Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

atheism, Christianity, faith, Gospel, Gratitude, Happiness, politics, thanksgiving, Virtues

Memorial Day and Covenants: Good and Evil

Memorial Day and covenants: good and evil
View of a veteran saluting the flag of the United States.

Memorial Day and covenants

Memorial Day officially kicks off summer: It’s the season of beach parties, barbeques and hot dogs. Too often, only as afterthought, those who gave their lives for this “great experiment,” are remembered. More on that excellent phrase in a moment but first some background.

Memorial Day began during the Civil War. According to the Library of Congress, southern women decorated the graves of dead soldiers long before the war’s end. June 1, 1861 may be the first such grave to be decorated in Warrenton, Virginia. In fact though, more than twenty-five cities lay claim to being the originator of Memorial Day or Decoration Day.

So, amidst the hamburgers, ribs, chips and beer, reflection and honoring those men and women who died for this still splendid country of ours surely can fit into the celebration. On that note, it is impossible to ponder those who gave their lives for the American ideal without returning to the origin: the Civil War. Somewhere between two and five percent of Americans died in that war. For today’s population, that’s 6.5 million. No writer’s vivid imagination can approach even a conception of those four blood-soaked years for those who lived and died in them.

But one man did. Abraham Lincoln knew evil, coming perilously close to assassination before making it to Washington . Until reading The Lincoln Conspiracy, I’d never heard of the Baltimore plot. “There’s a secret on this train,” is the first sentence of an engrossing historical novel that feels like today’s news, jam-packed with poisonous, dangerous invective between Democrats and Republicans.

Miracuously, Lincoln survived that conspiracy, living long enough to steer the nation through four years of horror.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysberg Address 

sobers even 21st century citizens with words whose heft need no superlatives, emoticons or modifiers.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon 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.

Abraham Lincoln

A great experiment in good and evil

Although former Attorney General Anthony Barr gave his Notre Dame law school speech five years ago, it’s worth bringing to our attention again. Since it’s a long read, I’ve extracted a few bullet points:

  • The framers of the constitution ” never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions. Edmund Burke summed up this point in his typically colorful language.
  • “Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites…. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
  • So the Founders decided to take a gamble. They called it a great experiment.
  • They would leave “the People” broad liberty, limit the coercive power of the government, and place their trust in self-discipline and the virtue of the American people.
  • In the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”
  • This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.

I added the phrase a great experiment in good and evil because that descibes the choices of our nation and our citizens: do we choose good or evil?

Barr incited progressives

within and outside of the religious traditions with his searing indictment of the consequences of immorality: ennobling abortion, same-sex marriage and promiscuity. His sober recital of the facts are compelling:

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.

I will not dwell on all the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

William Barr

And yet a number of Catholics and Christians considered the speech a “threat to democracy.”

What’s the relevance of covenant?

Lincoln’s language and that of the framers of the US Constitution is religious: Unapolagetically reverent and pious. These men were practical lawyers, businessmen and merchants who knew better than to deny our sinful nature. Unlike us.

Leil Leibowitz’s recent relection, Renewing the Covenent prompted this reflection on Memorial Day and covenants. In his article, Leibowitz’s defintion of covenant aptly fits the ideals that our forefathers wrote into their great experiment. And serves as creed to us, the covenental remant.

The author’s defintion of covenant is compelling:

A covenant… is all about change—you enter into it in order to grow and become the best version of yourself. It’s a big and joyous leap of faith…As the Hebrew name for America beautifully suggests, we are a covenantal nation. A shining city on a hill (John Winthrop got that right), we fought a war in 1775 and cast off tyranny’s yoke so that freedom might ring throughout the land. We renewed the covenant in 1861, when we took up arms against those who argued that freedom for some requires shackles for others. We did it again a century later, when the Civil Rights Movement sought to make us adhere to the principles upon which this great nation was founded. Look at the dates. These renewals of the covenant occur every one hundred years or so. We are heading toward another.

Renewing the Covenent

What can we do?

A great deal, it turns out. If we take the time to reflect, that is. Although politics and the position of presidential candidates matter, they aren’t the people who change hearts.

It’s us who will do it while waiting in line in the supermarket, not reacting to someone who cuts us off in traffic, smiling and quietly radiating the radical goodness of redeemed sinners.

A young newly ordained priest we knew while living in California spoke about holiness after daily Mass. He and another seminarian spoke about the friend’s experience at a parish.

How was it?” Fr. David Allen asked his friend.

“Interesting, I enjoyed it.”

“Did anything happen that surprised you?”

“Yes, the parishioners at the church kept asking me how I’d gotten to be so holy, so content with silence.

“What did I do?

“How did I pray?

“What prayers did I say?

“And there wasn’t anything I could say that I did.

“In fact, I do nothing! Nothing at all…

“I just love Jesus…the more I love Him the more I want to love Him- it’s like an addictiion!”
Fr. David looked at us and said, “Holiness can’t be taught, it must be caught.

“We all know about addicts, right? ‘I need a fix! Now. It’s all about the drug. How about our drug being Jesus?

Holiness Can’t Be Taught

Jonathan Cahn’s radical goodness expresses in two words that facts and words don’t change hearts. We can’t argue people into loving God.

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covenant of america, history memorial day, memorial day weekend

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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