A More Perfect Union
The more the campaign rhetoric heats up, the more the political talking heads keep dividing up our nation’s population into separate groups with separate agendas, I find myself
-especially this week following the Brexit vote, the possible coming apart of the UK and European Union, and the approach of our Independence Day- going back to the Preamble to the Constitution, Gettysburg, and the Pledge of Allegiance.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
What strikes me about this is that approximately eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, our leaders—and people—discovered that a loose confederation of states was a recipe for chaos and dysfunction. It was time to form “a more perfect Union.” Division and disunity was then—and is now— a recipe for misery. Whether in a nation, a community, a church, or a business.
Not only was the Constitution written to form a more perfect Union, but the Preamble talks about a “common defence” and says the process of creating the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare.” In other words, we look beyond our own interests. Virginians want things to work for their brothers and sisters in Rhode Island. Employers want a better life for their employees. Anglicans and Quakers want their neighbors free to be Anglicans or Quakers.
We’re not supposed to be engaged in an Ultimate Fighting match, with each group battling the others, but we are all about “a more perfect Union” and working to promote “general Welfare.”
Like many of you I have walked the holy ground where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 to July 3 in 1863. General Robert E. Lee had no intention of fighting the Union troops around Gettysburg, but the armies collided. Union cavalry stubbornly refused to give way, and were reinforced by Midwesterners of the Iron Brigade. Lee’s generals brought more men up to bust through but soon found themselves bogged down in a major struggle. It became the biggest battle of the Civil War.
On July 3 Confederate troops, under George Pickett, advanced across open ground, attacking the center of the Union lines. The men marched from low ground to higher ground. They were thrown back. More than 51,000 troops from both sides were wounded, killed or missing during the three-day battle.
I’ve walked that ground. It is holy ground. Blood was spilled on that ground to determine whether or not we would be a nation together. Would we be a more perfect Union or would we be a loose confederation of states where each population only cared about its own welfare?
Will we—Muslims and Methodists and Catholics and Jews, factory owners and workers, small town residents and city dwellers, northerners and southerners, Silicon Valley techno geniuses and West Virginia coal miners, men and women, young and old, black and white—claim one another as brothers and sisters? Will we be one people? I believe that decision was settled at Gettysburg and on other battlefields where the brave fought and died so that we could be free together.
Pledge of Allegiance
This original Pledge of Allegiance was written by socialist Francis Bellamy in 1892: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It was revised in 1923 and then again in 1954 when the words “under God” were added. So now, as you know, those who say the Pledge make this promise: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I know many Christians who have serious questions about pledging allegiance to any kingdom other than the Kingdom of God, the Jesus way, and yet some of the words in the Pledge are stunning: we are pledging allegiance to one nation, “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Over the last twenty-five years our political discourse has heated up, commentators talk about “wedge issues” with “population segments.” Some political leaders seem more interested in frustrating the efforts of the opposing party than they do in working together for the good of the republic.
My maternal grandfather was a loyal member of the GOP, and yet he worked with members of his own party and the Democratic party for the good of the State of the Indiana. They needed to work together to serve the people. To put the desire for re-election above the needs of the nation is destructive. That kind of political misbehavior is short-sighted, unpatriotic, destructive, and not in line with spirit of the Preamble to the Constitution. To demonize one another, to quickly talk of pulling away from one another when “our side” loses an election cycle or a Supreme Court ruling, is to dishonor those who have given their lives at places like Gettysburg. To speak dismissively and hatefully of those who disagree with us is to be far less than what our forefathers and foremothers dreamed we would be.
Our common civic adventure together is about forming a more perfect Union.
Why is your pastor talking about our civic/political life?
For several reasons. First, I love our country. The prophet, Jeremiah, in 29:7 tells us, “Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you…Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.” I believe the American dream of a nation with liberty and justice for all is amazing. Inspiring.
Second, I believe the New Testament teaches us that freedom is best when it is used for the common good. Paul, in Galatians 5:13 teaches us that freedom isn’t about being turned loose to get whatever we want/say whatever we think but to serve others: “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.” Freedom can become a wrecking ball if it isn’t controlled by love and focused on the common good.
Third, the New Testament also makes it very clear that we were made to be together. “We have many parts in one body,” Paul writes in Romans 12:4, “but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.”
The whole adventure has been—and is—about forming a more perfect union. Let’s not do anything or say anything to dishonor the Gettysburg ground, shred the Preamble to the Constitution, and leave the Pledge of Allegiance behind.
Grill a hot dog. Pour some lemonade. Carefully light some bottle rockets or sparklers, if you’re into that, to celebrate the dream of one people, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I think the whole adventure is pretty amazing!
Grace and peace,
Holy Land Trip in February of 2017
Contact the church office and/or pick up a brochure for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 25-30 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is under $3,000 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.). Contact Ms. Cath Foreman if you have questions. Note: this is a special price that is significantly less than other tours. You must register and pay your deposit before July 10th to receive the reduced price.
Join us this Sunday, in a Jesus community where all are loved and welcomed, as we continue our series Soul Songs: A Journey Through the Psalms. Invite a friend to join you.