As the Christmas season closed after the 2016 presidential election, peace and good-will seem to be sorely lacking. In this contentious environment, the joyous birth of the Christ-child seems to be forgotten in a nation distracted by political hysteria. Columnist Walter Williams observed that increasing differences among Americans are irreconcilable and "separation is the only long-term peaceful solution." Lamented R. R. Reno, Editor of First Things, "Our country is bitterly divided…but we are united in fear." This is not 1863, but it seems America is on the verge of civil war.
It was 1863 when the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: "I heard the bells on Christmas Day." Remember his concluding couplets? "And in despair I bowed my head; 'There is no peace on earth,' I said; 'For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!' Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; 'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.'" Americans need to find this kind of faith again and accept that life is not determined by the fulfillment of individual desires and political power is not a steadfast companion.
Recall the testimony of John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…And the Word became flesh and lived among us." These words give renewed emphasis to America's needed relationship with the Creator, "I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE." We see in this Name the Christ-child and the promise of redemption fulfilled by the One who calls us to turn from the past and face the future.
America is tragically divided, politically, religiously, culturally, and ideologically. But the divisive issues are less about race and more about whether the Union will survive in the hearts of people who chant with childish petulance: "Not my president." We need to listen to each other with an understanding born of sympathetic awareness and forbearance, accept change that will free those enslaved by government dependency, and increase the well-being of every American.
There always have been two opposing forces that subtly influence our daily lives. We are pulled between inclinations for autonomous individuality or togetherness. At the extreme of either, the "sense of self" vanishes, leaving a fear of loss. It is essential to balance these forces in relationships, which the Founders wisely recognized. That is why the United States is a "federal republic," not a "democracy." The republic was a middle ground between the togetherness of a national government that risks ending in despotism, and a confederation of individual states that is unable to preserve the Union or assure American liberty. The challenge in 2017 is to reverse the direction progressivism has taken our nation toward a despotism of togetherness and restore the United States to a federal republic under God who set us free in 1776.
Rev. Eugene C. Buie, DMin. (faithfrontiers.com)
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