Monday, February 15, 2010

Malice toward none - Charity for all

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
- Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

The first time I read these words was on a family vacation to Washington D.C. when I was a kid. I was standing in the Lincoln Memorial reading them from the wall on which they are inscribed. The most striking part for me was the idea that both armies invovled with the Civil War "read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other."

But now, years later, what strikes me most is how timely Lincoln's conluding paragraph is. To be sure, there is no open warfare within our nation at the moment. But couldn't we do with a bit less malice and a bit more charity? Not that anyone would actually SAY they held malice toward another, but the the things so many of our duly elected officials do and say seem to indicate as such.

And rather than quibble about how this is a "Christian nation" or not, as if that phrase has any meaning at all, how good would it be to hear someone include the phrase, " God gives us to see the right" in the political discourse of our day? As convinced as Lincoln was that his perspective was right, the strength of his conviction was tempered with the knowledge that those with whom he disagreed were similarly convinced that their convictions were of God. No political party speaks exclusively for God, nor has there ever been one that did.

How would we go about doing "all which may acheive and cherish a just and lasting peace" in the present day global community? Have we sufficiently defined what a "just and lasting peace" looks like? Are we really doing all we can to acheive this end, much less "cherish" it? How different would our international relationships be if we simply used the word "cherish" a little more frequently?

Malice toward none - Charity for all. In a time when the one with the most money gets to talk loudest and longest, and it seems like the top priorities of any politician on any given day is their own electability, it would be so refreshing to reclaim the ideas Lincoln spoke of is his second inaugural address.


Patrick Moore said...

Tell me what to do with my heart full of malice. I don't have a "malice switch" that I can turn off and on. I have a velcro strip in my heart that malice attaches itself to and I am unable to rip it off.

Steve H said...

Lincoln said “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time.” I’ve thought about this in relationship to the current war(s). I think, like most Americans, that we are the good guys and the terrorists are bad guys. But from a Christian view, does God have to pick sides in a war? God may not be FOR either side. Isn’t God sort-of anti-war?