“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure....”
Those familiar words formed the beginning of the brief, yet monumental, speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield as a national monument. Many of us had to memorize that short address in school...back in the day.
Of course, the “Four score and seven...” refers to the years - 87 - since the Second Continental Congress had voted to accept the final edition of the Declaration of Independence. From that act of Congress, we date the birth of our country. Yes, I am quite aware that a vote had been taken two days earlier, on July 2, to declare independence from England and that most of the 56 signatures at the bottom of the document were added on Aug. 2 of the same year; however, July 4, 1776, is the date we celebrate as the birth of our nation. Independence Day. The day Thomas Jefferson’s final wording was voted on and approved by Congress.
Now, in 2022, it is no longer a new nation, rather it is a two- century two-score and six-year-old nation that is struggling to stay alive and healthy. Again, as in the first half of the 1860’s, it seems that we are our own worst enemy. No one claims that our nation is without great faults and deep shortcomings. Historic mistakes have been committed throughout the 246 six years of our existence. And we continue to be imperfect as a people.
Again - or still - we find ourselves at war with each other. Armed with social media and emboldened by anonymity, millions of folks march to the electronic battlefield of keyboards and screens to attack anyone whose opinion on extremely controversial and complicated issues differs from theirs. We find ourselves determined to win any argument at any cost...and the war of words is testing whether our nation can endure the divisions that separate us.
Many great leaders have stated in so many words, and in so many ways, that powerful societies are nearly always conquered from within. The United States of America, though flawed, is the best there is, and we, as American citizens, owe it to our parents, our children, and ourselves to do everything possible to preserve this union.
Our Founding Fathers envisioned a nation where “...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...” could be sought. Lincoln recognized the importance of working together to preserve that nation, whatever the cost.
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of a society where people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He was very clear in preaching that racism and other prejudiced attitudes must be destroyed, but he was just as transparent in his belief that the battle is a spiritual one and that it must be fought by kindness and compromise, by love and acceptance of one another.
For our nation to be what our Founding Fathers, and Lincoln, and MLK Jr. dreamed of, we must look beyond ourselves and commit it to the hands of the Father. He’s the one that told Solomon, “If my people, called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wickedness, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.”
...but we’ve got to work together as we humbly seek Him in prayer.
-Steve Playl may be reached by email. email@example.com
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