America and the Second Great Divorce

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My Dear America,

President Abraham Lincoln predicted America’s first divorce before it became official. President Lincoln knew that a great crisis would come, but he also believed that the Confederacy and the Union would unite again when the trial had passed:

In my opinion, it [slavery] will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Surely, I am not the only American who recalls President Lincoln’s “A House Divided” speech when she observes the present state of our Union. It is obvious that we are divided. And given the chaos that erupted during the election season and the protests that followed the inauguration, it is clear that these are the birth pains that precede the unpredictable crisis that will split us. It is not necessarily the seemingly inevitable split that scares me. Rather, it is the mystery of the lines along which we will split and the fear that we will not get back together.

I worry that we will not remarry because times have changed and our Union has become more complex. America is far more racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse than the United States that President Lincoln led, and the ideologies that divide us today are not as few as states rights and slavery. We also navigate the added complication of technology that relocates war from the farmlands and countryside of America to the strangely invisible yet accessible battlegrounds of social media and twenty-four-seven news coverage. It is on these battlegrounds that the lines that divide us emerge. These lines are called but not limited to terrorism, immigration, abortion, gun control, racism, and sexuality.

I think there are additional, and perhaps more critical, lines that divide us, but they are less tangible than a weapon used at a school shooting or an immigrant’s paperwork. These lines are the malicious words and actions we direct towards people who are different from us and people who do not think the way we do. These lines are called hatred, disrespect, anger, and prejudice. Combined, they create the volatile tension that separates one man from another. That tension extends beyond the micro-relationships in our families, churches, schools, and jobs to the very top of our government and from one end of the country to the other.

Simply stated, we do not know how to be kind and choose not to be kind. That extreme lack of kindness has become so severe that our country is having trouble functioning at personal, local, state, and national levels.

There is a large map of the United States that I hung above my desk at home. I put it there almost three years ago with the intention of praying for each state and the representatives who lead it. Now, I wonder who will lead us during these times.

Where are the successors of President Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Where are the leaders who will speak prophetically about our nation and stand for goodness, truth, mercy, and kindness no matter the cost? The cost of adhering to Gospel truth ultimately cost President Lincoln and Dr. King their lives, but the outcome of their convictions and sacrifices were radical. I pray that leaders who want to stand up will not attempt to preserve themselves by blending into the chaos. I pray that they will arise, come what may.

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