A Garfield Republican
Long ago, when Mr. Obama first got elected President and I was attending a certain church and believed the pastor welcomed my thoughts, I emailed him with the suggestion that the worship team perform "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". I simply wanted us to celebrate what I considered the long-past-due end of the civil war.
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Okay, I was deluded. Blame it on my heritage. My parents were Republicans, the family tradition since before Mr. Lincoln.
My great-great-grandfather's cousin James A. Garfield, elected to the Presidency in 1880 as a Republican, rose from poverty and worked his way through college, became a Union general due to his valor, then reluctantly left college teaching to serve in the House of Representatives. He did not campaign for the Presidency but was nominated anyway. Once elected, he intended to continue the task outlined by President Lincoln while he dedicated the Soldier's Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA: Regarding the proposition that all men are created equal, Mr. Lincoln implored 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."
As President, James A. Garfield took office determined to set a course that might have completed the task of proving people of all races could live and work in accord. But a crazy fellow, with a background that included Christian cults, shot and mortally wounded the great man.
So the Civil War never truly ended. Instead, lots of Confederate sympathizers, rather than revise their attitudes about equality, chose to embrace the "Lost Cause" notion, which claims the Confederate ideology was heroic and just, not about slavery but about the rights of states to oppose the mandates of the federal government. They were, in essence, lovers of (their own) liberty.
And the Southern Baptist Convention -- which broke from the northern Baptists in 1845 because the northerners refused to sponsor slaveholder missionaries, has certainly played a leading role in the perpetuation of the Lost Cause myth. From my angle, it appears an SBC founding principle is that the powerful have every right to exploit the powerless.
Okay, I was deluded in dreaming that the Civil War was finally over, and for suggesting "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" be performed in that evangelical church.
Early in the pandemic, I decided to take a leave from church. Instead, I read a lot and subscribe to some devotional podcasts. But lately I decided to return to the same church, which my friend Ralph also attended. Then Ralph, a former Calvary Chapel and Vineyard pastor, reported that he had returned to our church and found himself surrounded by people talking partisan politics.
I have lost all patience with politics. Should I get pressured to offer an opinion, I would try to limit myself to mentioning an insight from War and Peace novelist Leo Tolstoy, who gave up writing fiction to devote himself to God and Christ. After some years as a monk, he contended that you can divide humanity into two kinds of people: those who love everyone, meaning they try to help bring about the best for everyone; and those who love (care for the welfare of) only themselves and maybe their allies.
That wisdom defines my politics.
You good readers intrigued by history should read The Destiny of the Republic, which is mostly about my fifth cousin but also about Thomas Edison, medicine in the 19th century, and crazy people who pretend to be Christians.
And please, please listen to Odetta sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
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