One hundred and fifty years ago, April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Fords Theater. A perverse act by a brassy patriot took his life and sought to destroy what Confederate armies could not. One of the ways we could honor his life this week is to read again his Gettysburg Address. It is, as you know, a very short speech. In our time and in our culture of sound bytes, tweets and myriad screeds of hatred promulgated by politicians who seem to have little sense of a common destiny built upon shared goals, we would be served well by reading it.
The sad truth is, when the 1% control so much from wealth to media, a concept like of the people, by the people, for the people is endangered. The Congress is about to ratify a budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and they do it in the name of patriotism, of course. We are not so much called together with appeals to our better angels but we are called apart with appeals to what is small and fearful in us.
One of the things that stuns me is how those who claim Christ, claim to be his followers and wave the flag of family are so passionately committed to policies that harm families and their fellow citizens. I’m not talking politics here as much as simple bible theology. Persons who claim the bible as their foundational starting point for a politics of destruction should not be given license to use the sacred for the dismantling of safety nets for the least among us, for their misogynist bullying and their rhetoric of war and more war. Here’s a word to consider: covenant. What Lincoln understood and died for was a covenantal comprehension of citizenship that defies the ideologies pouring forth from the president-want-to-be underlings populating the media stage at this moment. If the bands of citizenship link us all in a common destiny then the “visions” offered us today are paltry and emaciated by comparison. Listen to President Lincoln and you’ll quickly see what I mean:
…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…
Oh, that a Battle Hymn of the Republic might rise up out of the People and we would find out way out of a country governed by a congress that cannot govern and a citizenry seemingly incapable of asking what they might do for their country, to cite another visionary president shot down and taken from us. In the mean time, let us enter the sacred precincts of our holy places and learn the art of covenantal life and mutual aspirations undergirded by mutual responsibilities. ~ See you Sunday.