Senate Chaplain Barry Black has used his platform at the Capital to plead for unity at a time of divisive partisanship, asking lawmakers to make compromises for the sake of ending the partial government shutdown that began last Tuesday.
"Save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride," Black said last Thursday before the Senate, the New York Daily News noted
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"Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable," he added. "Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives as you work for the good of those who love you."
A former chaplain in the United States Navy, where he served more than 27 years and earned the rank of Rear Admiral, Black was initially appointed in 2003 by former Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Frist, The Washington Post reported
He is the first African American and first Seventh-day Adventist to hold his position, which was created in 1789.
Black, who has been Senate chaplain for more than a decade, told The Post this week that being at the intersection of politics and prayer is a balance, and it's not as difficult as some people may think.
"As long as I’m not telling lawmakers what to do, as long as I am not saying things that would only apply to one side, then the prayer may contain the political because that’s the milieu in which I operate, but it’s not partisan," he said.
Since the partial government shutdown began last Tuesday, Black has chided lawmakers for their inability to find middle ground while furloughed federal workers continue to go without pay.
The news that death benefits were not being paid out to the families
of five military personnel recently killed in Afghanistan particularly struck a chord with the former Seaman.
"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 said on Wednesday, USA Today reported
. "Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us, reform us and make us whole."
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to restore death benefits to families of slain troops
that were halted during the federal government shutdown.
"There’s some lines that we should not cross and there are some stakes that are too high for us to be gambling with," Black told The Post. "That’s my concern and that is why many times [you hear] a fervency in my prayers that some people wouldn’t expect."
"I’ve said that my responsibility in intercession is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable," he added.
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