Senate Chaplain Barry Black is taking a different approach to solving the nation’s largest and most difficult issues: asking for a little help from God.
“Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it’s time for our lawmakers to say, ”Enough is enough,” Black entreated. Going further, he cited the irascible Hebrew prophet Isaiah, praying, “Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us, reform us, and make us whole.”
Black was referring to the suspension of death benefits to families of fallen service members because of the partial shutdown. The House will vote on Wednesday to reinstate these benefits, but it’s unclear what the Senate will do, as its Democratic majority has rejected most of the piecemeal bits of funding legislation recently proposed by the GOP-controlled House.
Black, who served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy for 27 years, is the 62nd Chaplain of the Senate. The first Seventh Day Adventist and first African American to be elected to the office, Black has not been shy about using his special access to the heavenly ear to chide senators about their failure to cooperate and find a way to restart government.
Increasingly vocal in his criticism of the congressional deadlock, Black last week asked God to “Save us from the madness” and “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”
Last Friday, he implored the Lord to deliver the Senate from “that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism” and to “Forgive them the blunders they have committed.”
In addition to his recent daily public scoldings of lawmakers, Black told CNN that he meets privately with senators and their staff to talk about the moral import of legislative decisions.
“I don’t think there is ever a major vote where I don’t talk to a number of senators regarding the ethical dimensions of the issue they are debating,” Black told CNN in 2010.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was quick to agree with Chaplain Black’s entreaty Wednesday to end the government shutdown and reiterated his criticism of the House GOP for trying to fund government in drips and drabs.
“Why are we doing this?” Durbin asked. “Is this part of the Republican strategy? Sick babies, mothers unprepared to deliver? Is that part of their strategy? Is that their leverage for what they want to achieve? If it is, I have three words for them: Enough is enough.”