Journal Awards dinner, or at least the only one the Foundation paid for. Kairos sees their mission as providing a ministry to pastors; providing Biblical context to deal with the world's challenges. Since they require ministers to register and be approved to receive this content, I looked at what I could find for free.

After reading their arguments against abortion, contraception, and evolution; as well as commentary on Gov. Elliot Spitzer's intent to legalize gay marriage, and the phrasing of their Biblical support for capitalism; it's pretty safe to say they are a very conservative journal. While their understanding of scripture differs from mine on many points, Garrett's pretty open about his interpretation of faith and from what I've read, this group's a good fit for him. I could see him going to an event like this on his own dime and I wouldn't write about it.

However, he didn't go on his own, he went as part of his "official duties" as our Representative, and as with all privately funded trips, it goes back to what the funders want. This is the first and last paragraph of an essay Kairos deems as a KJ Insight.

“What is your attitude towards politics?” From the beginning—and in the development of the Israelite nation—God was the ruler, and His law and His will was the focal point of political and social life.


Nevertheless, the Church should be following the example of the prophets in calling the nation back to a proper relationship with God and to behave as God commands. God’s laws and standards are not just good in themselves, they are also good for us as human beings. So our aim as “salt” and “light” must be to try to bring human politics and law into conformity with God’s will and law. Only in the final “eschaton” will the rule of God be fully known and experienced, but that is no reason for failing in our duty to pray and work for more of God’s rule and will to be followed in political life.
I don't know whether or not Garrett sees his role as our Representative the same way the publishers of Kairos do. However, some insight might be gained from his speech at the March for Life rally in Washington, which happened about a week before this dinner (you can listen to the whole speech here, I did the transcription).
So just as Nehemiah worked to build that wall of stone and rock and wood around
Jerusalem. To build and protect his vulnerable people. So now all of us come here today to Washington to build a wall of law, around our most vulnerable people.


Let us follow the word of the scripture. Let us follow after Nehemiah’s example. May we pray that God bless this nation. May God bless our undertaking today. And that we take the actions to carry out our work.

My first instinct is to always say "and exactly whose interpretation of God's law are we using?" As a minister's son growing up in a predominantly Catholic town, I was well aware of differences of interpretation at an early age. I'm very suspect when any group claims to have the monopoly on God's insights, and I know I'm not alone.

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