15 August 2016
(Since this u.c. is appearing on the Feast of the Assumption, its alternate title is “Not All Assumptions Ought to Be Celebrated”.)The words of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address deeply affect people who believe in America—when I put this name in small capitals, I’m referring to the myth rather than to the reality of the USA—as we ought to believe in God; so deeply that it may not occur to them to wonder about the reason for such phrases as “… who here gave their lives that that nation might live” and “… these dead shall not have died in vain … that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The President appears to have been trying to persuade his listeners and readers to support the Union war effort by making them think that the secession of the Confederate States somehow posed an existential threat to the United States of America, when, in reality, an ultimate Southern victory would merely have left Lincoln’s country with 11 fewer States than it comprised before the belligerency. (Ironically, the gravest threat at that time to “government of the people …” may have been Lincoln himself, who greatly exceeded the authority granted to the chief executive under the US Constitution.) Some might call it cynicism to assert that this most renowned oration in US political history was wartime propaganda; I call it truthfulness, and cite this truth as another reason to be spiritual rather than worldly, to have faith in nothing but God and His Church.