As with so much else in America, if you want to cut to the soul or the bone of a matter you need to listen to Lincoln. (And Silent Cal Coolidge, but he didn’t live in exciting times, but his Autobiography and letters are deeply full of wisdom and heart.) But Lincoln instinctively knew the limits and failures of the civic religion. In the Gettysburg address:
…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…
The civic religion is part of the law. And the law has no power to save, to grant life. The sure hope is in Jesus Christ who grants eternal life which will surely not be snatched away.
So at St. Mark we juxtaposed the Sept. 11 memorials and our Church’s 110th anniversary. The one is good and proper, the other proclaims life and hope.
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