In the dark days of 1863, the carnage and bloodletting of America's Civil War was at it's height. Neither side could see victory but every soldier knew that death was stalking him personally. There was a tremendous Christian revival in both armies that winter which swept many men into religious fervor and a surrender to God's will.
Historians call it, "The Great Awakening". With no understanding of "post traumatic stress syndrome", faith became the only positive means to cope with the horror of the first modern war.
Both armies, North and South sought to get right with God, not just for their immortal souls but for the justice of their cause and the meaning of their deaths.
In his Second Inaugural address, President Lincoln summarized the cause of the war for Union and illuminated the emotions that brought the entire nation to its knees before God:
"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'."
In past years the political left has decried the Christian mantle which the "Divine" right assumed by co-opting conservative Christians into the cause of Republican politics. These Christians made a political deal with the GOP to gain the prize of political power in America.
The answer I've most often heard concocted in response from the left is one of cynical political calculation...as if there could be no Liberal Christian faith community to enlist in the cause of social change, merely a "format" that could be duplicated to persuade the faithful to change their hearts and minds to vote for Democratic victory. This manipulation insults good people of faith and is seen for the shallow attempt at exploitation that it is.
Now we have a candidate who knows by heart a fiery gospel of change and social justice. A gospel that includes Jesus, Lincoln and Martin Luther King in various measures. And this candidate speaks his faith out loud to the people in ways that Liberals have not since Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
I remember how Carter was made to be a fool for his simple faith and generous humanity. And white Liberals, who felt foolish endorsing Carter's simple goodness, walked away from the moral high ground.
But the Black church in America didn't walk away. And it has produced a man who has blown away any questioning of his Christian faith. He touched the painful truth so squarely last Tuesday that he made America cry. And the thinking public has debated his every spoken word for nearly a week that has followed. I can't recall a speech in the last 40 years on an issue of conscience that sent the entire nation into reflection.
Now the question is, can this emotionally beaten and divided country hear the call for unity and find the strength to answer?
Will the left answer this call and find itself morally right again tonight?
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