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U.S. senators, religious leaders call for reconciliation after impeachment


WASHINGTON (BP)–U.S. senators and religious leaders joined together recently to call for reconciliation in the wake of the divisive impeachment process.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and leaders from other religious groups spoke at a reconciliation breakfast sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., and Joseph Lieberman, D.-Ct. Brownback and Lieberman are co-chairmen of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values.
Among those gathered for the Feb. 25 service in a Senate office building were seven other senators: Democrats Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Charles Robb of Virginia and Republicans John Ashcroft of Missouri, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Ted Stevens of Alaska.
No one “can claim victory” from what the country went through during the investigation, impeachment and trial of President Clinton, Lieberman said. Nobody “can reach the conclusion that the events of the last year have not left their mark, have not left their wounds, have not left a certain division among our people and a certain confusion about standards and values … ,” he said.
Yet the process seemed to unite senators “more than we’ve ever been united before,” Lieberman said. Reconciliation needs to be extended from members of Congress to the president and be returned by him “as we go forward,” he said.
“We in the Senate have served recently as jurors … and judges,” Brownback said. “Now, I hope we can serve as reconcilers.
“And I would hope that we can start a movement across this country of reconciliation, and we can encourage people who have been unreconciled” for a long time.
For people to be reconciled, they “do not give up on principle, but reach out constantly in reconciliation,” Brownback said.
President Lincoln was cited by at least three of the speakers as a model of reconciliation. He granted more pardons than any other U.S. president, Brownback said. The senator told of one occasion when a man awakened Lincoln in his bed to plead the case of a young solider who was to be executed for falling asleep on guard duty. Lincoln got up, dressed and went to the War Department to intervene for the soldier.
“No one could accuse President Lincoln of being hesitant to stand for something,” Land said, “and yet, having stood, having stood on principle, having stood on what he believed was a profound issue of right and wrong, he could say that the nation must bind up its wounds and must move forward with malice toward none and charity for all.”
Land noted, “We are called upon to speak the truth in love,” which he suggested as meaning “we must ask God to cultivate in each of us the heart” of Jeremiah, who confronted God’s people in their sins and unfaithfulness, yet “did so with a quiver in his voice and a tear in his eye.”
The New Testament teaches a Christian is responsible for seeking reconciliation whether he is the offending or offended party, Brownback and Land said.
“For a Christian, if we think about what God has forgiven us in Christ, how dare we, how dare we, harbor an unforgiving spirit in our heart,” said Land, who used the model prayer of Matthew 6 as the basis for his comments.
“It is not an option for a Christian. We must be ambassadors of reconciliation.”
Others who spoke at the service were Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Justin Rigali, archbishop of St. Louis; and Yechiel Eckstein, a Jewish rabbi and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie led in prayer.
The Center for Jewish and Christian Values is the Washington-based, public-policy office of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.