I understand that chemical firms, power plants and others whose emissions raise alarms have a right to tell their story to Washington and to argue their case for lenient standards. Who, then, will lobby on behalf of folks who breathe those toxic emissions?

Similarly, who will lobby for children when their schools fall into disarray? For those harmed by rising costs of health care? For homeowners whose mortgage-holders betrayed them?

Yes, every issue has lobbyists on both sides. In theory, the playing field is level. But of course it isn’t level. Those who profit from, say, pollution are generally more motivated and better financed than the breathers of air. Citizen-centered lobbying efforts rarely develop the heft or credibility to push back. Besides, our increasingly dysfunctional government is all about who has the cash.

I don’t have a neat or simple answer for this dilemma. Even a populist movement like the Tea Parties quickly and easily got co-opted by the wealthy. But I do know that tuning out isn’t an adequate response. Neither is turning inward, focusing on making money, or having fun with friends.

At some point, if we want to sustain our democracy and our freedoms, we need to get our hands dirty and our voices raised with as much determination as those arrayed against us.


Q: With the Christian message having been preached for 2000 years why does the world have as much evil and tragedy as it did when Jesus began preaching? Has Jesus made a visible difference?

A: The Gospel isn’t a one-and-for-all cure. It is like an “I love you” that needs to be said again and again, heard again and again, believed again and again. You can’t build a marriage by saying sweet words at an altar, but by daily acts of steadfastness and love – and even those won’t be enough, because life is a moving target.

The tests never stop, the lures never get easier to resist, and our weakness never lets us make one decision for the good and be done with it. Like a field that must be planted, fertilized, weeded, tended and harvested year after year, our lives are such that we need constant infusions of the Gospel. They do make a difference, just not a permanent fix.