Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Faith of Our Fathers

If you are anything like me, the last time you read or recited the Gettysburg Address was in elementary school. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that when I recited it before my peers, I was rather dispassionate. I'm sure it sounded more like a child trying to recall something he had only just managed to memorize in time. Other than a few lingering expressions, I can't recall much of it today. I recall it primarily as one more piece of American Scripture in the religion that is Democracy. It resides in my memory alongside the Preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This faith is so closely aligned with the Christian faith in the minds of Americans that the hymnody of the Christian faith is often used in our National faith. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Faith of Our Fathers, This is My Father's World...for some reason these exist in my patriotic memory. In fact, as a child growing up, I thought the fathers to which we were referring in "Faith of Our Fathers" were the founding fathers of our nation!

Despite the thoughts I have often expressed in other forums regarding the separation of church and state, I do not think it inappropriate to pause today and remember those that have given their lives for this country, and for the cause of freedom.

As we returned from church this morning we listened to Garrison Keillor on NPR as he recited, perhaps much as Lincoln himself would have, the Gettysburg Address. I was struck not only by its majesty (which I mangled in the 4th grade), but also how appropriate it is for today's observance. I leave you with the speech and encourage you to read it aloud and with the appropriate inflection. Recall that this was a speech for which Lincoln had traveled out from Washington DC. Having come all that way, it is a rather short speech. Lincoln would not have rushed through it. Read it carefully and deliberately, and recall that it is about real human beings that had lives and experienced love.

The Gettysburg Address, first delivered at Gettysburg, PA on November 19, 1863:

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. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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 -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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