Christians Engaged Goes to Washington: Congressmen are People Too

Inside the Capitol Rotunda. Yes, that's the original painting.

By Al Perrotta Published on July 18, 2023

The Stream is honored to be tagging along with Christians Engaged on its three-day exploration of and intercession for the nation’s capital. In line with the Christians Engaged motto, “Pray, Vote, Engage,” Day One focused on prayer. Day Two was scheduled to focus on voting, but took an unexpected turn. 

 

After Sunday’s casual day of prayer and exploring, we had to put on our big boy pants Monday, for we were going to meet with and pray over members of Congress and walk the corridors of power on a tour of the Capitol. Christians Engaged, to be clear, is a non-partisan non-profit. Principles over party, as Stream founder James Robison likes to say. And the Bible, to be clear, calls for us to pray for those in leadership. If Nancy Pelosi or AOC had walked in, we would have prayed over them just as easily and eagerly and sincerely.  (Sure, I might have been tempted to ask Nancy if she had any of that fancy ice cream of hers in her office, because we’d just finished lunch and passing all the ice cream trucks on the Mall the past two days has given me a fierce craving. However, I am sure I would have prayed over her instead.)

Time, Time, Time

Our day started with an entertaining and informative time with longtime conservative Capitol Hill fixture Paul Teller, who now heads the new Advancing American Freedom organization. Rather than talk policy, Paul and Bunni focused on the nature of political life on Capitol Hill.

“Politics is a funny game,” he said. We saw proof of that during the day. One member celebrated how it was a great week last week for conservatives in Congress. Another gentleman — a conservative in Congress — spoke of how he’d had an awful, humbling time last week.

An important note before going any further. Yes, I am deliberately not using names. And I am trying to be vague. To paraphrase, what happens in prayer stays in prayer.

Paul and Bunni stressed the toll it takes to be a member of Congress, and how we can best reach and help representatives.

Start with time. “What is the one thing you wish people outside of Washington knew (about serving in Congress)?” Without hesitation, Teller said, “The time pressures.” It never lets up. Long hard days, where you always have to be “on,” where every minute is accounted for … and where there is never enough time to do all the things you have to do, let alone want to do. (“I can’t be at two places at once,” one member said.)

We saw this with our own eyes as the day went on and we met with about half a dozen members of Congress. NASA doesn’t require the time precision Congress does. There are special ropes set up in the Capitol Rotunda just to allow Members to hustle and bustle from one place to the next without having to dodge groups of tourists or (like today) troops of Boy Scouts in the region for tomorrow’s start of the National Jamboree.

We saw this even in the quiet confines of the Conservative Partnership Center, which was kind enough to let us borrow one of its rooms. One member walked in with precisely nine minutes before he had to be back out the door and back down to the Capitol for a hearing. Most could only clock five minutes with us. Five. When each finished speaking and was prayed over, each hustled like he was racing for first-come, first serve seats at a Taylor Swift concert. And not because they wanted to get away and onto the next thing. These were gregarious people, in some cases already good friends. Strong believers who would enjoyed kicking back with their brothers and sisters in Christ. But still, they practically left tread marks. It was exhausting just sitting and watching. 

My heart could only soften as one congressman confessed how he knew the time pressures of the job were taking away from his time with God. You can feel how desperately he wanted that time back. We can hope all day he is able to shepherd legislation that works for the country. But today can we pray he supernaturally stretches time, and is able to spend at least a segment of the day on a slowly stroll alone with the Lord?

Bunni would say a major part of a staffer’s job is to protect his Member. This would be one way to protect this particular man. Which gets to my next point. 

“They’re Not Treated Like Humans.”

“So often they’re not treated like humans,” Paul Teller said. Yet, elected officials are human beings subject to the same doubts and temptations and strains and frustrations as any one of us. Members here are often away from their families, in this strange emotional and mental labyrinth of D.C., where a false move in this Twitter-ruled world can instantly turn the town against you. “If you want a friend in Washington,” Harry Truman famously said, “get a dog.”

But we can help. Both Paul and Bunni remarked just how much it means to a Member of Congress to have someone ask, “Can I pray for you?” or, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” We would learn just how much as the day went on, with more than one congressman expressing without prompting how much it means to them.

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Not much of a surprise when you think about it. In addition to the brutal, non-stop hours, consider how anyone they meet wants something out of them. James Robison tells the story of meeting a certain well-known congressman for the first time. “What is it you need from me?” the Member asked. “I don’t want anything from you, I’m just here to pray for you.” James may as well have been speaking Martian from the look on the congressman’s face. “You don’t want anything?” He was truly baffled. Because everyone wants something in this town. A law, a favor, a photo for his wall. A concession. An opinion. An interview. A chance to vent.

A pound of flesh. 

Museums are Fine, But Being a Blessing? Fantastic

Yeah, we toured the Capitol. Yeah, we spend a couple hours at the Museum of American History. Yeah, we passed by even more ice cream trucks on the Mall. But today we had our eyes opened to the true, not-so-glamorous life of those called to serve in our Nation’s Capital. To understand the enormous power of “Can we pray for you?” to people entrusted with power. And we were beyond blessed to have the opportunity to lay our hands and hearts out in prayer to gird and lift and encourage servants of the people.

It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We must remember congressmen and women are people too.

 

Note: Plans are already underway for the Christians Engaged 2024 trip to DC. It promises to be even bigger and better. (We’re the “guinea pigs,” Bunni says.) Click this link to go to the pre-registration page.

And if you want to learn more about Christians Engaged, check them out at ChristiansEngaged.org. And, of course, you can watch Bunni’s podcast “Conversations With Christians Engaged” right here on The Stream

Catch Up on All the Christians Engaged Goes to Washington Stories!

 

Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream, chief barista for The Brew and co-author, with John Zmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl at GETTRGabParler, and now at TRUTH Social.

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