I’m old enough to remember when pledging allegiance to any one particular politician was something to condemn, when singing affectionately about a president was problematic, and when Christianity in-name-only was inexcusable.
But it’s 2019 now, and times have changed.
Those on the progressive left are, these days, picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to invoke, using Jesus’ words as a political cudgel to hammer away at their ideological foes while some on the right are trading in the moral high ground for a pragmatic counterfeit, failing to acknowledge their own shortcomings.
For example, some on the left have modified their faith to fit around issues like abortion and sexuality and well-known figures on the right have reversed course on personal morality in order to make sense of the 2016 presidential election.
These things are just symptoms — signs of an illness, a poison infecting America’s political discourse. America is, as President Abraham Lincoln once famously described it, “intoxicated with unbroken success,” and there’s only one remedy.
We are a prideful people who have lost our way; we’ve chosen to recreate a god in our own image rather than embrace the image in which God created us. There is a path, though, to restoration, and the blueprint has already been laid.
More than 150 years ago, in the wake of the Civil War, Lincoln issued a proclamation for a “Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” Today, the United States is torn and her society tormented by the same sin with which the former president wrestled: “We have forgotten God.”
Lincoln wrote in his March 30, 1863, proclamation:
We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
Because we have believed our successes to be ours alone — that morality and rightness are dependent upon our own flawed determination — we’ve become arrogant and eager to dismiss one another, willing to split the nation in half in hubris rather than listen to one another in humility.
We have chased healing without the only true cure: recognizing what Lincoln described as the “supreme authority and just government of Almighty God.”
The words written by Lincoln, whose own faith remains something of a mystery, seem, even in their age, to create a fascinating parallel between then and now.
The president prescribed the only appropriate solution to the divisions plaguing America at the time, and it seems the remedy is just as right today. Lincoln declared, “It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
“I do hereby request all the people to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion,” Lincoln wrote.
Lincoln’s words may be more than a century-and-a-half old, but as the 2020 presidential election draws closer, I cannot think of a better blueprint to bring healing to this broken and divided land.
It may be 2019, but the path to restoration was laid 156 years ago, when Americans were divided in much deeper and more dangerous ways than we are today. The only way back from the brink, as Lincoln rightly recognized, is not by looking to the left or to the right, but by looking up.